A Second Amendment loving Mississippian who sung the Star Spangled Banner at a Trump rally was last night crowned Miss USA.
Asya Branch, 22, impressed judges with her discussion of how the country had ‘lost trust’ in the media at the Elvis Presley-themed finals at the Graceland mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.
Branch, a marketing major at Ole Miss, became the first African American to be named Miss Mississippi USA in 2018 and is the first Mississippian to win the title.
She told the socially-distanced audience how she had participated in a White House roundtable on criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump – who used to own the pageant – and that she was passionate about the second amendment.
Asya Branch speaking about gun laws from Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, last night as runner-up Kelly Hutchinson, Miss Alabama, stands behind
Branch performing the national anthem at a Trump rally in Southhaven, Mississippi, in October 2018
Branch described how she had participated in a White House roundtable on criminal justice reform with President Donald Trump and was deeply concerned with the issue (pictured: Branch talks with Trump, Mike Pence, Lindsey Graham, Jared Kushner and others in November 2018)
A farmer’s daughter, Branch last night said: ‘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’ (pictured: clay shooting action from her Instagram page)
Miss Mississippi was also asked about how a divided America could come together in the wake of Trump’s likely election defeat.
Miss Mississippi 2018, Asya Branch participates in the Eveningwear portion of the 1st Night of Preliminaries of the Miss America 2.0 competition at Atlantic City Boardwalk Hal on September 6, 2018 in Atlantic City, New Jersey
‘I think this is an issue of trust,’ Branch said. ‘We’ve lost trust in the systems that seem to keep our country running, from the media to business to our government.
‘And it’s all about restoring that trust and coming together and working together to heal and trust in these systems. If want to continue to be the greatest nation we’re going to have to set a better example.’
Branch sang the national anthem at a Trump rally in Southaven, Mississippi, in October 2018 – a video of that performance no longer appears on her Instagram.
Her post had said: ‘Incredible honor to sing the national anthem tonight in Southaven for the President Trump rally.’
Branch, whose Instagram profile also features videos of her firing shotguns, chose to address the issue of gun reform last night while maintaining that she is a keen advocate of the second amendment.
‘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,’ Branch said. ‘And I think that education should be available to everyone.
‘I believe that we should require people to pass safety and training before they are allowed to purchase a gun and before receiving a permit.
‘I think it’s important that we not ban guns because obviously people will find a way to get what they want anyways. I think it’s our second amendment right. We just need more safety surrounding that.’
Branch discusses the importance of gun reform at last night’s pageant
‘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,’ Branch said. ‘And I think that education should be available to everyone’
Branch said: ‘I believe that we should require people to pass safety and training before they are allowed to purchase a gun and before receiving a permit’
Miss USA, which was formerly owned by Trump before it was sold to WME/IMG in 2015, was broadcast by cable channel FYI. It used to air on Fox and before that NBC.
Branch was crowned by a panel of judges which included Fox Nation host Abby Hornacek, entrepreneur Gloria Mayfield Banks and Fox Sports reporter and Miss USA 1999 Kimberly Pressler.
The competition included an evening gown and a swimwear round, unlike its rival competition Miss America which has removed the swimsuit section in a bid to modernise.
Branch was among five finalists invited to discuss challenging topics such as voter participation, mental health reform, prison reform, and climate change.
The runners-up were Kelly Hutchinson, Miss Alabama, in fifth; Alexis Lete, Miss Indiana, fourth; Mariah Jane Davis, Miss Oklahoma, third; and Kim Layne, Miss Idaho, second.
As for Branch’s prize, along with the networking opportunities and endorsements it will reap, previous winners have been given an apartment in New York City, a year’s salary plus living and travel expenses and a personal stylist from the Miss Universe Organization.
It is unclear if the Miss USA crown still affords those privileges but it is nonetheless a prestigious title, one which Branch’s boyfriend Briley Morgan will doubtless be immensely proud of her for.
Morgan, a sound engineer, also attended the University of Mississippi.
Branch is pictured with then-Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant at the Trump rally in 2018
Following her win, Branch said: ‘I’ve dealt with racism, I’ve dealt with bullying, from having an incarcerated parent.’
The sixth of eight children added that ‘staying true to who you are’ was the reason for her success.
Branch has previously described how her father was jailed when she was ten-years-old and was absent for much of her childhood.