After months of delays due to the pandemic, The Miss Universe pageant named a winner last night. Asya Danielle Branch, the first Black woman to represent Mississippi in the Miss USA competition, was crowned the winner. She will continue on to compete in the Miss Universe pageant.
The 22-year-old is number six of eight children, a Booneville native, and University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student studying Integrated Marketing Communications. In November 2019 she became the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi USA in the pageant’s 67-year history.
”Last night, a dream came true and history was made as I was crowned the first-ever [Black] Miss Mississippi USA. I’m ecstatic to be representing Mississippi at Miss USA,” Branch wrote on social media following her win. ”I’m so grateful for the support system that I’ve had behind me throughout this journey. Friends, family, and sponsors, I will never be able to thank you enough.”
During the competition Monday Night at Graceland Exhibition Center in Memphis, Tennessee she was poised as she answered questions on how to heal the divide in the country and her thoughts on gun laws. When they announced her as winner she was overcome with joy.
During a September interview with Miss USA she was candid about how her fathers incarceration for a decade impacted her and inspired her advocacy for criminal justice reform.
“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,” she said. ”I’ve been able to heal while also helping others find their way.”
There to place her crown were Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019, and Zozibini Tunzi, Miss Universe 2019 who experienced their own historic moment with their victories. In 2019, for the first time in history, the top Miss America beauty pageants had only Black women selected as winners.
“I grew up in a world where a woman who looks like me, with my kind of skin and my kind of hair, was never considered to be beautiful,” Tunzi said when she became the first Black South African to win the title. “I think it is time that that stops today. I want children to look at me and see my face and I want them to see their faces reflected in mine.”
“Making history as the first [Black] Miss Mississippi USA, Branch has been advocating for at-risk children and criminal justice reform for the past several years,” the Miss USA website reads. “She has worked with government officials and the President on positively changing our justice system. [Branch] will continue to encourage our youth and be a voice for the unheard.”
Branch is an entrepreneur and life coach with her own makeup line, Branch Beauty, and according to her pageant bio she hopes to work for a public relations firm or a major corporation.