Briannah Letter performs at Juneau Lyric Opera’s production of “Who’s Your Diva?” at Centennial Hall on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Briannah Letter performs at Juneau Lyric Opera’s production of “Who’s Your Diva?” at Centennial Hall on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

High school student wins Who’s Your Diva?

First ever male competitor wins first-runner up

The night’s youngest diva took home the biggest prize.

Briannah Letter, a 17-year-old Thunder Mountain High School student, placed first in the seventh annual Who’s Your Diva contest.

“I was surprised,” Letter said shortly after being crowned Saturday night.

She credited her mother’s support for helping her raise the most money for Juneau Lyric Opera, and earn Letter the title of youngest ever winner of the competition.

[PHOTOS: Who’s Your Diva?]

Letter, who has a background in theater, chose a pair of songs from musicals, “She Used To Be Mine” from “The Waitress” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from “Funny Girl.”

She performed the latter song while wearing a striped power suit. Letter was the only performer to opt for that style.

“I love this power suit,” Letter said. “It makes me feel powerful, like I can take on the world.”

Who’s Your Diva history was also made by its first male competitor, Richard Carter, who took home the first ever audience choice award and placed as first-runner up.

The new audience choice award went to the diva, or divo, who raised the most money during the competition, and the overall award went to the performer who raised the most money in total.

“I’m incredibly surprised because I slacked a little bit in promoting myself,” Carter said between visits with well wishers after the show. “I am eternally grateful to the audience. It’s incredibly validating.”

Carter said when he initially threw his hat in the ring to compete in Who’s Your Diva he was under the impression there would be a few other men in the contest.

“I think I’m the only one who stuck around,” Carter said.

He sang “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt and “Valery” by Amy Winehouse.

“I’ve been singing both of them for a very long time,” Carter said.

He complimented the field of competition, too.

“I think this year was incredibly strong,” Carter said. “There are people, who I’m surprised aren’t signed, so I’m incredibly honored to perform with them.”

Other contestants included Alyssa Fisher, Andria Budbill, Aria Moore, Lydia Rail amd Myra Kalbaugh.

Each diva had their share of moments that drew applause or hollers.

Kalbaugh belted out a pair of brassy numbers that matched her husband, Greg’s, trumpet playing.

Moore ended the show with an energetic take on “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.

Fisher danced her way into the crowd, while backing band The Devotees vamped through “I Say a Little Prayer” by Aretha Franklin.

Rail’s take on Leonard Cohen’s “Halleleujah” started with an a capella verse, and concluded with a Minnie Riperton-esque high note. She finished as second-runner up.

And a spoken interlude Budbill worked into Lesley Gore’s classic “You Don’t Own Me” drew claps and hoots of approval.

She ran down a list of impermissible, controlling behavior that included a pointed, “You don’t get to comment about my body, and you definitely can’t tell me what to do with it.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @capweekly.


Briannah Letter, center, is crowned the champion Diva with Richard Carter, right, as first runner-up, and Lydia Rail, left, second runner-up, at her side at Juneau Lyric Opera’s production of “Who’s Your Diva?” at Centennial Hall on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Briannah Letter, center, is crowned the champion Diva with Richard Carter, right, as first runner-up, and Lydia Rail, left, second runner-up, at her side at Juneau Lyric Opera’s production of “Who’s Your Diva?” at Centennial Hall on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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