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NEW DAY

Navy Yard Shooting; Record Highs on Wall Street; Shutdown Countdown: 11 Days; Abducted Georgia Teen Rescued; Mexican Beach Resort Floods; $400,000,000 Winner; French Could Ban Child Pageants

Aired September 19, 2013 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: A Mexican resort town now under water. The airports flooded, Americans trapped. The massive airlift to get them out, we're live on the scene.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: We've got a winner. A single ticket takes home last night's $400 million Powerball drawing. So who is it?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Your NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: What you need to know --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a good day. She is safe.

ANNOUNCER: What you just have to see.

(MUSIC)

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo, Kate Bolduan and Michaela Pereira.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Good morning and welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. It is Thursday, September 19th. 8:00 in the East.

Coming up in the show, what on earth is going on with Wall Street? Stocks picking up steam around the world after the Fed's big surprise Wednesday. So, what does it mean for you? We're going to break it down.

CUOMO: All right. The good news is -- the suburban Atlanta girl abducted from her home is back safe with her family, but serious questions remain. Two men are in custody but two men are still on the loose, and one of them has a connection to the girl's mother. You're going to find out what that's about.

PEREIRA: And here she is. Not me, Miss America. There she is. She will be live in our studio this morning. France, the nation of France, is trying to ban beauty pageants for little girls. We'll ask her what she thinks about that and, of course, what it's like to wear that crown. So many questions.

CUOMO: Very cool.

But, first, a growing scandal just days after the deadly shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard. Questions about the response: why tactical officers were told to wait. This as the secretary of the Navy orders three separate reviews of the shooting.

Let's bring in Pamela Brown. She's tracking the latest developments live from the Navy Yard.

Good morning, Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Chris.

That's right. There is new information suggesting the rampage could have been contained more quickly if an elite tactical team hadn't been told to stand down. As this investigation continues, still no word on a motive and officials are questioning whether we'll ever have a clear-cut answer of why Aaron Alexis went on that deadly shooting rampage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: As investigators sift through the evidence in the Navy Yard killings, odd details are emerging. A federal law enforcement source tells CNN Alexis made unexplained etchings into the shotgun he used in the attack.

The etchings read, "better off this way", and "my elf weapon." Investigators don't know what the sayings are supposed to mean. Though questions remain about whether the rampage could have been prevented.

Navy officials in Rhode Island never passed along police reports about Alexis' erratic behavior claiming he was hearing voices.

CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Where there are gaps, we will close them. Where there are inadequacies, we will address them. And where there are failures, we will correct them.

We owe the victims, their families and all of our people nothing less.

BROWN: New details have emerged suggesting authorities might have been able to contain the gunman more quickly. A government official tells CNN when the first radio call came in about a shooting at the Navy Yard, highly trained tactical capitol police officers attempting to help stop the rampage were told by a watch commander to stand down.

The capitol police chief has ordered an independent fact review of their response and the critical first moments after the shooting was reported.

Investigators still don't know why. Law enforcement sources say nothing points to a specific motive for the rampage even after the seizure of Aaron Alexis' computer and other possessions and interviews with the social contacts for clues.

The mother of the gunman apologizing Wednesday to the families of the victims.

CATHLEEN ALEXIS, AARON ALEXIS' MOTHER: I don't know why he did what he did and I'll never be able to ask him why. Aaron is now in a place where he can no longer do harm to anyone and, for that, I am glad.

To the families of the victims, I am so, so very sorry that this has happened. My heart is broken.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: New details are emerging, painting a picture of the extent of damage inside Building 197. Sources tell our Barbara Starr there's blood everywhere, damage everywhere. It could take weeks before the building is repaired and opened.

Meantime, we're still waiting for autopsy results, toxicology results from the medical examiner's office. Also, this Sunday, President Obama will be attending a memorial service for the victims of Monday's tragedy -- Kate and Chris.

BOLDUAN: All right, Pamela, thank you so much for that.

Looking at stocks this morning. After record closing numbers Wednesday on Wall Street, global markets are responding positively as well to the news from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that stimulus will continue. Major European and Asian stocks were up over 1 percent in morning trading.

So what does this mean for you?

For that, we of course turn to Christine Romans.

So what does it all mean?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It means if stock futures of any indication this morning, Kate, that you'll see another winning day on Wall Street. But you can never tell whether investors are going to wake up this morning and decide they partied too hard yesterday and that was -- wow, that was some party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS (voice-over): Stocks surged to record highs Wednesday, a sizzling rally set off by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke doing -- well, nothing.

BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Well, I don't recall stating that we would do any particular thing in this meeting.

ROMANS: Investors thought the Federal Reserve might pull back on the $85 billion a month in bond purchases it had been making since last September. But in a statement, the Federal Open Market Committee said it is waiting that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases.

The stimulus has pumped cash into the mortgage and bond market, keeping mortgage rates and borrowing costs low. That's fueled the red-hot housing market and spurred stocks to a 20 percent gain over the past year.

Many investors expect stocks to go even higher this year. Great news for those with 401(k)s, but only half the country is invested in stocks.

The Fed's bigger problem has been slow job growth.

RANDALL KROSZNER, FORMER FED. RESERVE GOVERNOR: There are fewer people working but even fewer people who are looking for work. And so that meant that the unemployment rate came down, but for the wrong reasons.

ROMANS: Companies are used to getting by with fewer workers since the recession. That and slow economic growth put Ben Bernanke and whoever succeeds him in a tough spot.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RMANS: And so now, the speculation rampant this morning about when the Fed will take the training wheels off the economy. UBS says this morning that it thinks the Fed will hold off on tapering as it's called until late January. By then economists thinks there will be enough data that prove to Fed officials that they can take -- they can take these crutches away and the economy can stand on its own two feet.

BOLDUAN: And is that, what you're saying right there, is that why folks should be worried? Even though we're talking about good news in the markets today, why people should be worried --

ROMANS: Yay, stocks are at record highs, yay, interest rates are coming down, yay, it's good for your mortgage, but the reason is because the stocks -- the market, the economy, is underlying weakness is what Ben Bernanke is worried about.

He's also worried about Congress. He smacked Congress again yesterday. He's worried about a government shutdown. He's worried about drama, manufactured crises over the debt ceiling.

The Fed is worried about Congress and what's happening in Congress and worried that job creation is too weak to let it stand on its own.

BOLDUAN: On the fact that we can't plan more than four or six months ahead because that's the only funding Congress puts together.

ROMANS: In the meantime you can look at your 401(k) today and say yes.

BOLDUAN: Take the wins when you can get them.

ROMANS: Take it for now.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Christine. CUOMO: All right. So, we are just 11 days away from a government shutdown, again. If this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Lawmakers unable to compromise are holding your government, your services hostage.

And whom does that hurt? Well, you.

CNN's Jim Acosta is live at the White House.

Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Chris.

President Obama later this morning will be meeting with his export council to talk about the economy. We'll see if he talks about this prospect of a government shutdown.

But just down Pennsylvania Avenue, you can hear the ticking of Washington's crisis countdown clock because -- yes, here they go again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): It's 11 days to a possible government shutdown, and this latest budget battle pitting Republicans in Congress against President Obama is becoming the stomach-turning sequel to the sequel.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy.

ACOSTA: This time the threat is all too real. Not only does the government run out of money on October 1st, the nation is set to hit the debt ceiling and go into default starting in mid-October, teeing up a Washington double dysfunction whammy, the likes of which Americans have never seen before.

(on camera): Are we looking at sort of gridlock-nado?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: If Congress fails to act, yes. It's possible. I'm not sure about the nado part of it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): For now, Republicans in Congress say they will only vote on a spending bill that defunds Obamacare.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We're going to continue to do everything we can to repeal the president's failed health care law.

ACOSTA: But that's not expected to go anywhere in the Democratic controlled Senate, ramping up the likelihood of a shutdown at the end of the month.

We've been here before. A government shutdown has loomed at least four times since 2011, but each time a deal was struck to avert disaster. Some Republicans say this is one rerun they don't want to watch.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: We can't let the government shut down. We can't be kamikazes and we can't be General Custer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, the White House is watching some of this battle from the sidelines. That's because Republicans are going after each other after Texas Senator Ted Cruz said that Republicans in the Senate might not have the votes to defund Obamacare.

House Republicans went ballistic. One House Republican, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, accused Cruz of waving the white flag of surrender, but Republicans may be getting back on the same page. House Speaker John Boehner put out a web video earlier this morning saying that President Obama is willing to negotiate with Vladimir Putin but not with them -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: It's getting nasty.

All right, Jim, thank you so much.

So, we have new details on the kidnapping and dramatic rescue of that abducted Georgia teenager. The 14-year-old was found safe Wednesday, thankfully, nearly 30 hours after being abducted at gunpoint from her home. Two men are now in custody. But police say there are other suspects still at large they're looking for.

CNN's Martin Savidge is at the CNN Center in Atlanta with the very latest.

Good morning, Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate.

When this crime first happened, people were terrified because of the randomness of it, but now as the investigation moves forward, it appears it may not have been so random. But now, as the investigation moves forward, it appears it may not have been so random.

But let's start with the good news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE (voice-over): There were two signs that Bonnie Perez was safely back where she belonged -- the police cars guarding the street where she lives and a big bunch of welcome home balloons.

Neighbors caught a quick glimpse and briefly heard from the young victim.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She looked pretty good to me. She didn't look scared or having gone through that ordeal, you know, shaken. She came out and was very good, very pleasant.

SAVIDGE: Officials say Perez was found safe in a residence 25 miles from her home and that she had never left the metro Atlanta area.

She was kidnapped during a violent home invasion early Tuesday and found 34 hours later after an intense law enforcement effort involving 150 local, state and federal officers.

CHIEF GREG PORTER, CLAYTON COUNTY POLICE: This is a good day.

SAVIDGE: Authorities had good news, but few details about what led to the teen's freedom.

PORTER: We currently have two suspects in custody. We're looking at some other suspects.

SAVIDGE: Among those still at large, the men thought to have carried out the brazen kidnapping.

PORTER: We believe those two suspects in the drawings are still at large.

SAVIDGE: According to authorities, the men burst into the home terrorizing the mother and her two children. They demanded money and jewelry and when they didn't get it, they stole something far more precious, 14-year-old Avani.

But the additional suspects suggest something more than a random break-in. Is it possible that there's some link between the victim's family and the suspects?

RICK MAXWELL, FBI ASSISTANT SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: We have not determined the relationship between those individuals at this particular point in time.

SAVIDGE: The ordeal of a young girl may be over, but the investigation into why she was taken seems far from it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SAVIDGE: It turns out now that there is a connection between the mother of the 14-year-old and one of those in custody for her daughter's kidnapping. The way it goes is last year, the mother was arrested during a drug raid. Charges against her were later dropped but another person who was picked up in that same raid, one of those in jail right now -- trying to figure all of this out is what authorities are doing today, Chris.

CUOMO: Martin, wherever it leads, whatever was involved, at least the girl is home.

Thanks for the reporting this morning. Appreciate it.

SAVIDGE: Sure.

CUOMO: On to a different story now, dozens confirmed dead in Mexico. Officials fear that number only going to rise. A pair of massive storms tore through the resort town of Acapulco, stranding tens of thousands, many American tourists. Now, a strengthening hurricane once again threatening the region.

CNN's Shasta Darlington is in Acapulco with the very latest.

Good morning, Shasta.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

You know, there's just no end in sight. With the main highways still cut off, the airports flooded, so many people feel like they're never going to get out of what should be paradise.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DARLINGTON (voice-over): Chaos in the beach resort of Acapulco. Three days after Manuel made landfall, the city's international airport submerged in waist-deep floodwaters. Some 40,000 tourists struggling to get out after the worst storm damage to hit Mexico in years.

(on camera): Here outside the air force base, there are hundreds and hundreds of people in line, really as far as you can see, many of them have been waiting all day and some even spent the night here.

(voice-over): Most of the tourists are Mexican but we also find a medical student from Los Angeles.

ANA BENAVIDES, STRANDED MEDICAL STUDENT: We tried to leave on Monday. So we all got together in the car to go and the road was blocked. We didn't get further than a mile.

DARLINGTON: She spent 12 hours in this line today but seems to accept she may not get on a flight.

BENAVIDES: You know, we're a lot better off than a lot of people.

DARLINGTON: More than 10,000 tourists have been air-lifted out, many of them abandoning cars and belongings in their desperation to get home.

The air force is also carrying supplies to towns and neighborhoods that have been completely cut off by washed out bridges and roads.

Electricity and phone lines were down for two days and running water won't be restored to many homes for another 20 days.

At least 80 people have been killed and a million people affected across the country by the onslaught of three different tropical storms.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DARLINGTON (on-camera): And as you can see right behind me, people are still lining up trying to get out of here. In fact, commercial airlines have set up their check-in counters on the sidewalk at this convention center -- Kate, Chris. BOLDUAN: All right, Shasta, thanks so much.

Let's get straight to Indra, though, to take a look at the forecast and what's happening with the storm at the moment -- Indra.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You know what, so unique, Kate, is they had two named storms in Mexico within a 24-hour period. That has not happened since the 1950s. You can see we had Manuel, we had Ingrid. They both went onshore and brought heavy amounts of rain anywhere from five to 10 inches of rain, but that's not where it stops.

They have mountainous terrain there. So, with that, that heavy rain came down those mountains, created those mud slides and all that flooding that they're currently dealing with. Unfortunately, we're still dealing out with Manuel. It has reformed. And today, we're looking for a similar experience near Mozatlan. So, another resort town fearing that they could see this heavy rain in the forecast, considering it is moving so slow.

So, with that, even more rain expected in the region. Five to 10 inches of rain still possible. Same thing with the mountainous terrain, we could see those mud slides come down those hillsides in the region. To add to that, once again now in the gulf, another storm system developing. A 70 percent chance that this does develop into the next tropical system.

And notice, Acapulco still dealing with everything that's going on. More rain in their forecast as well. Just want to bring it home all that moisture is just south of us. So, several inches of rain still possible in through Texas. It's good. There's a drought there. They need the rain, but not so much so fast.

BOLDUAN: Seventy percent chance of another storm building up, not what they need. All right. Thank you.

CUOMO: So, we have to keep watching that, and there's a lot of other news, so let's get right to Michaela.

PEREIRA: We'll pick-up where Indra left off with Colorado. Colorado officials saying the emergency response to the flooding there now winding down with the focus shifting to longer term recovery and repairs. People are slowly being located after the massive flooding there in that state.

About 100 have been found in the last 24 hours. Two hundred people, though, remain unaccounted for. There's new concern in Nebraska where runoff water is posing the threat of flooding into the weekend.

A blistering op-ed by Republican senator, John McCain, on the -- website accusing Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of bigotry, self- serving rule and cozying up to tyrants like Syria's Bashar al-Assad writing, quote, "Putin is not enhancing Russia's global reputation, he is destroying it. He has made her a friend to tyrants and an enemy to the oppressed and untrusted by nations that seek to build a safer and more peaceful and prosperous world." U.S. military could be increasing its role in the Syrian conflict. Two officials tell CNN the Pentagon has a proposal for forces to train and equip moderate rebels in the opposition to president Bashar al- Assad. This training would take place in a country near Syria. The idea has been under consideration since last month's chemical weapons attack.

Canadian investigators trying to determine what caused a deadly collision between a double-decker bus and a commuter train in Ottawa. Six people were killed, including the bus driver, and nearly three dozen others were injured. Passengers aboard this bus say they yelled at the driver to stop just before impact. Investigators are also looking at whether the railroad crossing signal was working properly.

Mark Zuckerberg getting political. The Facebook CEO expected to meet today with a host of Congressional leaders in an attempt to kick start immigration reform. He met yesterday with New York senator, Chuck Schumer. He's scheduled to sit down with Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, and the top four House Republicans later today.

The Senate has passed a sweeping immigration reform bill, but the measure has stalled in the Republican-controlled House.

Miley Cyrus at the top of the billboard charts for the first time. "Wrecking Ball" jumped 21 spots from a week ago to land at the top of the hot 100. Katy Perry's "Roar" was knocked down to number two. Cyrus did get to number two on the charts in 2009 with "Party in the USA," and earlier this year, with "we can't stop." I feel so hip doing the top 100 billboard hits.

(LAUGHTER)

CUOMO: Casey Casum (ph).

BOLDUAN: Yes.

PEREIRA: Yes --

BOLDUAN: (INAUDIBLE).

CUOMO: The question, is how much of it is the song and how much of it is what everybody wants to attack but not really because we made that popular. She's just following a long line of people who made provocative pay off.

PEREIRA: We've been showing this video every day for the past three days.

BOLDUAN: I'll still support Katy Perry and "Roar."

PEREIRA: There you go.

BOLDUAN: Still supporting it.

CUOMO: And yet, she gets bested by this. Why? because at the end of the day, you criticize it all you want. Obviously, you want it. That's why it wins on the charts. There you have it.

All right. Right now, let's go to South Carolina where everyone is asking who is $400 million richer this morning? Four hundred million deserves repeating. Only one jackpot winning ticket sold for last night's big Powerball drawing. We don't know how many winners, though. We do know it was sold in Lexington, South Carolina. That's where CNN Sara Ganim is. Sara, what do we know?

SARA GANIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chris, you know, somebody walked into this Murphy Express yesterday and bought a really -- a $400 million winning lottery ticket. You know, today if you walk into that store, a clerk will ask you, hey, did you buy a ticket here? Check those numbers because it is worth a lot of money.

Now, as a single ticket doesn't necessarily guarantee that one person bought it, but I will tell you this, we're less than 100 yards from a major highway that runs across the country. This is anybody's game. There's a possibility someone from across the country could have bought this while passing through Lexington, South Carolina.

Now, they do have to come back to South Carolina to claim that prize. They have 180 days to do that. But here's the thing. South Carolina law says that we don't ever have to know who that person is. They can remain anonymous and never tell their name to the world -- Chris and Kate.

BOLDUAN: I know. I said last time it's a good -- keep things. It's a good law, but it's no fun. Come out. Let us know who you are. Thanks so much, Sara.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, beauty pageants are a popular tradition in the United States, of course, but lawmakers in France have a very different take. They want to end the competitions for children. Could the U.S. follow suit? We'll ask the newly crowned Miss America what she thinks, and also, talk about her big win.

CUOMO: And we're going to have more on this story out of Oklahoma. Did you hear this, six people missing more than 40 years? Their skeletons just found by accident at the bottom of a lake. Is this the key to a cold case or a bizarre coincidence?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY, everyone. One country is considering putting an end to child beauty pageants. France's Senate has voted to ban all beauty competitions for kids under the age of 16. It still has to pass to the Lower House, but many in the United States are asking if this country should follow suit.

Newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, is here. She will be weighing in in just a minute. We'll talk about her big win, but first, let's talk to CNN's Kelly Wallace to kind of set the scene what the story is all about.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

BOLDUAN: Good morning.

WALLACE: Well, this topic is certainly generating a sharp debate online. Critics argue these pageants exploit girls at the youngest ages and wish they'd go away while supporters say these contests lead to higher confidence and self-esteem, skills that will benefit girls for a lifetime.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (on-camera): Little girls in makeup and heels going head to head in pageants. It's been reality TV ratings gold here in the U.S. But if lawmakers in France get their way, there'll be no French Honey Boo Boo. The country's Senate voted to ban pageants for kids under 16. The measure will now go to the Lower House for a vote.

The anti-child pageant momentum in France was partly fueled by this controversial photo spread in French "Vogue," a then 10-year-old model in heavy makeup and sexy clothing. Critics argue these competitions sexualize girls at too young an age.

WENDY WALSH, LICENSED PSYCHOLOGIST: You're basically telling a young girl that her visual, her physical self is far more important than her emotional intelligence or her intellectual intelligence.

WALLACE: But Anna Berry says her 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, overcame extreme shyness competing in pageants. And now, Ashley gives speeches around the country talking about her experience with bullying. Berry tells CNN, "I know without a doubt that my 13-year- old can out interview anyone and speak more confidently than most adults."

Some psychologists are concerned about normalizing behavior for young girls that would have once been considered extreme.

WALSH: Now, it seems OK for a little girl, a six-year-old to be walking in thigh-high boots and short booty shorts and smacking her butt while she's dancing down a runway? Come on, that's what a stripper does.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE (on-camera): We asked people on Facebook what they thought. And while the majority of opinions were critical of pageants, there was also the sentiment expressed by one former principal who said she thinks outlawing pageants is a slippery slope where the government starts dictating what activity parents can and cannot make available to children.

It kind of (INAUDIBLE). Where do you draw the line because some people think some dance, modeling, and gymnastics program also sexualize young girls.

BOLDUAN: Yes. But it should come as no surprise on one piece of this that people are really talking about it, because whenever pageants come up, people have very strong opinions. That's for sure. Kelly, thank you so much for bringing this. So, the perfect person to talk about all of this would be the new Miss America, Nina Davuluri. Great to have you here.

NINA DAVULURI, MISS AMERICA 2014: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: We want to talk, of course, about your win, your Face spoke volumes at that moment that you won. But first, I want to get your take on the story out of France and this proposed ban on pageants for young girls. What do you think of it?

DAVULURI: Well, I started in the Miss America's outstanding teen program and that's meant to be a theater and to Miss America. And I started when I was 16. And through the program, I gained $25,000 in scholarship money. And with that and the help of my parents, I was able to graduate debt-free from the University of Michigan.

And right now, I'm currently in the process of applying to medical school. And I just won $50,000 in scholarship money as Miss America. And then, even as Miss New York, I won an additional $10,000. So, I now have $60,000 in scholarship money to put towards my education. And so, that's what really sets apart the Miss America organization from any other system because it's so focused on scholarship and service.

BOLDUAN: And you were the age of 16 when you started as well.

DAVULURI: Correct.

BOLDUAN: You never did pageants when you were younger?

DAVULURI: I did not. Correct. Yes.

PEREIRA: Do you feel strongly about that, about girls because -- they were little bitty children, like three, four, five and six-year-old girls.

CUOMO: You say you started at 16 for a reason, right?

DAVULURI: I started at 16, yes. And I definitely do think that there has -- a maturity level has to be there before you can begin. And I made the conscious decision on my own because I knew that I had to pay for some of my education and this was a great avenue. But yes, there definitely does have to be a maturity level to be able to handle everything that comes with the pageant world.

PEREIRA: A lot of pressure, right?

DAVULURI: Yes.

BOLDUAN: And you are a great example of all the good things that come from a pageant. I mean --

DAVULURI: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: -- your education, your scholarship and your poise has been all kind of this amazing package. But take a look at that moment right there --

(LAUGHTER)

BOLDUAN: -- when you found out that you won. I mean, that in and of itself is quite a moment, but then, there's also an additional significance being the first Miss America of Indian descent. Did you know when you were approaching the competition that you kind of carried that mantle as well?

DAVULURI: Absolutely. And that's a large part of the reason why I wanted to be the first Indian Miss America. I've been promoting my personal platform, celebrating diversity through cultural competency for three years now, and it's something I've been working very hard towards. And so, I've always viewed Miss America as the girl next door.

That's the brand, that's the image. But the girl next door is evolving as the diversity in America evolves. She's not as she was (ph) 10 years ago. And she's not going to be the same person come ten years down the road. And so, to be that new symbol and hope for a younger demographic and let children know that, you know, you can be anything that you want to be, not only Miss America regardless of your race, your socioeconomic status, your religion, because that's what the American dream is and that's what I'm living right now.

PEREIRA: Well, I've got to say from one brown girl to another, I applaud you and say hurray. You had a chance to meet with somebody else who was a first in her own right, Vanessa Williams. Was she able to share with you some tips on how to -- there's been backlash from a small minority on the ugly place that can be Twitter.