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Miss USA 2020 crowns Mississippi’s Asya Branch, 22, as winner

She previously attended a roundtable discussion about gun reform alongside President Trump

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A 22-year-old woman from Mississippi was crowned the winner of Miss USA’s 2020 pageant.

The beauty pageant aired Monday night on FYI after being postponed months from its original spring date due to the coronavirus pandemic. The live show took place at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tenn. Asya Branch was crowned by reigning Miss USA 2019, Cheslie Kryst, 29.

Branch was reportedly the first African American to be named Miss Mississippi. She comes from Booneville and has plans to relocate to New York City for her new duties, according to People magazine.

Asya Branch, Miss Mississippi USA 2020, is announced Miss USA 2020 winner, on stage at the Miss USA Competition at Graceland in Memphis Tennessee. (Miss USA 2020 Telecast)

Branch discussed her stance on gun laws in a final statement before judges crowned a winner. The Mississippi native has been outspoken in the past about her passion for criminal justice reform, even previously attending a roundtable discussion on gun reform with President Trump in 2018, acccording to reports.

“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. I think that education should be available to everyone,” she announced Monday night. “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. I think it’s important that we not ban guns. but I think it’s our Second Amendment right and we just need more safety surrounding that.”

Branch, who graduated from Ole Miss, also performed the national anthem at a Trump rally in her home state in October 2018, reports said.

Before being crowned the winner, Branch fielded a question about the “polarized” state of the country given recent events.

Asya Branch, Miss Mississippi USA 2020, is announced Miss USA 2020 winner, on stage with Cheslie Kryst, Miss USA 2019, and Zozi Tunzi, Miss Universe 2019. (Miss USA 2020 Telecast)

“I think this is an issue of trust,” Branch responded. “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 we want to continue to be the greatest nation, we’re going to have to set a better example.”

The first runner-up was Miss Idaho, Kim Layne, and second runner-up was Miss Oklahoma, Mariah Jane Davis.

Both Miss USA and Miss Teen USA competitions are usually held annually in the spring and early summer months. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the popular events were placed on hold.

In August, the Miss Universe Organization told Fox News that both competitions would air live from Memphis, Tenn., in November and The Guest House at Graceland, a AAA four-diamond resort and hotel will serve as the host site of the soiree. Miss Teen USA reportedly was held on Nov. 7.

The organization enacted an interactive virtual component in addition to the greatly reduced live studio audience capacity. “American Idol” star Haley Reinhart performed virtually.

Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst on stage at the Miss USA 2020 competition. (Miss USA 2020 Telecast)

“The Miss Universe Organization and the team at Graceland have created an innovative event that prioritizes the health and safety of the contestants, audience, and crew who will join us in Graceland,” said Paula M. Shugart, president of The Miss Universe Organization, to Fox News in August. “We look forward to crowning a new Miss USA and Miss Teen USA in the historic city of Memphis.”

Last year, Kryst, a practicing attorney, became the oldest woman to hold the Miss USA title. In August, she discussed how, over time, the global health crisis allowed her to become an integral voice for issues that have drawn great attention.

“Being Miss USA has afforded me the opportunity to be an advocate for issues that deserve attention, including criminal justice reform and racial inequality,” said Kryst, who won the title hailing from North Carolina. “I am proud to continue the legacy of national titleholders who speak up and encourage change, and I look forward to supporting the next Miss USA and Miss Teen USA in doing the same.”

Fox News’ Julius Young contributed to this report.

A 22-year-old woman from Mississippi was crowned the winner of Miss USA's 2020 pageant.

Miss USA 2020: The Winner Is.

By Andy Swift / November 9 2020, 7:03 PM PST

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Crowns and sashes weren’t the only accessories on display Monday as 51 masked hopefuls assembled in Memphis to compete for the title of Miss USA.

Broadcast live on FYI, the refreshingly self-aware pageant kicked off with some banter between hosts Akbar Gbaja-Biamila and Allie LaForce, who joked that Miss USA has been “dominating the news cycle” this week. “You can’t even turn on the news without hearing about Arizona, Michigan — all fierce competitors,” LaForce noted.

The two-hour event began by culling the initial 51 competitors down to just 16 semifinalists: domestic abuse survivor Gina Mellish (Miss New Jersey), veterinary student Kim Layne (Miss Idaho), dancer Kelly Hutchinson (Miss Alabama), adoption advocate Mariah Clayton (Miss Louisiana), prison reform advocate Asya Branch (Miss Mississippi), aspiring lawyer Megan Renee Kelly (Miss Missouri), Alzheimer’s awareness advocate Stephanie Miranda (Miss Ohio), former Obama intern Cierra Jackson (Miss D.C.), proud Native American Mariah Jane Davis (Miss Oklahoma), volleyball player/model Alexis Lete (Miss Indiana), public speaker Andrea Gibau (Miss New York), gymnast/choreographer Alyssa Beasley (Miss Georgia), new U.S. citizen Allyshia Gupta (Miss California), biochemist Olivia Pura (Miss Illinois), adrenaline junkie Victoria Olona (Miss Nevada) and military daughter Samantha Neyland (Miss Hawaii).

Following a swimsuit parade set to Elvis Presley’s “Bossa Nova Baby,” the top 10 were revealed: Mississippi, Illinois, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Alabama, California, Indiana, Idaho, New York and New Jersey. “You all deserve an elbow bump!” Gbaja-Biamila remarked.

Then came the evening gown portion, which brought back all 51 contestants for a special walk, backed by Haley Reinhart’s easy-breezy cover of Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” After a brief check-in with this year’s Miss Teen USA winner (Hawaii’s Kiʻilani Arruda), the final five Miss USA hopefuls were announced: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Indiana, Idaho and Alabama.

The dreaded question portion was, as always, illuminating: Miss Oklahoma admitted to downloading TikTok despite knowing that her data could be shared; Miss Mississippi suggested that the key to fixing our country is in restoring our faith in the government and media; Miss Indiana called out Americans for being “entitled” and unwilling to face difficult issues like systemic racism; Miss Idaho acknowledged the need for police reform; and Miss Alabama argued that news sources have a responsibility to spread fact-checked, unbiased information on social media.

As always, Miss USA saved the realest s–t for last. The “final statement” portion put each remaining contestant on the spot, requiring them to speak about hot-button American issues like voter suppression, gun laws, climate change (which Indiana found… funny?), mental health reform and prison form.

After the “final look,” as well as Cheslie Kryst‘s final walk as the reigning Miss USA, here’s how things shook out for this year’s top five:
5. Kelly Hutchinson (Miss Alabama)
4. Alexis Lete (Miss Indiana)
3. Mariah Jane Davis (Miss Oklahoma)
2. Kim Layne (Miss Idaho)

That left Asya Branch (Miss Mississippi) as this year’s winner, and your new Miss USA. Watch footage of her big win below:

This year’s judges panel included businesswoman and hairstylist Carolyn Aronson, Miss USA 2000 Lynnette Cole, Fox News contributor Abby Hornacek, motivational speaker Gloria Mayfield Banks, Miss USA 1999 Kimberly Pressler, and businesswoman and YouTuber Susan Yara.

Your thoughts on this year’s socially distanced Miss USA competition? Drop ’em in a comment below.

A new Miss USA was crowned in Memphis on Monday after a two-hour ceremony broadcast live on FYI. ]]>