The first Black woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi USA is now the reigning Miss USA.
Asya Branch, a student at the University of Mississippi and Booneville native, was crowned Miss USA on Monday after the coronavirus pandemic delayed the event by several months. She’ll go on to represent the US in the Miss Universe pageant.
In an interview with Miss Mississippi USA, Branch revealed her father was incarcerated for 10 years. His experience inspired her to advocate for criminal justice reform, and in 2018 she met with President Donald Trump and other officials to discuss measures to help reintegrate former prisoners into society upon their release.
“I learned a lot about myself, but at the same time, while sharing my story and going through so much but not letting it stop me, I’ve been able to heal while also helping others find their way,” she said in the September interview. On hand for Branch’s crowning was Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019. Kryst’s reign was the first time that winners of the top beauty pageants — Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, Miss America, and Miss World — were all Black women.