2022 Miss America Emma Broyles says skills she learned in Barrett helped her capture title

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January 12, 2022

Emma Broyles, a junior in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, considers herself an introvert. 

That’s an interesting self-assessment from the biomedical sciences major, Barrett, The Honors College social media influencer and accomplished singer, who was crowned Miss America last month. Along with the title, Broyles will receive $100,000 in scholarships and a six-figure salary for her yearlong tenure as Miss America.

Emma BroeylesShe not only wowed the competition judges with her talent and accomplishments, but also with her poise and substance in interviews where she talked about her personal challenges with ADHD and dermatillomania - a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by skin picking -  and how she would respond to a difficult situation.  

When asked by one of the judges how she would handle a male sponsor making inappropriate comments and sexual advances toward her, she candidly and forcefully answered "I know in my heart that as a woman, I am never going to let somebody treat me like that because women should never be treated like objects. Women can be angry. We cannot be content with things that are happening.”

Broyles, the former Miss Alaska, credits her experience as a student in the honors college’s signature first-year course The Human Event with helping her perfect speaking and interviewing skills that were pivotal in her capturing the title. The Human Event is a small, intensive, interdisciplinary, discussion-based seminar with an emphasis on analysis and writing.

“The Human Event was a tough class for me because I kind of consider myself to be more of an introvert and English class, like reading and writing, was never really my strong suit. I was really nervous in my first Human Event class because I knew that it meant a lot of roundtable discussions about books that I was not familiar with at the time.”

But through practice and class participation, Broyles said she came out of her shell and became more comfortable with thinking on her feet and speaking in public.

“Being in The Human Event, even though it was nerve-racking every time I raised my hand to give a point, it definitely helped me overcome that fear of speaking publicly,” she said. 

We caught up with Broyles as she is preparing to begin her year of service as Miss America, during which she will travel extensively – about 20,000 miles per month – appear at events, and promote her Social Impact Initiative, Building Community Through Special Olympics. She took time out to answer a few questions. Here’s what she had to say. 

 

In the interview part of the Miss America competition, you were very transparent about your personal struggles. You talked about your ADHD and dermatillomania. You said you wanted to be seen as a real person. What did you mean by that?

EB: I think this is something I mentioned in my onstage interview. It’s this idea that Miss America is always put on a pedestal. And not even just Miss America, but I think even state titleholders. Even as Miss Alaska, people just saw how there’s this girl, she’s wearing a crown and sash and she must have the perfect life. She must have everything figured out. And Miss America, she just earned a $100,000 college scholarship and she’s earning a six-figure salary at 20 years old.

I think it’s important in terms of relatability to be transparent and to be open and honest and real because people won’t feel like they can connect with you otherwise. 

 

What sort of response did you get after you shared your story, live and onstage, at the competition?

EB: I noticed that after I opened up about having dermatillomania and ADHD, I got this outpouring of love from people. I got these really, really kind DMs on Instagram and Facebook and message boards from people who have those disorders.

People just say ‘I’ve never heard a public figure speak about having ADD or ADHD,’ and so it makes them feel more seen, it makes them feel like they can connect with you on a level that they wouldn't have been able to if you hadn't shared. They have this kind of shared experience with you and they understand what you're going through and you understand what they're going through.

So it's really cool and I think it's important to bring awareness to these things because a lot of people struggle with dermatillomania and don't know what it is. There were a lot of people who messaged me and said ‘I had no idea that there was a name for this, I thought that I was broken. I thought that it was just me having a lack of self-control, but no it's a real thing.’

I think a lot of people say that it's important to talk about it, but then they never do because it's embarrassing. 

Now, everybody had this piece of information about me and they're like, wow, she's not perfect. I felt like I put so much work into having this facade of this perfect girl for so many years of my life.

Just in that one split second I decided to share this intimate stuff about me on national television, but I am really glad that I did it in the end because I think that a lot of people were able to connect and feel inspired and feel the spark of hope that if I could succeed, so could they. 

  

What are academic plans now? Will you continue to pursue your undergraduate degree at ASU?

EB: I'm going to do everything I can to take a few classes for my major, possibly online, through ASU. That way I can continue my studies while keeping up with my job as Miss America. After I finish my undergraduate degree, I plan to go to medical school to study dermatology.

 

How has winning the substantial scholarship impacted your plans?

EB: Before Miss America, I actually planned on going to PA (physician assistant) school because it's only two years and it's a lot cheaper than medical school and then you can start working right after you graduate. The only reason I planned on going to PA school was because of the money factor.

For medical school, I didn't want to have to take out loans. I knew that I would go to medical school someday, when I had the funds to do it, but everything kind of changed that night that I won Miss America and that $100,000 scholarship.

All of a sudden, I realized, I can go to medical school because the only thing holding me back was the money. The same with the salary. As hard as I have to work for it, it means more that I can put into my college savings fund.

 

If you were talking to a young woman with aspirations of going to college or pursuing a Miss America title or any other goal, what would you say?

EB: I would tell her to try not to let anything hold her back. Take everything, all options, into consideration and then do what makes her happy. 

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