By Alyssa Schnugg
Newly crowned Miss USA and former Ole Miss student Asya Branch hopes to continue to break barriers.
Branch, a Booneville native who studied Integrated Marketing Communication at the University of Mississippi, was crowned Miss USA 2020 Monday night at the competition held at Graceland in Tennessee.
Branch made history this year when she became the first black Miss Mississippi USA. Her win on Monday marks the first time a contestant from Mississippi has won the Miss USA crown.
“As the first Miss Mississippi USA titleholder who is Black, and now as the first Miss Mississippi to take home the Miss USA crown, I hope to continue to break barriers and prove to women across the country that there’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it,” Branch said. “I’m looking forward to the year ahead and all I’ll be able to accomplish with this platform.”
When Branch was 10 years old, her father was incarcerated. That life-shaping event formed the foundation for her role as an advocate for criminal justice reform. She works with organizations that help incarcerated parents send letters to their children and uses her platform to empower children of incarcerated parents.
During Monday night’s competition, Branch was asked to speak about gun laws. She said she grew up in a home with guns, but learned early on about gun safety.
“I think that education should be available to everyone. I believe that we should require people to pass training and safety courses before they’re allowed to purchase a gun and before receiving a permit,” she said Monday. “I think it’s important that we not ban guns … I think it’s our Second Amendment right, and we just need more safety surrounding that.”
She was also asked to give her thoughts on how to mend a polarized country.
“We’ve lost trust in the systems that seem to keep our country running, from the media to business to our government,” Branch said. “And it’s all about restoring that trust and coming together and working together to heal and trust in these systems. If we want to continue to be the greatest nation, we’re going to have to set a better example.”
Branch also runs her own cosmetic line, Branch Beauty. She has already begun her move to New York City to represent the brand and various philanthropic organizations during her reign.