Spelling Bee’s shining star a hero to geeks
But that was a half-life ago for Nupur Lala. Like all bee winners, she's since had to deal with the perks, drawbacks and stereotypes that come with the title. That's been magnified because the year she won the bee, movie makers were shooting a documentary about the competition. The Oscar-nominated documentary was released in 2002.
The bee's popularity has skyrocketed, in part because of Lala and the other spellers featured in the documentary "Spellbound," a film that made smart people cool long before "The Big Bang Theory."
She became a role model for those who realized it's OK to be nerdy. She became a trend-setter, starting a run in which 10 of 14 national bee winners have been Indian-American, including the last five.
Today, she's 28 and finishing up a master's degree in cancer biology with plans to enroll in the University of Texas Medical School in Houston, having changed course from a career plan that had her researching memory and the brain for three years at MIT. She now aspires to be a physician scientist.
"My intellectual inspirations are so meandering. I blame that on the Spelling Bee sometimes," Lala said with a laugh. "There are so many interesting things in the dictionary to study."
Then there's another set of emotions she feels every year when her name is mentioned by the Indian-Americans youngsters who now dominate the national bee. All of the recent winners, to some degree, have cited Lala as an inspiration.
"People always thought of me as this nerdy, excitable, just-an-awkward kid. Now they can see me as somebody beyond that, I hope."
Critical thinking challenge: Why is Nupur more famous than other spelling bee winners? Is this fair?
- Posted on May 28, 2013
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