Yukon-Kuksokwim Delta residents should keep an eye on the Mrs. Alaska United States pageant this year. In April, Bethel’s very own Alissa Nadine Rogers will represent her community and compete against women throughout the state. She hopes to use the pageant to advocate for a new resource management center in Bethel, where people from the region can come together to reconcile longstanding conflicts over wealth, land and resources.
When the Director of the Mrs. Alaska pageant asked Rogers to compete, she was surprised. Then she turned her down. "I didn’t think I was going to be able to perform and represent my area as Mrs. Alaska," Rogers said. "It just felt like such a long shot."
She also said "no" when her friends and colleagues approached her about the pageant. Rogers, age 30, works for the Kuskokwim Regional Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and recently completed a fellowship at Stanford University. She’s also the mother of three young children. She didn’t think that she had the time or the money to be Mrs. Alaska. Pageant contestants have to pay for everything themselves: the airfare, the evening gown, the hair and the makeup.
"But then my friends were emailing me and saying, ‘you need to do this! You need to do this! You need to do this!’" Rogers said. She and her husband talked it over. Finally, on Valentine's day, she decided to sign up.
"I believe representing the Y-K Delta is really important," Rogers said. "And our voices haven’t been heard as much as other voices throughout the state."
Rogers was raised in Bethel, and as a pageant contestant she’ll represent her community statewide. If she wins Mrs. Alaska, she will represent the Y-K Delta on a national stage. And while Mrs. Alaska has featured Alaska Native contestants in the past, Rogers appears to be the only indigenous contestant competing in Mrs. Alaska in 2018.
For Rogers, the event represents an opportunity to work towards reconciling long-standing conflicts in the region over resources, land and tradition.
"Our cultural and natural resources are so meshed together," she said. "It identifies who we are, and it would be great for people to know that when they come to this area they'll have a resource center they can go to in order to educate themselves before they decide to come in and manage our resources and people."
The center Rogers wants to build is ambitious and could cost millions of dollars, so she wants to start building her resume now. Competing to become Mrs. Alaska is a place to start.
On April 28, Rogers will put on an evening gown and represent the Y-K Delta at Anchorage’s Dimond High School Auditorium. For now, she’s looking for donations and for companies to sponsor her in the pageant. If you or your business is interested in supporting her, email Rogers directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the Mrs. Alaska pageant as the Miss Alaska pageant. We regret the error.