While the world waited to see who would win the 2020 Presidential election, there was another American competition getting ready. After being postponed for months, the annual Miss USA pageant took place Monday night in Memphis, Tennessee. This year‘s pageant was hosted by sports reporter and Miss Teen USA 2005 Allie LaForce and American Ninja Warrior co-host Akbar Gbaja-Biamila. After two hours of evening gowns, bathing suits, and questions, Asya Branch from Mississippi took the crown.
Branch is the first African American to be named Miss Mississippi USA. Placing second runner-up was Miss Oklahoma USA Mariah Jane Davis, and just ahead of her was the first runner-up, Miss Idaho USA Kim Layne.
🖤🖤 Miss USA 2020 Asya Branch makes history as the first from Mississippi to win the coveted Miss USA crown. She is also the first African-American Miss Mississippi USA. #MissUSA#MissUSA2020pic.twitter.com/toErhABxeM— hermodernlife.com (@syddarlingg) November 10, 2020
The pageant started with some jokes about how 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 joked. Per TVLine, after 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.
All of our ladies looking absolutely stunning in @sherrihill right now! And can you believe this performance from @haleyreinhart?#MissUSA is LIVE from @visitgraceland only on @fyi. pic.twitter.com/c6HDJb6evn— Miss USA (@MissUSA) November 10, 2020
Backed by Haley Reinhart’s cover of Presley’s, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” all 51 contestants made a special walk for the evening gown portion. Then the top five was announced: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Indiana, Idaho, and Alabama. Then came the dreaded and often hilarious question portion. According to TVLine, “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 on having a responsibility to spread fact-checked, unbiased information on social media.”
The contestants made their last impression on judges during their final statements. Branch shared her take on gun laws and explained, “We should require people to pass training and safety classes” before attaining guns.
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. Branch, who is from Booneville, was crowned by her predecessor, Miss USA 2019 Chelsie Kryst.