Newly Crowned Miss America Puts Focus On Disabilities
Emma Broyles, Miss Alaska, has become the first titleholder from her state to win Miss America.
Her victory arrived at the 100th anniversary pageant last month, as Miss America celebrated its 1921 birth in Atlantic City — in Connecticut.
Broyles was named Miss America 2022 at Mohegan Sun Casino & Resort in Uncasville a year after the 2021 pageant never happened because of COVID-19.
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Reigning Miss America Camille Schrier, a graduate of Princeton’s Hun School and Virginia Tech who won in 2019 as Miss Virginia, has held the position for two years.
Broyles, who receives $100,000 in scholarships (up from $50,000 last pageant), a six-figure salary and a special gold crown and sash for the centennial, didn’t hesitate in her delivery during interviews. She used her personal story as a strength.
“I am real. I have flaws, I have ADHD, I have dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking),” said Broyles, 20, who hails from Anchorage.
Her comment was an answer to an onstage question from former Miss America Debbye Turner Bell (1990) about navigating social media while maintaining transparency.
Broyles, a biomedical sciences major at Arizona State University and aspiring dermatologist, highlighted how women with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder like herself are often not diagnosed at all.
Three contestants, including Broyles, Miss Alabama and Miss Massachusetts, faced off in a second round of onstage questions to determine the winner.
Former Miss Americas asking the questions said their prompts were informed by personal experience. Katie Stam Irk, Miss America 2009, asked Broyles what she would do if she was at an event and a male representative for a Miss America sponsor made inappropriate comments or advances towards her.
“Women should never be treated like objects,” Broyles said — she wouldn’t let it go just because it was a sponsor.
In preliminary competition, she won a $1,000 scholarship for her social impact initiative, Building Community Through Special Olympics. During the competition, she talked about her brother, who has Down syndrome and has competed in the Special Olympics.
Broyles, who has also studied voice performance in Arizona, sang “Let Me Be Your Star” from “Smash” for the talent segment, which was otherwise filled with pageant queens playing violin.
This was the first year Miss America was limited to streaming — NBCUniversal’s Peacock — and not televised on a network. In 2019, Schrier was crowned on NBC.
The pageant’s fading relevance has long been a thorn in its side. Ratings have been down overall and the last pageant continued that trend before the hiatus in 2020-2021, with 3.6 million viewers compared to 4.3 million in 2018 on ABC. The event’s midcentury heyday — the first Miss America broadcast in 1954 drew 27 million viewers — is as much a relic as Bert Parks singing “There She Is, Miss America.”
The Miss America Organization’s efforts to modernize and focus more on career, academics and service resulted in the 2018 elimination of the swimsuit competition, the connection to its original status as a “bathing beauty” revue. Pageant traditionalists chafed at the reform, announced by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson (Miss America 1989), then chairwoman of the Miss America Organization (she resigned in 2019).
This year, contestants appeared in TikTok segments talking about their social impact initiatives and passions — advocating for causes like not letting social media define self-worth. In what seemed to be a technical glitch, a prerecorded TikTok clip about the “digital divide” butted into a talent performance.
While 51 contestants entered pageant week in Connecticut this year, only 50 competed in the final.
Miss Maine, Mariah Larocque, was forced to drop out after she tested positive for COVID-19.
Miss America organizers told NJ Advance Media that 94% of contestants — the Miss America Organization calls them candidates — were vaccinated, and all were tested. Contenders were told to wear masks when not eating or performing/onstage, but photos on social media show some posing offstage together without face coverings.
“As candidates come from all areas of the country, Miss America Organization respects and supports their individual rights and the varying levels of regulation in each state,” said Miss America spokesman Brian Lowe.
Larocque said she was fully vaccinated and had tested negative upon her arrival at the pageant.
“My world has been turned upside down in a matter of hours,” she said in an Instagram post. “I feel like I’m trapped in the most terrible nightmare, one I would never wish on anyone.”
Larocque, who is isolating at home for 10 days, was announced as the winner of Miss Congeniality (an honor decided by a contestant vote) during the pageant.
While pageant hosts — former Miss Americas Nina Davuluri (2014) and Ericka Dunlap (2004) — mentioned Larocque was not there, they did not say why.
Broyles is the 100th anniversary winner, but she is not the 100th Miss America, because pageants have not been held every year. She’s No. 94.
Miss America was absent from 1928 to 1932 and again in 1934 — the Great Depression had an effect but so did protests from women’s groups and religious organizations.
In 2013, there were two Miss Americas, owing to the change in season after Mallory Hagan was crowned at a January pageant in Las Vegas and Davuluri (Miss America 2014) was crowned back in Atlantic City that September (both won as Miss New York). To compensate for her shortened reign, the Miss America statue on the boardwalk is modeled after Hagan.
Miss Alabama, Lauren Bradford, was named first runner-up at the 2022 pageant. Miss Massachusetts, Elizabeth Pierre, was second runner-up; Miss Oregon, Abigail Hayes, was third runner-up; and Miss New York, Sydney Park, was fourth runner-up.
Miss America started in 1921 as a way to keep people and business on the boardwalk in Atlantic City after Labor Day.
For most of its century, the pageant remained a New Jersey event. In 2006, Miss America left for Las Vegas, but returned in 2013.
Miss America again departed its traditional home at Boardwalk Hall for the 2020 pageant in December 2019, bringing the event to Mohegan Sun, where Schrier was crowned.
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