Miss Mississippi Asya Branch was crowned Miss USA on November 9. In 2018, the 22-year-old was the first Black woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi USA in the state’s history. Despite how historic her reign is in the pageant world or the responsibilities she has had to shoulder as the winner of the title, she is receiving some backlash for participating in a Trump rally and event at the White House. She has also been labeled a Trump supporter by conservatives on social media.
Branch is now speaking out.
Two years ago, as Miss Mississippi, she was a part of a criminal justice reform roundtable at the White House with Trump. Additionally, in October of that year, she sang the National Anthem at a rally for Trump in Southaven, Mississippi. According to The Daily Beast, she wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post, “Incredible honor to sing the national anthem tonight in Southaven for the President Trump rally.”
According to PEOPLE, her performance at the rally “was under contractual obligation with the Miss Mississippi Corp.”
Branch tells PEOPLE, “Regardless of political beliefs, I find it an honor to be able to sing the national anthem anywhere and it just so happened to be at a Trump rally.”
She continued, “And I know I caught a lot of backlash for that. But no one knows if that has anything to do with my political beliefs or not. I did have a duty as an employee of the Miss Mississippi Corp. as well as a representative of the state of Mississippi.”
As for attending the event at the White House, she said, “If you can’t get a seat at the table, you can’t make a difference. I found that to be an inspiring and moving moment for me because it shows that I can accomplish things and I can accomplish my goals and really make a difference in the world.”
Watch Miss Mississippi win the coveted 2020 Miss USA title below: