The first black woman to ever be named Miss Mississippi has been crowned Miss USA as well. Asya Branch, a student at the University of Mississippi, won the title on Monday night, after the coronavirus pandemic delayed the annual pageant by several months.

On the stage of Graceland Exhibition Center in Memphis, Tennessee, Branch skillfully answered questions about restoring trust in the media, repairing a polarized political climate and improving gun safety legislation. In past interviews, the pageant queen revealed that her father was incarcerated for ten years, which is what inspired her to become an advocate for criminal justice reform. In 2018, Branch met with President Donald Trump and other officials to discuss policy ideas to help former prisoners reintegrate into society.

The Miss USA 2020 pageant was originally set to take place in spring 2020 but, like many other large-scale events, it was postponed due to the pandemic. The pageant on Monday followed some safety protocols. For example, contestants all wore bejeweled masks to match their gowns and when they visited landmarks like the National Civil Rights Museum. The audience members at the exhibition center were also told to wear masks and submit to temperature checks.

Branch shared the night of historic wins with Miss Teen USA 2020 Ki’ilani Arruda, who is only the second Hawaiian woman to ever win the teen pageant.

Branch will soon go on to represent the U.S. in the Miss Universe beauty pageant.



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