Of the 85 kids who have won the National Spelling Bee, only one became an instant movie star.
For the millions who watched back in 1999, her face is frozen in time. She’ll always be the 14-year-old girl from Tampa, Fla., with the glasses and dark shoulder-length hair, her arms raised while leaping for joy.
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 — all magnified because she won the same year the competition was featured in an Oscar-nominated documentary.
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.