Miss Arizona returns home; talks pageants, racism

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by Tami Hoey

azfamily.com

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 3:04 PM

PHOENIX -- Miss New York was crowned Miss America over the weekend. But it wasn't long before Nina Davuluri learned not everyone was happy for her. She was the first Miss America of Indian heritage and she faced a lot of rude and racist comments on social media.

Our own Miss Arizona just returned from the competition in Atlantic City, and she joined Kaley O'Kelly on 3TV Tuesday morning. Jennifer says she was was surprised by the negative reaction to Davuluri's win. "She's an incredible girl and all the contestants know that," says Jennifer Smestad. "She doesn't deserve to be getting treated this way. But I know she's handling it very well and she'll go far this year."

The 24-year-old Davuluri is an aspiring doctor who plans to use her $50K prize money to fund her studies. She has brushed aside the negative comments directed at her. "I have to rise above that," she has said. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."

On Tuesday's Good Morning Arizona, Jennifer Smestad filled Kaley in on pageant nerves. "For some odd reason, I don't get nervous," she says. "I get nervous before, but when I step on that stage, all the nerves go away and it's the most amazing feeling."

Jennifer's platform is Tourette's Syndrome, and she hopes to help and inspire others with that condition. "I was diagnosed with Tourette's at the age of 10, so it was very difficult for me to go through," she says. "There were times when I would be in my room crying all day, not wanting to be seen in public."

Jennifer muses that one of the hardest parts of the Miss America pageant was not being able to get enough sleep! "It was so worth it for two weeks, you can't even complain about getting three or four hours of sleep because it was so much fun," she says. "But it was difficult to stay on track with your sleep."

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