The Magnolia State will be headed to the world stage after Miss Mississippi USA Asya Branch was crowned as Miss USA.
Branch, 22, will head to the Miss Universe competition after beating out 50 other hopefuls at Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., Monday night.
“I’m overjoyed, overwhelmed and truly humbled by the whole experience,” she said.
Not only is Branch the first Black woman to represent the state at the Miss USA competition, she’s also the first Black Miss Mississippi — and first Miss Mississippi ever — to take the crown.
Technically, Starkville native Shauntay Hinton was the first Black woman from Mississippi to take the crown in 2002, but she represented Washington, D.C., in that competition.
Get the details on the historic win:Miss USA 2020 at Graceland crowns Miss Mississippi as winner
She said her hometown of Boonesville has shown her an overwhelming amount of support in the time since she’s been crowned.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook,” she said. “I actually had to turn it on silent and quiet my notifications because I could not think without getting 100 notifications in one minute.”
Branch was first crowned Miss Mississippi in 2018, which allowed her to compete in the Miss Mississippi USA competition in 2019. Becoming the first Black woman to win the title was an interesting experience for her because it was an historic moment, she said.
“I was so honored to have made history, but at the same time, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s (2018) and we’re still having firsts,'” Branch said.
A criminal justice reform advocate, Branch’s platform of empowering children of incarcerated parents is very personal for her. Her father served a 10-year prison sentence and was absent for almost half her life. Helping children and getting them resources she didn’t have is important to her, she said, but so is showing them they don’t have to be a victim of their circumstances.
“It’s really an honor to be able to set this example for young girls to know that they don’t have to look like the person that came before them in order to accomplish their goal,” she said. “I truly am grateful to hold this title and continue to be a positive role model for all of our youth to know that their life circumstances doesn’t have to define them and that they’re more than capable of accomplishing anything that they set their minds to.”
▶Miss Mississippi USA crowns former Miss Mississippi first black winner
Branch said she’ll be busy for the foreseeable future with moving to New York to begin her reign as Miss USA and preparing for the Miss Universe competition. But she said she’s looking forward to being able to sit down with her supporters and letting them get to know more about her on a personal level.
“I know that people read my bio and they see me compete on stage, but I want them to get to know me as a person and not just in the competition world,” she said.
Although the names of the competitions are similar, Miss USA and Miss America are separate contests. The last Mississippi representative to win in the Miss America competition was Susan Akin in 1986.