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.
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.
“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.
“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.