Fans watch first Tlingit Miss Alaska reach final 10 in Miss USA contest

Sierra Flores, left, her mother Serena Hinchman, middle, and Raeanne Holmes holds signs at the Miss USA watch party in the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall in Juneau on Sunday, Hinchman and Holmes work for Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)

A few more than a dozen fans of Alyssa London, or Miss Alaska, are groaning in disappointment and one resilient fan screams, “We love you Alyssa!” after the last of five Miss USA contestants advance to the next round of the pageant.

Alyssa London wasn’t one of them.

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Before the final five were named, anxiety and expectation were high at the Juneau watch party. Even before London made it to the top 10, her fans thought she had a good chance to win.

Yolanda Fulmer said it was exciting.

“I think this also shows other young women, in our community as Alaska Natives or Native American women, that their dreams are important, that they should go for them, and that they can accomplish their dreams and dream big,” Fulmer said.

Fulmer said it’s disappointing that London didn’t win but she’s proud of what she accomplished.

Yolanda Fulmer, left, and other fans watch the Miss USA pageant in anticipation on Sunday. Tommy Gamble is in the far back. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)

“Just being able to make it this far and also standing for her community and representing … she has had a strong representation for her culture and her Alaskan community and I’m just very proud of her,” Fulmer said.

London graduated from Stanford University where she wrote an honors thesis on economic development in Southeast Alaska. She’s the cultural ambassador of the Sealaska Heritage Institute and she built a business that sells products influenced by Southeast Alaska Native culture.

When a Miss USA host asked London what she wanted people to know about Alaska, she singled out Native culture.

“I want them to know that we have amazing unique cultures in our state. There are 229 different tribes,” London said. “Tonight you will see me wearing a traditional Tlingit robe over my evening gown emulating our dance robes. It will have a Killer Whale crest on it and I’m very proud of my culture.”

After London’s loss, the watch party crowd recorded a video message to show her their support.

Outside of the party, Tommy Gamble said he is a friend of London’s and that this loss is not the end for her.

“The whole entire journey was the experience that she wanted and she’s going to learn from it and probably even come out on top,” Gamble said. “You can crown a winner for the contest, but because of her name and her culture and everything that she’s supported and is going to continue to support, she’ll always be one of our queens and so I’m really proud of her.”

The watch party was organized by the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

Kàra McCullough, Miss District of Columbia, won the Miss USA crown on Sunday.

Quinton Chandler is a reporter at KTOO in Juneau.

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