Alaska is a big and sometimes wild place. The people are diverse. In fact, the Anchorage School District has identified 107 languages spoken by either English-language learner students or their families.
In Anchorage, like many urban areas, it is easy to get caught up in a routine or engrossed in the over-sensationalized hyperbole of trending news. Perhaps, not unexpectedly, there is a fair amount of misconception.
The public comment sections of Alaska’s online news media can be at once scary and inspiring. If nothing else, my hope is to share a few perspectives and stories concerning diversity that should be celebrated. After all, there is so much beauty to see in Alaska.
Speaking of which, you may have heard Alyssa London was recently crowned Miss Alaska USA. She has had local, state, and national level public appearances. Several days ago, London traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Miss USA competition. The event is May 14 and will be the 66th Miss USA pageant. Her schedule has been noticeably busy.
“I was crowned Feb 4th,” London explained. “I checked in for Miss USA exactly three months later, on May 4th. Traveling and preparing for Miss USA has been an amazing experience. I am very grateful and honored to represent the great state of Alaska at Miss USA.”
London was the first Tlingit Alaska Native women to win the Miss Alaska USA title. If she wins she will be the first Miss Alaska to win Miss USA.
Far more than a pretty face, London was recently appointed as a cultural ambassador by the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Sealaska Heritage Institute is a regional Native nonprofit that promotes cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events.
London is a Stanford graduate, an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and media personality. Just after she was crowned Miss Alaska she traveled to New York City for Fashion Week event.
She then traveled to Washington, D.C. to present at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) summit. She was invited by NCAI executive director Jackie Pata to speak with the audience at the opening ceremonies and banquet.
NCAI was established in 1944, it is the largest American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the interests of Tribal governments and communities. While there she also addressed a group of American Indian and Alaska Native youth in attendance at the event.
London has seen a fair share of public appearances and speaking to youth is especially important to her. After NCAI, London returned to her home state and to read to a group of children at the Alaska Native Medical Center.
“I really enjoyed reading to kids on national Dr. Seuss Day at the Alaska Native Medical Center,” she shared. “I hope that my journey as Miss Alaska and competing at Miss USA helps kids to believe in themselves and to go after their own dreams.”
London makes time for herself too, working out regularly. “The last few months I’ve dedicated to making a difference as Miss Alaska USA while preparing for Miss USA. I love being active in the outdoors when I am at home in Alaska,” she explained. “Staying fit while on the road is important too.”
It’s not all about fashion and working out. While in D.C. London visited with Alaska’s senators. “I spoke with Senator Sullivan about the importance of promoting education,” adding that Stanford is her alma mater where Senator Sullivan’s daughter currently attends. “Senator Murkowski and I talked about women in leadership. I complimented her for being such a trailblazer.”
Fashion and pageantry will soon consume London’s life with a parade of clothes, shoes, and accessories. Competing may take her away from Alaska, but she has reminders of home. Her evening dress for the Miss USA pageant is embellished with Tlingit designs.
Joey Galon designed the gown and Tlingit artist Preston Singletary created the killer whale art that embellishes the dress. London has also had other reminders from the Southeast including two Tlingit bracelets.
Her sense of identity is something London will continue to talk about whenever she has the opportunity. She has visited over 30 countries in all.
“Learning about other cultures is important,” she explained. “We need to use social channels to connect Native people of all ages. I believe that we can help our people and communities by supporting them, by helping them better understand who they are and giving them a voice. Everyone should have a voice, then they can make a difference.”
In whatever she does, her aim is to help bring people together and help them see the beauty of other cultures. Be sure to follow Alyssa London’s journey as Miss Alaska USA 2017:
There are so many voices vying for the public’s attention. It is no wonder why so many would only give the briefest glimpse at issues that do not impact them directly.
Last year, a CNN article by Moni Basu reported the Mountain View neighborhood in Anchorage was the most diverse census tract in the United States. This is according to data analyzed from the census by University of Alaska sociology professor Chad Farrell.