Miss Alaska USA 2016 is one of the many titles for Ariane Audett, a pre-med biological sciences major at UAA, who is also my roommate.
In addition to her Miss Alaska title, Audett is the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator for the American Student Medical Association, a pre-med club dedicated to preparing students who wish to go to medical school. She is a Student Leader of USUAA’s academic decision review committee, Honor’s College member, weekly volunteer at Covenant House, BUILD EXITO scholar and student pilot.
Audett is currently a Medical Transcriptionist at Medical Park Family Care. Before she began her position as a scribe, Audett was accepted into BUILD EXITO, a research program funded by the National Institute of Health for undergrad students to prepare them for careers in biomedical research. The program is based out of Portland State University. Audett claimed one of the 10 spots available in the program.
Last summer, Audett traveled to Portland for a paid one week orientation from BUILD EXITO. There, she attended lectures daily on research and was introduced to the program that she is committed to for three years. Audett is part of the first cohort for BUILD EXITO. The NIH gave the program a $23.7 million research and training grant.
Audett’s ultimate goal in being in the program is to solve global world health issues. Audett works with a mentor in the program and is being taught how to become a researcher. By the time she graduates, Audett hopes to complete her own research program and have it published. Her research proposal will be focused on biomedical research with an emphasis in dermatology.
“I never really had an interest for research, and now biomedical research has become my passion as an undergrad, and that’s what I really hope to pursue after school,” Audett said.
The program will allow Audett to get her MD as well as Ph.D. in seven years.
“The point of that is so you can have that knowledge you get from a Ph.D. And the knowledge of a practicing doctor to solve those important health disparities. Those are the kinds of doctors that are out there solving cancer, and that’s what I want to do,” Audett said.
Audett said that having the opportunity to work in biomedical research is a dream come true. Growing up, Audett lived across the United States until she was 12 in homeless shelters, foster care homes, and in her mother’s car. She was adopted by her biological aunt and uncle and moved from Florida to Alaska on her twelfth birthday.
“When I grew up I never really imagined that I would even be able to go to college one day, I didn’t even think that I would graduate high school. My main focus when I was younger was, ‘Where am I going to sleep at night? What am I going to eat? How am I going to make it through the day? How am I going to take care of my parents?’ Those are really scary fears to have at a young age and a lot of responsibility was put on my shoulders to take care of myself.”
Audett became interested in the pageant world when she was 16 and pushing carts at Fred Meyer. A friend of hers who was a cashier had won the title of Miss Alaska USA and was granted a four year scholarship to UAA. Now, the scholarship only covers one year of schooling. Audett saw pageants as a way to receive a higher education.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve always been obsessed with trying to get scholarships because my dad told me when I was little, he was like, ‘I’m never going to be able to provide for you so you need to do really well for these scholarships,’ and I saw it as a great way to get scholarships.”
Audett was appointed to Miss Teen Alaska United States 2013. She believes that her story is unique and not the average cookie cutter life. After winning her first title, Audett became passionate about inspiring homeless teens to pursue their passions like she has.
“I grew up homeless, and I saw a need in the community for young people, for a role model, for someone to inspire them to follow their dreams,” Audett said. “Before I even thought about becoming Miss Alaska, I was working with the university to share my story and inspire other people, and now as Miss Alaska, I have been given the opportunity to continue to do that… I gained humility and understanding of what a blessing it is to receive a higher education. It gave me goals and inspired me to pursue these higher goals because I wanted to prove others wrong.”
Audett continues to strive and inspire young individuals that came from the same background that she did. Audett leads a job group discussion weekly at the Covenant House to talk to teens about various subjects, including ways to get a job or how to attend college. She also shares her personal story and gives motivational talks to the group.
“A lot of kids who go into homeless shelters, they have problems with drugs, with alcohol, with abuse, with self confidence, problems in school. And they tend to fall into those stereotypes that they’ll be expected to get in trouble with the law, people expect them to drop out of school and not follow their dreams for the future.”
After the semester is over, Audett will compete in Miss USA, but no official date has been released yet. The competition will be in Las Vegas and is the only pageant aired on live television. Alaska has never won the title of Miss USA.
Audett has been preparing for Miss USA even before she won Miss Alaska. On top of being a scribe and a full school schedule, being Miss Alaska is a job in itself. Audett is constantly filling out paperwork, studying up on interviews, getting head shots and attending events and fundraisers in Anchorage. Audett has been preparing for Miss Alaska and now Miss USA, with a meal plan and daily exercise.
“For the pageant, I had to work out a lot. More than I used to. You are on stage in a bikini, you have to regulate your diet and increase your exercise. But it was a good thing, it gave me a reason to get in shape and get healthy,” Audett said. “Being in front of a crowd and having people judge you but being okay with it if not everyone loved you. That was a huge preparation.”
Audett believes that people underestimate the hard work put in by women in pageants and have a looming stereotype that all the requirements to being in competition is being pretty and skinny.
“I think overall, predominantly there are more amazing things about pageants that empower young women to be the best that they can be, to be confident in their own unique beauty, and to present themselves in a way that prepares them to take on the real world.”
Audett is hopeful that she will be the first to bring home the Miss USA crown to Alaska.