Last week we had our first pageant excitement in a long time when Miss USA held its 2020 pageant in Graceland and crowned Asya Branch as the new Miss USA. You can bet I sat in front of my tv and live reacted to everything I was watching.
The Miss USA pageant was initially slated to happen last spring but was postponed due to the outbreak of the pandemic. Obviously, the pandemic is still going on, and stronger than ever, so I appreciated the Miss USA organization taking the time to talk about their COVID precautions during the show. Each contestant was tested before her arrival in Graceland and periodically throughout her time there. Contestants also were provided with hand sanitizer, wore masks, and socially distanced (both on and off stage). In fact, the girls all stood 6 feet apart on stage and wore masks as the Top 15 was called. Masks were then removed while each woman completed her phase of the competition.
The Miss USA competition consists of a swimsuit competition, evening gown walk, on-stage question, and an on-stage topic discussion in which contestants are given a topic and asked to speak freely on it for a few moments. The swimsuit competition was fun to watch - albeit a little odd given the recent cold front in Boston. Personally, the gowns this year were underwhelming for me. I failed to be truly "wow-ed" by any of the finalist's gowns. Overall, my favorite part of the evening was their topic discussion. This was the first time I had seen this in a pageant and I was really a fan of it. It's not as restrictive as an on-stage question and provides the contestant more freedom to answer it in a thoughtful and unique way. It was challenging, of course, but that's what makes it fun.
If you're involved in the pageant world, you might know that a recent conversation frequently had has been "relevancy". Each system goes about achieving relevancy in different ways, but all are struggling to find it especially now during the pandemic. I did appreciate Miss USA taking the time to really introduce their contestants and each girl's interests and accomplishments. They've done this the past few years and overall have done a great job with it.
One pleasant surprise from the evening was the outgoing Miss USA Cheslie Kryst's wardrobe. Outgoing titleholders always look amazing for their farewell but... HOLY COW. Cheslie's styling was incredible. She looked like a princess all evening and spoke like a diplomat. She has done an outstanding job as Miss USA and I wish her all the best.
At the end of the evening, Asya Branch from Mississippi was crowned your new Miss USA in what was, in my opinion, a well-deserved win. Not only was she stunning, but she spoke her mind in her on-stage conversations with poise, intelligence, and class. She was a clear standout and will make an incredible Miss USA.
I would love it if I could end my updates here, but unfortunately, Asya's crowning has been met with controversy after a homophobic tweet and pictures of her singing at a Trump rally resurfaced. After speaking about her pro-gun opinions in her on-stage question, most of the country have taken these facts to assume that Asya is a Trump supporter that is not fit for representing them for the next year.
Here are my thoughts:
Asya was thirteen at the time of the tweet in question. While this doesn't justify any pain she may have caused, she was a child living in a much less accepting country than we live in now. She has also since put out a statement apologizing.
Asya sang at the Trump rally as Miss Mississippi (within the MAO org). Thus, it was an appearance as a titleholder and not necessarily a reflection of her personal views. Additionally, regardless of political views singing the national anthem for the Commander in Chief is a great honor and a great opportunity
Asya has met with President Trump in the white house in order to push for prison reform initiatives. (Very similar to Kim Kardashian) How can we fault her for trying to accomplish good things?
All in all: I don't think we should write someone off based on what we THINK their political views may be. I wish Asya the best of luck in her next year as Miss USA.