Asya Branch was crowned Miss USA on Monday night in Memphis, Tennessee, after a pageant that saw contestants wearing face masks and the top two contestants socially distanced instead of holding hands, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With her win, the 22-year-old Mississippi native made history twice. She was the first Black woman to take home the Miss Mississippi USA title in her home state, and the first contestant from the Magnolia State to win the Miss USA title.
Branch’s final answer during the Q&A section of the competition consisted of her views on gun rights.
“As someone who grew up in a home with guns, I learned at an early age how to load, how to fire and gun safety,” she said. “And, 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.”
— Miss USA (@MissUSA) November 10, 2020
Branch, a University of Mississippi graduate who owns her own cosmetics line, was also vocal during the interview portion about her father’s incarceration.
She is an advocate for criminal justice reform and met with President Donald Trump to discuss how to reintegrate formerly incarcerated individuals into society.
During her reign as Miss Mississippi, she also performed the national anthem at a Trump rally, posting about the moment on Instagram as an “incredible honor” with an accompanying American flag emoji.
Branch is a veteran pageant competitor, having won the title of Miss Mississippi 2018 for the Miss America organization as well.
She follows Miss USA 2019 winner, Cheslie Kryst, a social justice lawyer and entertainment correspondent, who had the longest reign in pageant history due to the pandemic and this year’s pageant being rescheduled.