Emma Broyles, from Anchorage, said she thought she was a long shot for the crown when she competed in the national Miss America competition this week.
But then she made the top 10. And then the top five.
“It kept going and before I knew it, they were putting a crown on my head and I was just so overwhelmed with emotion,” Broyles said on Friday, the day after she was crowned Miss America 2022, the first winner from Alaska in the competition’s 100-year history.
“Being the first Miss Alaska to be crowned Miss America means so much,” she said.
Broyles, 20, caught the attention of judges with her frank discussions of being vulnerable and open on social media. Broyles highlighted being diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and dermatillomania, a skin picking disorder. She also discussed how she was motivated to volunteer with the Special Olympics because her brother has Down syndrome.
The message resonated with people nationwide.
“My heart was just so warmed this morning when I woke up to hundreds of messages and comments from people saying, ‘I am also neurodivergent,’” Broyles said.
Not only is Broyles the first Miss Alaska to win the Miss America competition, but officials believe she’s also the first Korean American to win the title. Broyles said growing up, she didn’t see Korean women in beauty contests. Now that she’s Miss America, she said she hopes to be an inspiration to younger girls who look like her.
“Nothing means more than knowing that there’s people out there that genuinely felt seen,” Broyles said.
Broyles graduated from Service High School in Anchorage. She’s currently a junior at the Honors College at Arizona State University where she’s majoring in biomedical studies and minoring in voice performance, a talent she showcased when she sang “Let Me Be Your Star” from the NBC musical program Smash.
Broyles said she planned to go to school to be a physician’s assistant, since she wasn’t sure she’d be able to afford medical school. But that was before she won roughly $104,000 in scholarships from the Miss America competition.
“It’s seriously going to change the trajectory of my life, and I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Broyles said. “But you know, my life motto as I said in the competition yesterday is YOLO. You only live once. I am excited to see what happens. I think that things always just kind of fall into place and things always happen for a reason.”
Broyles said she hopes she can continue to highlight the humility and resilience of the citizens of her home state as she wears her new crown and title over the next year.
Editors note: This story has been updated to better reflect that the Miss America competition is not referred to as a pageant.