Asya Branch, the first Black Miss Mississippi to win Miss USA, will compete for the title of Miss Universe on Sunday.
The 69th Miss Universe competition will take place at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood in Hollywood, Florida. The event will air live on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.
Branch, a native of Booneville, Mississippi, made history in November by being the first Mississippi representative to win Miss USA. She was also the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi USA in 2019.
If Branch wins, she would be the first Mississippi native to ever hold the title and the first Miss USA to win the competition since 2012.
Asya Branch, a University of Mississippi senior from Booneville, smiles for the cameras after being named Miss USA 2020 on Nov. 7 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo: Benjamin Askinas)
“I was so honored to have made history, but at the same time, I thought, ‘Wow … we’re still having firsts,’” Branch told The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK.
Branch, who also represented Mississippi in the Miss America pageant in 2018, has used the platform to talk about criminal justice reform. The issue is personal to her. Branch’s father served a 10-year prison sentence that forced him to be away from his family while Branch was growing up.
“It’s really an honor to be able to set this example for young girls to know that they don’t have to look like the person that came before them in order to accomplish their goal,” she said.
Branch will compete against 89 other hopefuls in this year’s competition. In 2019, Miss South Africa, Zozibini Tunzi, was named the winner. The 2020 competition was canceled because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
Contributing: Keisha Rowe, The (Jackson) Clarion-Ledger, and The Associated Press
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