Congratulations Miss USA 2020, the stunning Asya Branch of Mississippi. Asya (pronounced “Asia”) also holds the distinction of being the first black Miss Mississippi USA and also the first Miss Mississippi USA to win the Miss USA title! How fitting for Mississippi to win the 2020 Miss USA pageant considering that was held at the Exhibition Centre and the Soundstage at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee which is on the estate of Elvis Presley who was also born in Mississippi! Of course, the world had to deal with the Corona Virus that changed everything in March 2020 causing major delays in every event worldwide and having to do things differently than we used to. Now, it has become common for everyone to practice social distancing and wear masks in public. This also led to Miss USA 2019, North Carolina’s Cheslie Kryst comfortably becoming the longest reigning titleholder for 18 months and 1 week from May 2, 2019 to November 9, 2020 beating the record previously held by Miss USA 2014, Nevada’s Nia Sanchez who reigned just over 13 months from June 8, 2014 to July 12, 2015. Cheslie also holds the distinction of being the oldest woman to win Miss USA winning the title just a few days after turning 28. Previously, Maryland’s Nana Meriwether was the oldest Miss USA at age 27 when she inherited the 2012 Miss USA crown after the original Miss USA 2012, Rhode Island’s Olivia Culpo won Miss Universe. This is also the 3rd set of black-to-black winners since Rachel Smith and Crystle Stewart won in 2007 and 2008, respectively and Deshauna Barber and Kara McCullough won in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Asya previously competed at Miss America 2019 also representing Mississippi and shockingly did not place there in the heat of the moment but only time would tell that Asya’s stint at Miss USA turned out to be far more successful! Previous Miss USA winners that also competed for the Miss America title include the following: Missouri’s Shandi Finnessey who shockingly went unplaced at Miss America 2003 but would go on to win Miss USA 2004 and become 1st runner up at Miss Universe 2004; New Mexico’s Mai Shanley who went unplaced at Miss America 1984 only to go on to win Miss USA 1984 and place in the top 10 at Miss Universe 1984; Iowa’s Carol Morris who went unplaced at Miss America 1955 would go on to win both Miss USA 1956 and Miss Universe 1956; Vermont’s Carlene King Johnson went unplaced at Miss America 1954 but would win Miss USA 1955 and place among the top 15 semifinalists of Miss Universe 1955; and South Carolina’s Miriam Stevenson who finished in the top 10 of Miss America 1954 but would go on to win both Miss USA 1954 and Miss Universe 1954. There have also been many notable titleholders that tried unsuccessfully to win a Miss America state title but would have success at Miss USA and even Miss Universe such as: South Carolina’s Shawn Weatherly who was a runner up to the Miss South Carolina for Miss America title only to go on to win Miss South Carolina USA 1980, Miss USA 1980 and Miss Universe 1980; and Hawaii’s Brook Lee who was also a runner up to the Miss Hawaii for Miss America title only to go on to win Miss Hawaii USA 1997, Miss USA 1997 and Miss Universe 1997.

Asya sits on a board with TrumpIn terms of accomplishments, Asya attended summer school at Harvard University at the age of 17 and is currently studying at the University of Mississippi majoring in integrated marketing communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in general business. She owns her own cosmetic line called Branch Beauty demonstrating her entrepreneurial endeavors and this girl had quite the story to tell. As the sixth of eight siblings, Asya’s father was arrested and incarcerated for ten years and helped her struggling single mother raise her younger siblings and suffered bullying due to a situation that was beyond her control. This led to her participation with government officials to help create the First Step Act helping to reintegrate the incarcerated back into society. Asya is also a very talented vocalist and in passionate about the arts and performing and she sings very well. Asya received some flack shortly after her win when an old tweet on her Twitter account resurfaced saying that she was so sick of these F-words (a slur for members of the LGBT+ community) which has since been deleted but the tweet has since been deleted and she has posted an apology notice saying that she was only 13 years old at the time and was unaware of the harm of that kind of language. This situation also reminded me of Miss Teen USA 2016, Texas’ Karlie Hay also using the N-word in a tweet prior to her win and later deleting and apologizing for it which should serve as a lesson for future pageant participants to keep your social media accounts clean and any posts that could be deemed derogatory should be deleted to avoid these kinds of uncomfortable situations. While serving as Miss Mississippi for Miss America, pictured below we can see that Asya met with a board including President and former owner of the Miss USA pageant, Donald Trump, to discuss her First Step Act and she also sang at a Trump rally but she says that this was something that she was doing as part of her job as a titleholder and does not indicate anything about her political leanings.

In terms of television ratings, I couldn’t find any numbers on Miss USA 2020 which was shown on a lesser known network called FYI this year so it’s safe to assume that this was the lowest rated Miss USA pageant in history, far lower than the other time Miss USA was held on a lesser known network which was in 2015 after NBC dropped the pageant due to some comments made by a certain co-owner turned President causing a last minute scramble and Reelz stepped up to show the 2015 Miss USA pageant on television getting approximately 925,000 viewers in the U.S. so I imagine that the 2020 Miss USA pageant was much less than this. All major events have seen television ratings decrease though as times have changed especially with the vast number of network and other streaming services available today. Miss Teen USA has been a webcast since 2008 so Miss USA might also be going in this direction next year but Miss Universe is normally an international ratings juggernaut so hopefully a bigger network can be courted to air Miss Universe 2020 (which will be held in 2021) and hopefully they can pick up Miss USA 2021 also. After Miss USA became a separate event from Miss Universe in 1965, Miss USA was aired on CBS until 2003 when NBC took over, then Reelz aired 2015, FOX aired 2016 to 2019 and 2020 was aired on FYI.
The hosts for the 2020 Miss USA pageant were: Allie LaForce-Miss Teen USA 2005 who is a successful sportscaster and has also co-hosted Miss Teen USA in the past and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila who is also a sports commentator for shows like ‘American Ninja Warrior’ and former football player and they did a decent job. Serving as special commentators were: Christian Murphy, who appears on the FYI network and the outgoing Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst who already had been working with ‘Extra’ as a correspondent interviewing numerous celebrities during her reign. It also should be noted here that Miss USA 2007, Tennessee’s Rachel Smith is a correspondent for ‘Entertainment Tonight’ so it is great to see our titleholders becoming so successful. The selection committee consisted again of an all-female panel of judges and they include: Gloria Mayfield-Banks, Carolyn Aronson, Abby Hornacek, Susan Yara, Miss USA 1999-New York’s Kimberly Pressler and the long-awaited return of Miss USA 2000 and Tennessee’s first Miss USA-Lynnette Cole, who is one of my favorite winners and I was glad to see her return as we haven’t seen her at Miss USA since she concluded her reign in 2001. This year’s special performer was Haley Reinhart who placed third for American Idol 2011 and she wasn’t on stage but a video was shown of her pre-recorded performance of ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ which was originally made famous by Elvis Presley so it was fitting to incorporate a lot of Elvis music this year throughout the pageant.



Winner=Mississippi-Asya Branch

Winner=California-Allyshia Gupta*

1st Runner Up=Idaho-Kim Layne

1st Runner Up=Massachusetts-Sabrina Victor

2nd Runner Up=Oklahoma-Mariah Jane Davis

2nd Runner Up=Mississippi-Asya Branch*

3rd Runner Up=Indiana-Alexis Lete

3rd Runner Up=Arkansas-Haley Pontius

4th Runner Up=Alabama-Kelly Hutchinson

4th Runner Up=Nevada-Victoria Olona*



California-Allyshia Gupta

Indiana-Alexis Lete*

Hawaii-Samantha Neyland

Montana-Merissa Underwood

Illinois-Olivia Pura

Florida-Monique Evans

New Jersey-Gina Mellish

Maryland-Taelyr Robinson

New York-Andreia Gibau

Tennessee-Justice Enlow



District of Columbia-Cierra Jackson

Oklahoma-Mariah Jane Davis*

Georgia-Alyssa Beasley

Hawaii-Samantha Neyland*

Louisiana-Mariah Clayton

Illinois-Olivia Pura*

Missouri-Megan Renee Kelly

New Jersey-Gina Mellish*

Nevada-Victoria Olona

New York-Andreia Gibau*

Ohio-Sthephanie Miranda

West Virginia-Charlotte Bellotte


ALTERNATES: Kentucky, Missouri*, North Carolina, Minnesota, Ohio*


HONORABLE MENTIONS: Idaho*, Texas, New Hampshire, Alabama*, Utah


* = made actual top 16

MassachusettsMontanaIn terms of my predictions, I picked 9 of the top 16 plus 2 alternates (Missouri and Ohio), 2 honorable mentions (Idaho and Alabama) and the three that I missed were: Georgia, Louisiana and District of Columbia although Georgia and Louisiana were in my next tier below honorable mentions. Did you also notice that this is the 2nd year in a row that my 2nd runner up ending up winning Miss USA??? Last year, Miss USA 2019-Cheslie Kryst was 2nd runner up in my predictions list and this year, Miss USA 2020-Asya Branch was 2nd runner up in my predictions list but I'm so happy that she won! The only thing that kept her from my win was her height but the judges recognized what an amazing woman Asya is with that stunning face and heard her phenomenal story about her father being incarcerated which led her to get involved with implementing programs to help reintegrate former felons productively back into society. Now what happened to the 7 ladies in my list that didn’t place? First up was Massachusetts. I thought Sabrina Victor could be Victorious as this girl absolutely lit up the stage. With her distinct look reminiscent of the reigning Miss Universe, South Africa’s Zozibini Tunzi perhaps they thought her look was perhaps too similar to Zozibini’s? I was thinking there were many years that Miss USA winners often looked like they could be Miss Teen USA’s big sister (i.e. Ashley Coleman-Miss Teen USA 1999 and Lynnette Cole-Miss USA 2000, Jillian Parry-Miss Teen USA 2000 and Kandace Krueger-Miss USA 2001, Marissa Whitley-Miss Teen USA 2001 and Shauntay Hinton-Miss USA 2002, etc.) so I thought a trend could start where Miss USA could look like she could be the reigning Miss Universe’s sister? Sabrina was a fabulous contestant who recently earned bachelor degrees in Theater and Journalism, along with a Multicultural Theater Practice Certificate, and university honors and she believes that art is fundamental to human expression. Sabrina is of Haitian descent and she is very passionate about the fine arts and works as an actress and singer, even performing background vocals for Mariah Carey. I do recall thinking in past years that aspirations in the entertainment field were frowned upon by IMG as I have seen past delegates in recent years also not do as well so perhaps this could have been what prevented the placement. Next up was Arkansas who appeared to have the look and achievements necessary these days. Haley Pontius looked very strong in preliminaries although her gown was perhaps a bit too unique which looked a bit like a turquoise swimsuit at the bodice with a liquid beaded skirt. She is an honors graduate from the University of Central Arkansas with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics and she can recite numerous of pi way beyond the 3.14 that most people know. Wise beyond her years, Haley started getting gray hairs at the age of 13 but she hides it well! She is also nicknamed sloth or turtle on occasion due to taking her time being thorough and meticulous in her work. Being quite the artist, I was thinking Miss Pontius’ palette could paint up a win for her state but it wasn’t to be. Montana was next as she was tall, striking and really worked her green gown well during preliminaries. I was thinking it was finally time for Montana to place as they haven’t since 1958 if you can believe it. Montana was one of 12 ladies competing for Miss USA 2020 that also once competed for Miss California USA. The 12 ladies competing for Miss USA 2020 that competed for Miss California USA were: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. It was almost 13 but Wyoming’s Katie Bozner dropped out a few weeks prior to the pageant due to her academic obligations so her runner-up, Lexi Revelli, represented Wyoming instead. It’s interesting to note that of the 12 California girls, only 3 of them placed (California, Hawaii and Nevada). Next up was Florida’s Monique Evans. Monique was another cross-over from the Miss America system representing Texas at Miss America 2015 and placing in the top 16. That she won two competitive state titles was very telling about Monique's power but I suppose that didn’t translate on the Miss USA stage. She does have an amazing body which she can attribute to her years as a classically trained ballerina and she also holds a degree in nutritional science with a medical certificate working as a pharmaceutical representative. The pink gown she wore might have been deemed too teen so perhaps that’s what did it. Maryland’s Taelyr Robinson was another delegate that previously competed in California among other states and she had a great overall look and performed well in preliminaries but some thought her performance was a little flat. She had a good story about once being homeless and losing her father and grandmother at a young age and having to help her mother dealing with alcoholism and also help raise her siblings. Tennessee’s Justice Enlow was the hometown girl and I thought she impressed in preliminaries and she is yet another one that previously competed in California. Justice studied fashion merchandising and does have a story about having her studies interrupted due to suffering from endometriosis. Finally, West Virginia’s Charlotte Bellotte actually impressed me in her up close video as she demonstrated how educated she is with an interest in politics and she presented herself very confidently in preliminaries so she got the last spot in my list. Her gown was a unique twist on a classic design and she had a strong overall appearance. My friend Dave pointed some interesting factoids about this year and they are as follows: Much like Miss Teen USA 1987, the semifinalists stopped alphabetically at Oklahoma (only Tennessee and West Virginia were among my picks in the last alphabetical group of delegates so it was not too surprising to me. Also, alphabetically from District of Columbia to Indiana, only Florida didn't get an semifinalist spot. Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois and Indiana all placed and it is quite rare for five delegates in a row alphabetically placing. He also points out that the cut from top 10 to top 5 when compared to the 2020 presidential election map had the top ten consist of blue states but the top 5 all consisted of red states. Perhaps an homage to a certain former co-owner? I think it was just a coincidence. In 2019, the top 3 were all visible minorities (two multiracial delegates and one Latina) and in 2020, the top 3 again consisted of all visible minorities (one black, one half-Filipina and one Native American delegate) and he also noted that even though this was the year 2020, no delegate's age was "20" at the time of the pageant but it’s interesting to note that Miss Teen USA 2019, Kaliegh Garris was 20 when she completed her reign which is a first for Teen.

The intro was set to Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes” and after the top 16 were announced, it was time for the swimsuit competition set to Elvis’ “Bossa Nova Baby” which was a very fitting choice! New Jersey was up first and Gina was looking fit and fabulous. She had a very commanding walk and her presence was undeniable in preliminaries so she was a sure bet to be up there. Next up was Idaho and even though she didn’t place at Miss Teen USA 2014, this half-Filipina delegate came back with a vengeance and she trained and prepared herself very well reminding me very much of another half-Filipina, Catriona Gray-Miss Universe 2018. Alabama changed from a two-piece swimsuit in preliminaries to a one-piece swimsuit for finals which was unusual but the one-pieces did have a flattering cut so she was one of two delegates wearing a one-piece swimsuit (California being the other) which is extremely rare these days. Louisiana was one of the more surprising semifinalists this year but her spunky personality must have really helped her place. She did look fit in swimsuit and her naturally curly hair seems to be a popular trend in recent years. Mississippi followed looking gorgeous. My only concern about her was her height which caused me to place her as 2nd runner up in my predictions but I’m glad the judges were able to see past that to the incredible woman that Asya is. Missouri followed and although she was among the better speakers in this group, her body was not quite up to par which caused me to place her as an alternate and it wasn’t a surprise that she was eliminated in this round but she is a natural beauty. Ohio followed and being Puerto Rican, this Latina was on fire with that great body. She decided to go with straight hair but she probably should have sported her natural curls. She seemed to be one of the echoes of Lynnette Cole-Miss USA 2000 who was one of the judges who is also half-Puerto Rican and also sports both curly and straight hair and I feel like Louisiana and Hawaii were also echoes of Lynnette’s style and perhaps also the next delegate, District of Columbia. DC has had more success at Miss USA in recent years placing in 4 of the last 5 years with 2 of those placements being wins so they have become ones to watch. DC had also previously competed at Miss America so I guess her interview skills were strong enough to pull her into the semifinals. Oklahoma followed with a great body and her hair is really nice. That’s one of the first things that I noticed when watching her up close video and she was a strong contender from the beginning. Indiana was phenomenal. I was really impressed with her and she had the moves and the looks with her long-legged, athletic volleyball-player body. Some of the athletes may have the body but don’t necessarily know how to work it but Alexis trained extremely well and it’s always nice to see delegates like this. Speaking of moves, up next was New York who already has represented the USA at Miss Earth 2017 where she finished among the top 16 at that pageant. Andreia’s unique look could be attributed to coming from Cape Verde in Africa. She has a very fit body and knows how to work the stage supremely. Georgia followed and was another delegate that previously competed at Miss America so her interview must have been strong as is normally expected of the Miss America delegates and she also performed well. California followed showing us the strength of the California girl! She resembles Paris Hilton and… that’s hot! She also rocked the one-piece swimsuit. Her swan-like, regal elegance really set her apart and she had a great story as even though she has blonde hair and blue eyes, most people would be surprised to learn that she is half-Indian on her father’s side. Born in the UK, Allyshia came to the USA with her mother and brother but her brother sadly passed away due to a motorcycle accident and Allyshia wanted to compete to for Miss Florida USA but she had to wait several years to become a naturalized citizen before she could compete for a Miss USA state title and she ended up winning a highly coveted one on her first try! Next up, Illinois had a gorgeous face and even as a former Teen placing among the top 15 at Miss Teen USA 2016 and Olivia Pura even reminded me of another notable Olivia, Olivia Culpo who won Miss USA and Miss Universe 2012. But oh, how I wish she didn’t wear the diaper-panty swimsuit. I can’t imagine this style looks flattering on anyone but fortunately, she was able to advance to the next round. Nevada was next and she had one of the better bodies of the group but surprisingly didn’t advance past this round and we learned a few days later that Nevada was the winner of the fan vote so this is probably why the judges didn’t advance her. Either that or it was to spare her having to carry her gown all night like she had to during preliminaries. Finally, Hawaii being the first half-black Miss Hawaii USA showed off her fit physique and she also holds this distinction as Miss Hawaii Teen USA and she placed in the top 16 at Miss Teen USA 2013 also. There was some table-turning going on this year compared to Miss Teen USA as has been commonplace in recent years. One of the standouts of this trend is North Carolina. The three North Carolina delegates that placed as 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA all went unplaced at Miss USA (Julia Dalton was 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 2008 but went unplaced at Miss USA 2015, Katie Coble was 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 2007 but went unplaced at Miss USA 2017 and now Jane Axhoj who was 2nd runner up at Miss Teen USA 2015 went unplaced at Miss USA 2020.) Hawaii and Illinois placed at both Miss Teen USA and Miss USA and while Idaho and New Jersey went unplaced at Miss Teen USA, both placed at Miss USA.

After the top 10 were announced, it was on to the evening gown parade set to a pre-recorded video of Haley Reinhart performing her rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Fallin’ in Love” showcasing all the delegates in their gowns in a divine parade with each of them grouped by color. All the delegates wore gowns from sponsor Sherri Hill. First up for the evening gown competition was eventual winner, Mississippi looking stunning in a black and white liquid-beaded gown and I love these gowns and Asya’s was a unique design with the white portion sashed over the black portion. Illinois followed in a turquoise and white beaded number with a frilly side-train but this gown seemed more suited for a Teen than Miss pageant. Hawaii followed a dark-mauve gown with cat ear-like points above the breasts. It was simple and elegant. Oklahoma followed in a breathtaking white gown with a diagonal slit across the bodice with floral designs on either side of the slit with another slit in the skirt in the opposite direction and she looked angelic. Alabama had a black gown with a very frilly skirt. I thought this gown was also more Teen than Miss but since she was previously Miss Georgia's Outstanding Teen 2013, I guess this was a fitting choice for Kelly. California followed in a sleek red number with more material at the bottom to create more of a mermaid effect and it was a good choice with her hair back in an elegant bun and I’m surprised she didn’t advance to top 5. Indiana followed and wow, was I ever getting major Michelle McLean (Miss Universe 1992) vibes from her with the red gown with light fringe and subtle designs and the broad shoulders and the hair also in a bun. Alexis was very impressive and this gown and overall look makes me blow a chef’s kiss. Idaho followed in an electric blue liquid-beaded gown with sleeves and an open back that really stood out and it reminded me of a style and color that we have seen in the 80s and Kim worked it well. New York followed in a red gown with some bunching up design at the top of the slit in the skirt. I think she needed something a little better than this gown as I wasn’t really impressed by it. Finally, New Jersey followed in a silver fringe gown with a classic style and she worked Gina’s walk was incredible.

Top 5After the top 5 were announced, it was time for a round of judge’s questions. Oklahoma selected Susan Yara who asked, “So we’re all using apps these days and several popular apps collect personal data from users and sell it to third parties. Does this influence your decision to use them? Why or why not?” Oklahoma answered, “It actually does because I, I feel like I want my privacy respected. I want the privacy of my family, my loved ones, and as a leader, as a representative of Oklahoma, I want their privacy respected and hopefully one day as Miss USA so that has deterred me when I found out that Tiktok, for example, had, um, spyware, people were hacking into people’s phones that had access. That definitely had made me hesitant to download it but then quarantine happened and I got a little desperate so I downloaded it. (giggles) Thank you.” I feel like she blew this answer especially with a contradictory statement saying that Tiktok had spyware but she downloaded it anyway. Perhaps the judges appreciated her honesty but I thought she would rank lower than 2nd runner up. Next Mississippi selected Kimberly Pressler question, “Our country is more polarized than any other time in recent memory. In your opinion, what must be done to bring our nation back together?” Mississippi answered, “I think this is an issue of trust. 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.” This was an excellent answer and I’m sure she was well prepared for this question also and she was diplomatic by not calling out anyone who might not be setting a good example… Next up was Indiana who selected goddess Lynnette Cole who asked, “According to a study, only a third of Americans could pass the U.S. Citizenship test. Why is that and what can we do to fix it?” Indiana answered, “I think it’s because as Americans a lot of people are entitled. They think just because they’re born here, they have every right to live here and that’s not the case. I think it’s really important that we study up on our country. We know what happens. I mean we had the ‘black lives matter’ movement where so many people didn’t understand the systematic racism that happens right here in our country. We need to do better. We need to learn about our country, to progress it and move forward for a better future.” This was a strong answer and Indiana delivered it very well and she was also trained very well. Idaho selected Gloria Mayfield Banks’ question, “Recent protests have advocated for police reform. Do you agree and if so, what steps need to be taken?” Idaho answered, “I do believe that we need police reform. It’s obvious from the amount of violence that is happening especially among those who are marginalized and minorities in particular. We need police reform. We need to put money instead of towards gun control and policing people inappropriately towards education and teaching officers how to work with communities and how to not fire their firearms inappropriately.” Idaho answered this question quite well and her Catriona-ness really took over incorporating gestures when speaking. I probably should have given in to the hype and placed her higher in my predictions list as her interview was actually stronger than I was expecting. Finally, Alabama selected Carolyn Aronson’s question, “As more and more people are getting their news through social media, do platforms have a responsibility to fact-check posts or will that ultimately suppress speech?” Alabama answered, “I don’t think that will ultimately suppress speech. We need to ensure that Americans are getting the truth. They c… A lot of Americans are learning their news from social media and that’s the only outlet that they have to get their information and if they’re spreading false information, that can be a huge, huge problem for our country so we need to ensure that the things that people are posting online are true and accurate but we also need to ensure that the people who are fact-checking those are on both sides of the party so there is no bias.” This was a decent answer but just perhaps not as strong as the others.
Top 5Now it was time for the final word with a new twist this year where the final 5 delegates selected a card which had a topic which they had to discuss. Oklahoma selected Voter Suppression and she said, “First and foremost, I want to celebrate that the fact that this nation has had the most voter participation in years and that is worthy of celebration. Uh, to be, uh, at the 100 year anniversary of women having the right to vote, being able to exercise my vote, being on a platform where I had a larger reach. I had more eyes and ears paying attention and I could share with them how they could register to vote, where they can go to vote, any information. This is really important and because our… (bell chimes) Thank you.” Going first in a new round of competition is never easy and the stumbles showed here but I think the judges recognized that or just really liked Oklahoma to rank her as 2nd runner up as I think this was just an okay answer. Mississippi was next and she selected Gun Laws and she 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 and I think that education should be available to everyone. I believe that we should require people to pass training and safety courses before they’re allowed to purchase a gun and before r…, um, 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 but I think it’s our second amendment right and we just need more safety surrounding that.” I think most people would deem this answer somewhat controversial but it was realistic and she demonstrated knowledge in the answer. This answer reminded me a lot of New York’s Shanna Moakler’s answer during Miss USA 1995 to her judge’s question where she defended every human’s right to bear arms and also similarly to Carrie Prejean’s case at Miss USA 2009 placing 1st runner up after saying she opposes same-sex marriage, while judges may not necessarily agree with an answer, they are instructed not to penalize her for stating her opinion. Mississippi stated her answer with conviction and backed it up well. Indiana selected Climate Change and she said, “As a young girl, I always wanted to travel the world. I wanted to see the barrier reef, the rainforests. Right now, the rainforests and all of the environment is deteriorating. Climate is going up. Waters are rising and national disasters are happening because of the weather. We need to do something. It starts at home with small acts. If you can’t change legislation right away, we need to work at home. Recycle. Turn off lights. Do your thing. (laughs). I’m ready to do that as Miss Indiana USA…as Miss USA.” The nervous laugh while discussing a serious topic totally ruined the effect of her answer similarly to Nevada’s answer at Miss USA 2019 laughing nervously while speaking about gun violence. Indiana does have a bubbly nature but all it took was that laugh to wreck it all and she seemed to look defeated after the stumble at the end of her answer meaning to say Miss USA instead of Miss Indiana USA. Idaho selected Mental Health Reform and she said, “Currently, I believe that we view mental health more from the lens of a disease and we don’t talk about it until it’s a problem when people are suffering from depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts. Instead, we should be shifting our thought… or shifting our focus and looking at mental health holistically incorporating it into our general health care and normalizing conversations especially with kids so that they grow up knowing that it’s okay to not be okay.” This was a great speech on this topic and Idaho prepared for it and delivered it very well. Finally, Alabama selected Prison Reform which probably would have been a suitable topic for Mississippi since she is actively involved with this type of work but anyway, Alabama said, “As a first year law student, I’m currently learning all about our legal system, our criminal justice system and our prison system which has huge flaws in it. We are not preparing prisoners for life outside of prison. We are sending them back out into the world with a 40 percent chance that they will return on a non-violent crime. We need to pr… be preparing prisoners to succeed and be better members of society outside of prison.” This was a decent answer but perhaps her youth showed a bit here but she was lucky to make the top 5 and I guess that’s why she finished as 4th runner up. After this, there was a great retrospective segment on Miss USA’s coming of age with interviews from Miss USA 1953-Myrna Hansen, Miss USA 1969-Wendy Dascomb and Miss USA 1990-Carole Gist and I appreciated this. Cheslie Kryst did a lot of interviews with multiple titleholders from years past during the early days of Covid and I loved seeing how our precious formers are doing and catching up with their lives today.

Finally after a final look of the final 5 set to Elvis Presley’s “If I Can Dream”, it was time for Cheslie Kryst to conclude her very long reign as Miss USA sporting a vibrant but perhaps Spongebob-esque number, it was time to announce the results. Alabama was 4th runner up, Indiana was 3rd runner up, Oklahoma was 2nd runner up and with a socially distanced final two, Mississippi’s Asya Branch was declared the winner of Miss USA 2020 meaning that Idaho was 1st runner up but of course, there would be no touching or hugging the winner in sharp contrast to previous years. I know the girls were tested so I think the congratulatory hugs could have happened but to be safer and set an example, it was done this way. Asya won a Porsche Macan as Miss USA 2020 so I’m glad to see some sponsorship coming back into the mix! Now, Asya will compete for Miss Universe 2020, which will be held in 2021… Yes, this is another leap year just like the 2014 and 2016 Miss Universe pageants which were actually held in January of the following year but the next Miss Universe pageant will likely be held later than January 2021 so hopefully we will know where and when it will happen and that this Corona virus will go away and we can have some normalcy again! Kudos go out to the Miss Universe organization for making Miss USA and Miss Teen USA happen safely and for bringing together a great production once again.

The Prethoughts - Miss USA 2020




Some photos courtesy Miss Universe L.P., LLLP