Miss America 2022 Explains How Megan Hilty Inspired the “Underdog” in Her

The newly named Miss America 2022, Emma Broyles, shares the reason she chose to sing "Let Me Be Your Star" from Smash during the competition, streaming on Peacock.

By Beth Sobol, Lindsay Weinberg Dec 17, 2021 11:39 PMTags
Watch: Gretchen Carlson Defends Miss America Swimsuit Changes

Emma Broyles sang "Let Me Be Your Star" during the Miss America competition this week and, boy, did her wish come true. 

The pageant icon and Miss Alaska titleholder took the crown during the show on Thursday, Dec. 16, becoming Miss America 2022.

During the ceremony, which is streaming on Peacock, Emma showed off her voice while singing the powerful number "Let Me Be Your Star" from the NBC show Smash. Though the series ended in 2013, Emma remains a fan of actress Megan Hilty, whose character Ivy Lynn competes with Katharine McPhee's Karen Cartwright to land the role of Marilyn Monroe in a new Broadway musical.

For Miss America, Smash has long been a source of inspiration. In an exclusive interview with E! News, Emma said she sang "They Just Keep Moving the Line," another Smash song, at Miss America's Outstanding Teen competition.

This time, she chose another standout from the show, saying "Let Me Be Your Star" really "resonated" with her.

Miss America: 92 Years of Winners

"It perfectly represented everything that I was feeling as Miss Alaska going into the Miss America competition," Emma shared. "I was saying let me be your star. I may be the underdog, but I have so much to offer. And I want to show other people that they may be an underdog, too, but that doesn't mean you can't be successful. That doesn't mean you can't be incredible."

She admitted she's a "very big Megan Hilty fan. I think she's absolutely incredible" and added that it would be "awesome" to meet her someday as the new Miss America.

Jessica Hill/AP/Shutterstock; Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

"She's got such a such a powerhouse of a voice," Emma gushed. "I love Megan Hilty. She's really an inspiration."

Emma has already become an inspiration herself, to fans around the country, after opening up about her experience with ADHD and her feelings of being isolated during the pandemic. Since then, "I've been able to find my true self," she said onstage at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. "A lot of people don't recognize that their low points are what are going to propel them into their future." 

Below, read more of E! News' exclusive conversation with Emma, who is the first Miss Alaska to win and the 100th Miss America.

E! News: What focus do you want to bring to your home state and how will this win affect you personally?

Emma Broyles: One of the most important things is growing the Miss America scholarship and growing our outreach. Our program in Alaska is quite small. Last night, I won $100,000 in scholarships and just this year, I've earned $105,000 in college scholarships.

I'm currently a junior getting my undergraduate degree, studying biomedical sciences and voice performance, but I'm heading to medical school after. I thought there's no way I'm going be able to pay for medical school. I've barely been able to squeak by paying for my undergraduate degree. My family is coming from very humble backgrounds, but now I can kind of put all of my time and energy into focusing on medical school, focusing on getting my degree, focusing on my professional development, instead of having to worry about those scholarships. I've been working two jobs since I was in high school, trying to pay for school. So this is an honor, truly.

Will Hart/NBC

E!: How do you think the pageant is making headway in terms of diversity and being more pro-women?

EB: The fact that there's a Korean American as Miss America right now is representative of the fact that Miss America is constantly evolving. The fact that I'm able to be here from Alaska, kind of an underdog state, as a Korean American, somebody who has ADHD and dermatillomania OCD, getting to be at the forefront of all of this is really inspiring. And I hope that I could do everything I possibly can as Miss America to show young women and young men all around the country that you can be whoever you want to be. It doesn't matter what you look like, it doesn't matter where you come from. None of that matters. What really matters is what's on the inside.

E!: Is mental health awareness and mental health treatment an important issue to you in your new role?

EB: It is really important. Something I really wanted to do with Miss America was have this transparency. I think that people tend to put Miss America and these titleholders on a pedestal because they say, "Wow, you know, they're doing all of these incredible things, and they're out in their communities. I don't think that I would ever be like them." But that's absolutely not true.

I think that sharing my story as a woman who has ADHD, who was diagnosed just last year at 19 years old, that really resonated with a lot of people. I received so many messages last night from other neurodivergent women telling me that it was really inspiring getting to see somebody who is exactly like them on the Miss America stage, taking home the Miss America title, and showing people that you're so much more than that. And you know, I also grew up with a sibling who has intellectual disability. So my whole platform is focused on inclusion and empathy and open-mindedness. And growing up with a sibling who has Down syndrome has taught me a sense of compassion and respect for people who aren't the same as you. And that's something that I'm really trying to project and propel as Miss America.

AP Photo/Jessica Hill

E!: What was your day like yesterday for the show?

EB: Yesterday was such a whirlwind of a day. We woke up at about 9:30 a.m. I got a full eight hours of sleep. I had some bacon in the morning. The Mohegan Sun staff was incredible; they gave us a hearty breakfast, hearty lunch, hearty dinner. And we went through some rehearsals. It was mostly about spending time with my fellow candidates. This was going be the last day that I was going to see them. And I was really heartbroken, because being kind of isolated up in Alaska, I thought it's going be last time to see most of these girls, unless we have a reunion. So, I was doing everything in my power to spend time with them and get my last little ounces of love with them. But now that I have the chance to be Miss America, I know I'm going to be seeing a lot more of them.

People always say, "Oh, you know these girls are going to be your bridesmaids someday." And it is true. I think about these girls and how much they've inspired me. I think especially being on the younger end of the spectrum—I'm only 20 and a lot of the girls are 25 or 26—getting to see all that they have accomplished has been really inspiring for me. I look up to them and they're my role models. I'm really grateful for this sisterhood.

E!: What was the last thing you did or who was the last person you spoke to before going onstage?

EB: The last person I spoke to was Miss Hawaii Courtney Choy. We were standing backstage together and I remember I was so nervous. My only goal was to make the top 10. My legs were shaking so badly that I couldn't stand and I genuinely thought I was going pass out, so I was sitting on the floor back there in my big gown, sitting there with Courtney and we were holding hands. But it was it was an incredible moment.


E!: Do you think the pageant made the right decision in eliminating the swimsuit competition?

EB: I absolutely think so. The fact that we eliminated the swimsuit competition allowed for us to put more emphasis on things that these women have to say. So now we've got the social impact portion of competition, which is an incredible thing. It's basically like a short kind of TED Talk, about 60 seconds. And each young woman gets the opportunity to speak about their social impact initiative. Mine is the Special Olympics, and that was a really special moment to stand up there on the stage and speak about why it's so important and what it means to my family. Giving women an outlet in which they can speak about the things they're passionate about and to speak about the things that that make them who they are is incredibly important because ultimately, it doesn't matter what a girl looks like in a swimsuit. It doesn't matter what a girl looks like period, right? You know, focusing on outward appearance is going to get us absolutely nowhere. 

E!: How are you going to celebrate? 

EB: Well, last night, I got to sleep in this insane suite. It was unlike anything I've ever seen before. There were desserts, there was Coke. You know, I'm a Coke gal. I really like Coca Cola. It was it was incredible being surrounded by my family. The thing that I'm most excited for is getting to go home and celebrate the fact that Alaska has finally taken a victory. I'm especially excited to go home and celebrate with my family and friends who couldn't be there in person. But, you know, there's kind of a long flight ahead. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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