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Alaska wins Miss America

Miss America 2022 has officially been crowned for the competition’s 100th annual event! The crown was given to Emma Leigh Broyles, Miss Alaska, on December 16 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut and was streamed live on Peacock. The newly crowned Miss America has made history, becoming both the first Korean-American and the first Alaskan to hold the title in the competition’s 100-year history. She succeeds Miss America 2020  Camille Schrier.

“I could not believe it,” Broyles said. “I am so, so grateful to everybody back at home who’s been supporting me for so long, and I’m so glad that I’m able to bring home the title of Miss America to the state of Alaska for the first time in history.”

The 20-year-old beauty queen said her grandparents immigrated from Korea to Anchorage about 50 years ago, before her mother was born. “Although my mom is full Korean, she was born and raised right in Anchorage, Alaska,” Broyles said. The Miss America Organisation “believes Emma is the first Korean-American to win the crown,” spokesman Matt Ciesluk said in a text message to the AP. Her mother is a special-education teacher at Service High School in Anchorage, the same school Broyles attended.

Broyles has chosen the Special Olympics for her social impact initiative. Besides her mother’s position, her older brother, Brendan, has Down syndrome and competes in athletic events with Special Olympics Alaska.

I’ve seen first-hand the impact that Special Olympics has on the families of people with intellectual disabilities. And I know how important Special Olympics is to our community here in Anchorage and here in Alaska, as well as the communities all over the country and all over the world,” she said.

Broyles said she looks forward to working with Special Olympics to promote inclusion, compassion and open-mindedness through sports. “Getting to have this platform to speak about why inclusion is important during a time like this when our country is so divided, and to speak about why it’s important to be compassionate, why it’s important to be empathetic, why it’s important to keep an open mind and to be willing to listen to those who aren’t like you or maybe have different opinions than you, I think that this is a time where we need that more than ever,” she said.

Earlier in the week, before Emma was crowned the winner of the pageant overall, she won in the preliminaries for her social impact pitch about the power of the Special Olympics. She has noted she began volunteering with the organization 12 years ago when her older brother, who has down syndrome, became an athlete.

As a sibling of an individual with an intellectual disability and Special Olympics athlete, I have witnessed the positive impact Special Olympics has on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, their families and communities,” she told ASU news. “Special Olympics is an organization that my family and I have supported throughout my life, and I am so excited to continue to share its mission on the Miss America stage.”

Broyles winning the Miss America title wasn’t the first barrier broken by an Alaska woman this year. Last summer, teenager Lydia Jacoby of Seward, Alaska, came from out of nowhere to win the women’s 100-metre breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympic Games. She became the first Alaskan to ever qualify for the Olympics in swimming, let alone win gold.

I think it’s incredibly cool that Alaskan women are representing Alaska, representing our home state so well and getting the recognition I think we deserve,” Broyles said.

Along with her title, Broyles earned just over $100,000 in college scholarships, which she calls a “life-changing amount of money”.

She’s currently a junior at Arizona State University located in Tempe, Arizona. She studies biomedical sciences and voice performance, loving her experience as a college student but also navigating the challenges that come with competing in pageants at the same time. “Keeping organized has been the single most important step in maintaining a busy schedule and ensuring that I am not missing anything,” she told an ASU news outlet in July. “I also heavily rely on my support systems and reach out to my family and friends if I ever feel discouraged or overwhelmed.”

Although the South West was a definite change for the Anchorage native, she noted how she “fell in love” with the campus and atmosphere of the Tempe locale, thus influencing her decision to attend the school. “I really felt at home when I visited ASU and I did not get that same feeling when touring other campuses, so I knew that ASU was the school for me,” she shared. “It also helped that ASU has great merit-based scholarships that help me pay for most of my degree and such a strong honors college.” But for the next year, she will travel about 20,000 miles (32,187 kilometres) every month serving as a role model and advocate for young women, the Miss America Organisation said.

Broyles’ future plans include becoming a dermatologist and returning to Alaska to practise her profession. “There’s just something special about Anchorage, which is why I know that I want to spend the rest of my life in Anchorage, even despite this little hiatus I’m taking,” she said. She said the scholarship money will allow her to attend medical school.

As a 15-year-old in 2017, Emma began competing in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, going on to win Miss Alaska’s Outstanding Teen that year. She then went on to compete in Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in Florida, but took a hiatus from competing after that pageant. “After my year as Miss Alaska’s Outstanding Teen, I took a four-year break from competing until this year, when I decided to return to the stage and compete for the title of Miss Alaska 2021,” she told an Arizona State University news outlet (where she attends college). The student has been sure to shout-out her friends and family members for supporting her in her various pageant ventures, from teen competitions to the top prize in the states!

Miss Alaska Emma Broyles is announced as a top 10 finalist in the Miss America competition at the Mohegan Sun, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The 2022 Miss America’s court includes Lauren Alabama of Alabama, Elizabeth Pierre of Massachusetts, Sydney Park of New York and Abigail Hayes of Oregon as first, second, third and fourth runners-up, respectively.

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