Alyssa London to showcase Tlingit design at Miss USA pageant

Miss Alaska USA Alyssa London with Tlingit artist Preston Singletary, who designed killer whale formline art for her pageant evening gown. (Photo courtesy of Alyssa London.)

In less than two weeks, Miss USA will be crowned and one of the hopeful contestants is from Southeast Alaska. 27-year-old Alyssa London touched down in Las Vegas earlier this week to prepare for the beauty pageant. She was crowned Miss Alaska USA earlier this year and is the first Tlingit woman to hold that title.

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London has become somewhat of a spokesperson for her culture. London is the first Tlingit woman to be crowned Miss Alaska USA and on May 14, in front of a television audience of millions, London will showcase those roots. Her evening gown for the Miss USA pageant is adorned with Tlingit designs.

“So when I walk on stage it will be a Tlingit robe with a killer whale, so Dakl’aweidí formline on the parts that tent out, as the Tlingit robe does,” London explained. “So I’m really excited for that moment and there’s been a lot of work that’s gone into that.”

The gown’s designer is Joey Galon and the Tlingit artist Preston Singletary is responsible for the killer whale art that adorns it.

London hand selected those two and said she’s been working for months for that moment. That work– it’s not over quite yet.

“So over the next couple of days I’ll go through rehearsals and training practices in order to make sure that I can effectively perform the gown in 20 seconds,” London said.

Showing off months of work in just a few short seconds is stressful, though. London said time management has been the most difficult part of her preparations.

“I’ve been on a time crunch this whole time and it’s been hard to rush everything,” London said.

London was crowned Miss Alaska USA in February this year, and she’s been working and traveling ever since.

“The last few months have been a journey hosting the Reservation Economic Summit for the National Congress of American Indians Economic Development Council,” London said. ‘I’ve gotten to go and meet with kids at the Alaska Native Medical Center. I’ve gotten to meet with our state senators in [Washington] D.C.”

She’s been on the road a lot, but London has found a way to stay healthy. She’s proud of her body, posting photos and videos of herself on social media running on the treadmill or doing squats at the gym.

“I’m just trying to debunk the belief that beauty has to be this extreme fake quest,” London said. “I’m not even going to have fake nails. It’s just going to be me up there. I hope that [the judges] like that.”

If she wins, London would make history. She’d be the first winner from Alaska and the first with Native American or Alaska Native heritage. At stake is more than a crown, though. She’s got a message, too.

“I’m focusing on empowering women to design the life of their dreams through entrepreneurship, through getting their education because when you pursue your education it opens doors for all of the goals you have for yourself,” London said.

Alyssa London will take that message to the national stage at the Miss USA pageant Sunday, May 14.

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Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer. Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF. Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about. Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.