Local young women win Miss Alaska USA crowns
A pair of local young women will be wearing tiaras for the next year after winning titles at the Miss Alaska USA pageant Aug. 4 in Anchorage.
Neither expected to win.
“I think I said out loud, ‘What?’” said Chugiak’s JoEllen Walters, who was crowned Miss Alaska USA at the event held at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium. “Then I cried.”
Like Walters, Miss Alaska Teen USA Meghan Scott was surprised when she heard Audrey Johnson’s name called instead of hers as the first runner-up.
“Actually, yeah,” said Scott, who previously competed in two other pageants but never in the Miss Alaska Teen event. “Usually it takes a year to prepare, this one was very last minute.”
Walters said this was her fifth year competing in the pageant. The North Star Elementary first-grade teacher said competition this year was as fierce as ever.
“All the girls I competed with were amazing and any would have made a great Miss Alaska,” said the 23-year-old.
As winners, Walters and Scott will serve as ambassadors and spokeswomen for causes near their hearts. Walters is focusing on opioid abuse through her longtime platform of prescription medication disposal, while Scott is advocating on a platform of challenging people to see those facing physical and mental challenges as “Able, Not Disable.”
Walters has been involved with prescription drug disposal since she attended Chugiak High. She said she became interested in the issue when her grandmother — who’d suffered an ankle injury — asked Walters how she should get rid of unused medication.
“That kind of got me realizing it’s something most people don’t even think about,” she said.
Walters has organized numerous prescription drug take-back events and has since expanded her mission to helping prevent substance abuse through mentorship programs in the Anchorage School District.
The 2017 UAA grad said she’s seen the effects of substance abuse firsthand as a classroom teacher in the form of students who don’t have stable home lives.
“My heart aches for them,” she said.
As Alaska winners, Walters and Scott will compete at the national 2019 Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. Run by the Miss Universe Organization, the pageants are different from the Miss America pageants in that the Miss USA pageant sill holds the swimsuit competition, and there is no talent competition. Instead, contestants at the Miss Alaska USA pageant were judged on three categories: personal interview, swimsuit (or active wear for teens) and evening wear. Contestants in the Miss Alaska USA pageant be between 18 and 28, while Miss Alaska Teen USA must be between 14 and 18. Contestants are also required to be unmarried, not have had any children and winners agree not to get married during their reign.
Scott said the pageant’s format appealed to her “glam” side.
“I feel like I’m a Miss USA girl at heart,” she said.
Scott’s got plenty of genius to go with her glam. The 16-year-old high school junior is co-enrolled at UAA as a college freshman through ASD’s Alaska Middle College program, where she’s a 4.0 student who said she wants to go into the medical field.
A former Miss Chugiak-Eagle River through the Miss America pageant system, Scott has attended more than 20 charitable events over the past year and plans to double that in the next. She said she’s excited to begin advocating for a cause that’s near and dear to her.
“I want to help my community focus on the special needs community,” she said.
Scott’s brother was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder, and she said she’s passionate about making sure those with special needs are treated just like everyone else.
“My platform has become more personal,” said Scott, who also volunteers with Special Olympics.
Scott has previously worked as a counselor at Camp Barnabas, a Christian camp in Missouri where she said the focus is on inclusion.
“Children and adults get to spend a whole week doing whatever they want,” she said. “The counselors and leaders focus on abilities, not disabilities.”
Both the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants will be televised, although the dates for the 2019 events have not yet been set.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]