WASILLA — Miss Alaska USA kicks off on Aug. 4 at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium in Anchorage, with three Mat-Su Valley residents joining in the competition to battle for the crown. Sierra Kinworthy from Wasilla will be competing in the Miss USA category, and Audrey Johnston of Wasilla and D’nayla Alston of Palmer are entered into the Miss Alaska USA teen division.
Kinworthy, a graduate of Colony High School and current student-athlete in her senior year at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, finds that her passions always seem to involve water. As a distance swimmer who especially loves open-water swimming, Kinworthy has been volunteering for Special Olympics since age 16.
“Those families and those athletes push past adversity every day, and they do it with nothing but optimism,” she said.
Kinworthy has even built her Miss USA platform this year on an experience she had while doing a 12.5-mile swim off the coast of Key West, Florida. She calls her campaign “Push Past Mile Ten,” because during mile 10 of the race, she was badly stung by a jellyfish.
“I was faced with the choice to either give up then and still have to swim to shore, or to push past the pain and push past mile ten and just finish the race,” she said.
She did finish the race, and ever since that day has seen that moment as the lighting of her internal fire that has helped get her through other tough moments in her life. Now, she wants to share that self-realization with others through the title of Miss USA.
And no one can say she isn’t working hard for it.
In addition to her accounting major studies and swim practices, Kinworthy has spent the last school year working with UAF athletic department marketing as a promotions assistant MC for the hockey team. This summer, she has been in San Francisco working in an intern position with CSM LeadDog Marketing Group. She sleeps about six hours a night so she will have time to fulfill her internship duties, prepare for Miss USA and also study for her LSAT. She wants to go into law after graduation. Whether she wins the title or not, Kinworthy wants to be a positive an authentic force in the lives of others.
“I think a good pageant contestant, and a good title holder tries to live like a title holder every day of their life. They live with integrity, they reach out to people, they serve in their community,” she said.
Johnston, who will be a senior this year at Mat-Su Career and Tech High School, is planning for her first year as a Miss Alaska Teen USA contestant. She has based her platform on her personal experience of watching her mom battle multiple sclerosis.
“I went through the whole process, not knowing what she had, and then the Alaska MS Center was there helping us through it. So I just want to be there for other families,” said Johnston.
She hopes to help spread awareness of MS with her influence, by going to hospitals and educating others on the disease. Johnston is also involved with Mat-Su Youth Court, which she started with back when she had aspirations to go into law.
“I work with kids that have been charged with drug and alcohol charges and theft. So I want to work with kids who have that problem,” she said.
Johnston currently works at the Grape Tap in Wasilla, but to prepare for Miss Alaska, she spends several hours a day practicing her walking, watching past pageants, and answering interview questions.
After graduation, she plans to go to Western Washington University to study business marketing. Some of her hobbies include fishing, camping and track and field. She competes for Colony High School.
Alston, a recent graduate of Colony High School, is also preparing for her first year competing for Miss Alaska Teen USA. In the fall she plans to attend Mat-Su College and UAA to pursue a pediatric dentistry degree. She is passionate about children and works at Carefree Kids Daycare during the summer.
“I love working with them. I’ve worked with kids from six weeks all the way up until 12 years old,” she said.
Alston is also an ambassador for Kids Don’t Float and for Charters for Compassion, a program she hopes to use to inspire girls of all ages to step out of their comfort zone to do things that they may have been told that they cannot do.
“I wanted to be able to spread awareness about many different causes and just show people that even though you are different than what you would normally see on TV from the other girls. You can do what you set your mind to,” she said. Alston also volunteers at the recycling center and helps with local parades.
Her Miss USA platform comes from her personal experience in caring for three of her family members who have had traumatic brain injuries. There are many different types of brain injuries and every three seconds there is another traumatic brain injury in the world, according to Alston, who has partnered with the Brain Injury Association of America. Her hope is to spread community awareness on the issue.
“I want to be able to educate them on how you can help rehabilitate or how you can help this person grow with their brain injury, whether it’s from birth or whether it’s caused after birth,” she said.
During the pageant, Alston hopes that her personal experience with the programs that she works with will give her an edge in the competition, but overall she just looks forward to making meaningful friendships with the other girls.
“We are competing for the same thing, but competing with all these girls, it creates a bond,” she said.
Tickets can be found on the Miss Alaska USA and Miss Alaska Teen USA website. The event will start at 6 p.m. the first Saturday in August at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium in Anchorage. Prices range from $30 to $55.