Emma Broyles on Representing Alaska, Korean Heritage, and Empowering Young Women

Emma Broyles from Anchorage was crowned Miss America this week, becoming the first Miss Alaska and the first woman of Korean descent to win the competition.

Broyles, 20, graduated from Service High School and is now a student at Arizona State University, where she is studying biomedical sciences and vocal performance. Her victory Thursday night comes with a $ 100,000 scholarship, which she says will help pay for her college and medical education as she studies to become a dermatologist.

The Miss America pageant, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year, has gone from an emphasis on appearance to an emphasis on leadership, talent and communication skills – a change Broyles says she appreciate.

“I’m so glad Miss America is emphasizing what women have to say, rather than what they look like,” she said.

She joins a group of young Alaskan women who achieved national and global excellence in 2021, including 17-year-old swimmer Lydia Jacoby of Seward, who won gold and silver at the Summer Olympics, and a 19-year-old model. and activist Quannah Chasinghorse, from Eagle, who featured on the cover of Vogue Mexico and Elle magazine this year and used her platform to highlight indigenous issues.

We caught up with Broyles on Friday to talk about his roots in Anchorage, his performance in the Miss America pageant, and what his victory means for Alaska. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

• • •

DNA: Tell me how you feel this morning. What went through your mind when you woke up?

Broyle: I remember waking up and seeing that Miss America sash and crown sitting on my bedside, and I remember thinking, “Who is this? Who’s is this? Is it mine? “

I am so in shock that this actually happened. And I’m so thankful to be the first Miss Alaska to win Miss America, I think, because it’s such a cool honor and especially on Miss America’s 100th birthday. … Just winning the crown at home and feeling the support and love of all of my fellow Alaskan people meant a lot to me.

DNA: Tell me about your childhood in Anchorage and how you started this competitive journey.

Broyle: In fact, my parents both grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. And in fact, I went to Service High School in Anchorage. And that’s kind of where I got my start at Special Olympics, where I really started to discover my passion for Special Olympics.

I was the president of the Partners Club at Service High School, which is an academic program for Special Olympics. And around this time, Service High School was named the National Unified Champion School for the Special Olympics. And we were also named one of ESPN’s Top 30 Schools in the Country for Inclusion, which was really a good thing.

And I think that’s kind of when I realized that Special Olympics played a huge role in communities across the country, and around the world for that matter. And I realized that the work I did could really make an impact on the lives of others and on our community as a whole.

This is kind of where I started with Special Olympics. I can’t wait to have an older brother with Down syndrome who has competed and been in Special Olympics since I was little, to be able to talk about Special Olympics now and to have this partnership with Special Olympics and Miss America. And, I think, kind of opening up that dialogue about why open-mindedness, inclusion and compassion are important, especially in the world we live in today.

DNA: Can you tell us more about your family, your Korean-American heritage and how it shaped this victory for you? Is this part of a larger legacy? It’s so many firsts, it’s exciting.

Broyle: Being what we know to be the first Korean-born Miss America is another really cool thing because I think it represents all the positive change we’ve seen in Miss America over the past 100 years.

I mean, even over the last decade we’ve seen such a diverse group of Miss Americas, and representing Asians all over the United States is a really, really cool, and really special time for me.

My grandparents, they came to America about 50 years ago – right before my mother was born – with the idea that they wanted their children to be able to live this American dream and have every opportunity they could. They actually moved straight to Anchorage, Alaska so they’ve been here for a while, which is why my family has our roots in Anchorage, Alaska, and all of their other family members have come from Korea to Anchorage, Alaska.

So I have a big Korean family in Anchorage, and it’s really cool because my grandfather was actually the president of the Korean organization from Alaska.

And it was a really cool victory for my grandparents too, I think, to see their Korean granddaughter progress and compete like Miss America. And you know, there were so many other Koreans on that stage with me, which – it was a really cool experience, and I’m so grateful for my heritage and for being able to represent other Korean Americans through it. the country. And I think my grandparents are especially grateful and especially excited.

DNA: This year you join a group of pretty incredible young women from Alaska: Olympic swimmer Lydia Jacoby, model and activist Quannah Chasinghorse. You all have a few years apart. What does it mean to be part of a group of nationally known very young Alaskan women?

Broyle: I think it’s incredibly empowering because I think in Alaska, especially in these kinds of national competitions, and for Lydia, a global competition, a state like Alaska tends to be the underdog. People think of Alaska as a haphazard tundra, cold barren land, and I feel like we don’t tend to get the recognition we deserve.

And it’s a victory not only for Alaska, but I feel like it’s also a victory for young women, to be able to represent other young women in our state and even our country, and to be someone they can hopefully admire. And you know, what’s pretty funny is that my high school swim coach was Lydia’s swim coach too. … He posted on Facebook and said, “OK, you guys, Lydia, whom I have coached, is an Olympic gold medalist and Emma, ​​who I have coached, is now Miss America.

So maybe he’s my lucky charm or something. But it was a cool moment where I kind of have that connection to Lydia in that, you know, we have the same swim coach.

But I really think it’s a win for young Alaskan women everywhere. And I hope we can serve as an inspiration for them to see that while they may be an outsider, being from Alaska, they are capable of a lot more than they could ever imagine.

DNA: There are probably a lot of Alaskan kids waking up to this news this morning and seeing you on this national stage. What do you hope that is on their minds right now?

Broyle: I think one of my main goals as Miss America is to be someone who can be relatable. I think people tend to put Miss America on a pedestal, and they see her as that woman who wins all these great scholarships. I actually won $ 100,000 in scholarships last night which is pretty cool. And I think they think she’s living this perfect glamorous life.

And it’s not like that. We are real people. And last night during my question on stage, I was able to share my struggles at being a woman with ADHD and a woman who was diagnosed with ADHD so late in her life. I was just diagnosed last year at 19. And you know, someone who struggles with skin addiction, which is a form of OCD.

It was a bit difficult for me to share at first. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be that vulnerable, you know, on a national stage with hundreds and thousands of people watching. But in the end, I know it was the right choice because in the end, I think there were people who felt like they could connect.

There were people who felt like they saw themselves in me, and I got to receive so many adorable messages and comments this morning and last night, from people saying how cool it was to seeing someone like them, you know, someone who is neurodivergent or someone who has a family member with an intellectual disability, seeing themselves in me and seeing that kind of character that you can refer to and someone ‘one they can turn to.

And so I really hope I can continue to be an inspiration. I was able to go through such a difficult time in my life last year as many people have experienced very low times in their lives with COVID and the resulting isolation. And you know, the fact that I was able to get over it, and here I am a year later as Miss America, I hope other people know they can do the same. They can overcome whatever they struggle with.

DNA: What message do you want to send home?

Broyle: I think the most important thing is that I just want to say thank you to everyone who sent me kind messages and left great comments and supported me throughout my Miss Alaska trip.

I feel so honored to be able to bring this title home to Alaska for the first time in history, and I hope we will see many more Miss Alaska claim the Miss America title, and we will see more of it. outsiders do amazing things that no one ever thought they could do.

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