by MIKE CHAIKEN
Emma Broyles was crowned the first ever Miss America of Korean descent on Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Broyles also is the first ever Miss America to come from Alaska.
Broyles, a junior at Arizona State University studying to become a dermatologist, also will be the first Miss America to serve in the organization’s second century. Miss America celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021.
Miss Connecticut Sapna Raghavan competed against Broyles but did not place in the top 10.
As a Miss America of Korean descent, Broyles noted that she is an example of how the organization has embraced diversity in the past decade.
Prior to 1950, the organization required that title holders be “of good health and of the white race.”
“Getting to wear this crown as a Korean who used to try to avoid think of her ethnic identity, it means a lot (to win Miss America),” Broyles said in a post-competition press conference. “Little girls around the world, around the nation, who also look like me can have somebody they can look up to. They can see that they can be whatever they want to be.”
Broyles explained, “It was very difficult growing up as somebody who is half Korean and half white because I felt like I didn’t fit into either one of those boxes.
“Especially, in this example of filling out an SAT… They ask what your race is. There’s white, Asian, black. I’d have to debate what is my identity? I don’t know what my identity is. I think that there are a lot of people in the United States who can identify with that.”
The new Miss America said, “Getting to have the opportunity to represent my heritage and for other people to see somebody like them is in a position to look like Miss America is really special.”
During the week preceding the finals, there had been discussion in the media as to whether the contest still held relevance heading into its second century.
Broyles, 20, however, countered that the contest is still relevant to her generation and the generation that will follow.
A former Miss Alaska’s Outstanding Teen, which is part of the Miss America umbrella, Broyles said, “Being a busy college student taking 22 credits working two jobs and fulfilling my job as Miss Alaska was something I wouldn’t have been able to do if I hadn’t learned all of these skills along the way (through Miss America).”
Plus, she said, “Where can a young girl get this kind of scholarship (she received $104,000 in scholarship money Thursday). I think that’s just incredible.”
The new Miss America said, “For people of my generation and for people of a younger generation, I think that it’s important to impress that Miss America is relevant and will be relevant because of the things it provides for young women in our nation.”
A Miss Alaska representative has only made the Miss America finals twice in the state organization’s history.