By being crowned Miss Mississippi USA in 2019, Asya Branch became the first black woman to do so, following in the footsteps of the Black women before her.
Asya Branch knew her path would be different despite being crowned Miss USA 2020 by her predecessor Cheslie Kryst, one of five Black women holding a title from the world’s top beauty pageants at the same time.
Asya tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “Growing up, I was called an Oreo — black on the outside, white on the inside,” referring to her upbringing in the predominantly white town of Booneville, Miss.
As one of eight siblings, the 22-year-old struggled to make her path growing up. She found herself unable to care for herself as her father was incarcerated.
She says, “With my father’s incarceration, we lost our main source of income. We were almost homeless. “I had to figure out how to take care of my younger sister and take care of myself while watching my friends have fun.”
The gown she wore at the crowning symbolized the nickname she once felt defined by when Branch tells how she felt free.
Aysa said, “That dress is like an Oreo, and I was just like, ‘Wow, this is my moment of freedom and liberation from the hardships and the difficulties that I faced in my youth.'”
In her new platform, she shares how she overcame adversity.
Asya acknowledges Kim Kardashian West’s work in bringing the criminal justice system to the forefront of pop culture.
She says, “I think that Kardashian West speaking out about it was a major move in the right direction. I want to be able to make that impact as well.”
Despite the backlash she has received over her political beliefs and upbringing, Asya reminds those looking up to her not to “trade your authenticity for approval.”
Aysa says, “I’ve never wanted to please anyone, and I’ve never wanted anyone’s approval.”