JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — 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 beginning at 7 p.m. central.
The Clarion Ledger reports that Branch, a Booneville native, 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.
“I was so honored to have made history, but at the same time, I thought, ‘Wow ... we’re still having firsts,’” Branch told the newspaper.
Branch, who also represented Mississippi in the separate 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 due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
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.