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Miss USA shares her success story

After making history as the first Black woman crowned Miss Mississippi USA, Asya Branch was crowned Miss USA on Monday. She will go on to represent the US in the Miss Universe pageant.

“I’m still over the moon and so excited and so grateful for this moment and opportunity. It still just really doesn’t even seem real,” Branch said.

Branch hopes to serve as an example that through hard work anyone can achieve their dreams.

“It is a true honor and I’m grateful to be able to serve as an example for young minorities who might not feel like they have a chance,” she said.

Her duties as Miss USA will be primarily digital for the time being due to the pandemic. She is looking forward to continuing her advocacy for at risk children and prison reform.

“As a former child of an incarcerated parent, I spent 10 years of my life struggling and trying to find my way and needed guidance to help succeed.”

Branch has already partnered with an organization called Day One on an initiative where people donated stationary and stamps to inmates in Lee County, so that they’d be able to more easily communicate with their families. She believes keeping inmates connected to loved ones helps in the process to transition from incarceration back into society. She’d love to spread the initiative to other facilities.

“I think that so often emphasis and focus is put on the inmate and the crime and all of the negative things, and we forget about the family that’s left behind. They could be struggling financially which really leads to emotional distress,” she said.

Branch has a message for children who currently have parents who are incarcerated.

“The hardship that you may face due to the circumstances, they don’t define you and they don’t define your future,” she said. “You are so much more than any negativity that comes your way. Use it as a stepping stone to help propel you to your future. I think that we should use our hardships to help strengthen us.”

She has found a path to make a difference in herself while fighting for things she cares about through pageantry. She began competing in pageants her senior year of high school. In 2018, she was Miss Mississippi in Miss America, then was crowned Miss Mississippi USA in 2019. Pageants have improved her communication skills and helped her build self-esteem and confidence, she said.

“I’m just truly grateful for all the love and support that Mississippi has shown me throughout this entire journey.”