Emma Broyles has made history.
On Thursday night, the college student was given the title of Miss America 2022 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. It is the first time in the pageant’s 100-year history that Miss Alaska has earned the title.
What began as a 1921 Atlantic City beauty pageant has evolved away from the emphasis on looks alone — contestants are no longer judged on physical appearance — with a new focus on leadership, talent and communication skills.
In addition to the centennial crown, Broyles claimed $100,000 in college scholarships. She emerged as the winner out of 51 contestants representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Emma Broyles of Alaska was crowned Miss America on Thursday night. (Courtesy of Miss America)
Broyles spoke to Fox News about winning the crown, opening up about her personal struggles and what makes her proud to be an American.
Fox News: Take us back to that moment when you first heard “Miss Alaska.”
Emma Broyles: I honestly couldn’t even believe that I made the top 10. Miss Alaska has only ever made the finals twice in history. So just the fact that I was able to be there at the 100th anniversary of Miss America representing Alaska was an honor for me. Once I made it there, I was just in shock for the rest of the night. And everything became such a blur from there. Before I knew it, I was in the top five and I was the last one called.
But then I made the top three, and then I was standing up with Miss Alabama. At that moment, I truly thought I was in a dream. I needed to be pinched. It was such a haze and I couldn’t believe it. And then when I heard my name called, it was such a surreal moment. I told a lot of people this, but I’ve never really cried out of happiness before. But the tears, they were flowing. They just came straight out of me. It was such an emotional moment for me, especially being the first Korean American Miss America. It meant so much to me to be able to represent my heritage. I’m so grateful and I can’t wait to go back to Alaska and share this moment with all my friends and family.
Emma Broyles from Alaska emerged as the winner out of 51 contestants representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia. (Courtesy of Miss America)
Fox News: You’ve made history as the first Miss Alaska to become Miss America. What does that mean to you?
Broyles: It means so much more than you could imagine. I started when I was 15. I was Miss Anchorage’s Outstanding Teen. And then I went to Miss Alaska’s Outstanding Teen. And so forth. Within that time frame, I was able to come home with almost $5,000 in scholarships. Now with this win, I’ll be able to graduate debt-free. I’m currently a junior in college and I’m studying biomedical sciences and voice performance. I’m headed to medical school after I get my undergraduate degree. I’ve been working two jobs since I was in high school on top of taking 21, 22 credits a semester.
College is expensive and it was really frustrating for me knowing my decision, where I decided to go to college, where I decided to go to medical school, was going to be based solely on what I could afford. Now that I have all of these scholarship dollars, it seems like so many doors have suddenly opened for me. I’m really excited about my future and ultimately becoming a dermatologist. That was something I talked about [during the pageant], my struggle with dermatillomania, which is a chronic skin picking disorder. It’s a form of OCD. I’m thinking about out how I’ll be able to impact so many lives of other people with dermatillomania as a dermatologist.
Fox News: One of your social impact initiatives is the Special Olympics, and it also hits home for you.
Broyles: My older brother has Down syndrome. Almost 22 years ago when he was born, the doctors came into the room and they sat down with my mom and dad. They had this look on their faces and they immediately knew something was wrong. They said, “Your son has Down syndrome.” At that time my mom had already been a Special Olympics coach and volunteered for many years as a special education teacher.
Emma Broyles is a proud supporter of the Special Olympics. (Courtesy of Miss America)
I’m glad that she was prepared to take on that challenge of having a child with an intellectual disability. I think for other parents who don’t have that experience, hearing that they have a child with an intellectual disability is tough. A lot of people don’t realize they can be productive members of society. They go to college, have jobs, get married – they can do all the things we can.
And that’s really what the mission of the Special Olympics is all about, promoting inclusivity and showing others there’s so much more to people with intellectual disabilities. That’s something I’ve been promoting in my everyday life, the idea of having an open mind, empathy and maintaining a compassionate state. Through my platform, I want to foster those meaningful connections that will ultimately help our communities in the future. I want to help make our society be a better place for everyone. So having my brother in the audience was a really special moment for me.
Fox News: Some critics have said pageants are outdated, especially as we enter 2022. What would you tell those people?
Broyles: Miss America is absolutely relevant. The fact that I won $100,000 in college scholarships in one night alone? I think that goes to show you exactly why this organization is so important. Being a hardworking American with two jobs and going to college was tough for me. I always had in the back of my mind, “How am I going to afford this? This is something that’s going to be plaguing me for the rest of my life. My student debt is going to follow me forever. I’m always going to be working multiple jobs just to get through this.”
Miss Alaska Emma Broyles reacts after being crowned Miss America, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Jessica Hill)
This money is life-changing in so many ways. I see my future planned out for me already. I see a straight path to success. I have a platform where I can make a difference in our society. And remember, there were 50 women on the stage and they all had incredible social impact initiatives. They all had something they were passionate about. They all wanted to make a difference in our country. Miss America is showing the world that women can be great. We are all smart, passionate, talented and beautiful. And we all have dreams.
Fox News: Miss America is celebrating its 100th anniversary. What’s one positive change that you’ve seen?
Broyles: The increase in scholarship dollars. That’s one of the core values that Miss America has always maintained – providing young women with opportunities to further their education. The scholarship total for Miss America doubled in the past year. This week alone, Miss America awarded over $435,000 in scholarship money to these young women who were competing for the title of Miss America, and over $5 million in college scholarships in the last year alone. It’s also one of the greatest ways for young women to develop public speaking skills and interviewing skills as they earn college scholarships. These women are given opportunities to meet like-minded women who are ultimately going to be role models and push themselves to be their absolute best.
Fox News: What makes you proud to be an American?
Broyles: One of the proudest things for me is the fact that I’m half Korean, I’m a quarter German and a quarter Irish. It’s a weird mix *laughs*. But my grandparents came to America about 50 years ago right before my mom was born. They wanted my mom to have every opportunity possible to be successful. They grew up with a great life in Korea, but they also knew that if they wanted their kids to be truly successful, they would need to grow up in America. Being able to represent my Korean heritage makes me proud as an American because my grandparents worked hard for us to have a life where we could truly succeed.
Miss Alaska Emma Broyles is surrounded by a group hug after being crowned Miss America, Thursday, Dec. 16, 2021, at Mohegan Sun. (Jessica Hill)
And you know, I really struggled with my identity growing up. I felt like I didn’t quite fit into either box. I didn’t feel like I was White, but I didn’t feel like I was Korean either. It was a struggle. And I know it’s a struggle a lot of biracial people face. I think that’s what makes me proud to be an American – I’m American, but I’m also Korean, I’m German and I’m Irish. I am a hardworking girl working two jobs, going to school, being Miss America, promoting my social impact initiative and volunteering with the Special Olympics. I’m ambitious and I have dreams. I am living the American dream.
Fox News: The last two years have been incredibly difficult for many Americans for different reasons. What advice would you give to someone who lost hope in our nation because they just don’t know what to feel at this point?
Broyles: First I would say those are very valid feelings. I know exactly what it feels like to see the state that we are in and feel completely lost.
But what I would also say is that you have the power to be the change that you want to see in the world. If there’s something you don’t like, if there’s something you want to change, you have the power to make that possible. Go out and talk about what you’re passionate about. Share your story, share your beliefs with others. Think about why you’re so passionate about these things. And think about how you can make a difference. Every single person can make a change in our nation.
Miss Alaska Emma Broyles waves in confetti after being crowned Miss America. (Jessica Hill)
Also, maintain an open mind. That’s the best way we are going to find solutions to these issues that we’re currently facing. We have to work together. You also need to hear somebody else’s point of view, somebody else’s perspective. That’s how you’ll gain a greater understanding of how you can make a change. Don’t be shy. Speak about the things you’re passionate about. Exchange ideas, make connections with other Americans. The hope is there.
Fox News: What’s one thing you are looking forward to doing as Miss America and why?
Broyles: I want to build meaningful relationships with every person I’ll soon meet. As soon as I started wearing my crown and sash, many people started approaching me and sharing their stories. It has been incredible because I’m somebody who values those connections. I look forward to traveling the country and hearing these stories. I want to raise awareness on inclusion and compassion.
I’m in a really special position and I don’t take that lightly. I got to speak about my struggles with dermatillomania and ADHD on the national stage. From there, I woke up to so many heartfelt messages from people saying they felt seen and heard. I want to show people Miss America is real. She’s a real girl with struggles like anyone else. But she pushes through and she makes it work. She can overcome it all.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.