OMonday evening, after a delay of several months due to the ongoing COVD-19 pandemic, a new Miss USA was finally crowned at Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. Reigning Miss Mississippi USA Asya Branch secured the coveted title against the blinding backdrop of the sparkling rhinestone-encrusted masks of her competing comrades (chosen to match their equally shiny Sherri Hill dresses, of course).
The 22-year-old Ole Miss graduate made history when she became the first Black Miss Mississippi in 2018. In her introductory video at the start of the Miss USA show, she spoke about her passion for criminal justice reform, citing her participation in a round table on the subject with President Trump.
The roundtable on prison reform was not the only time the Branch has been in close proximity to the recently defeated president. She also performed the national anthem at a Trump rally in Southaven, Mississippi, in October 2018. In the caption of an Instagram post from the event, she wrote, “Amazing honor to sing the national anthem this evening in Southaven for President Trump’s rally, ”punctuated with an American flag emoji.
Branch took home the top prize on Monday night after sharing his thoughts on gun control. After two intense rounds of eliminations in the swimwear and evening gown competitions, the final speaking round of the competition asked the remaining five “contestants” to make a 30-second statement on a topic chosen at random from a plastic box. Miss Mississippi drew the “gun laws” map.
“As a person who grew up in a house with guns, I learned very early on how to load, shoot and protect guns,” his statement began, “and I think education should be accessible to everyone. She added that she believed people would need to take training and pass safety tests before they could get a gun license.
In the end, however, the beauty queen clearly stood up for the right to bear arms. “I think it’s important that we don’t ban guns, because people will find a way to get what they want anyway anyway, but I think that’s our. second amendment on the right, and we just need more security on that, ”she said.
In a previous segment of the competition, it also weighed on the country’s political polarization, attributing it to a lack of confidence in the “systems that seem to make our country work, from the media to business to our government.” “(She also expressed troubling views on those of the gay community, although back in 2012.)
The rest of the Miss USA show was full of the obligatory social distancing jokes and opaque explanations of safety procedures we’d expect from a live televised event produced in 2020. Hosts Allie LaForce and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila have explained that the candidates had been tested and quarantined, and the smaller-than-usual live audience was subjected to temperature control and asked to wear masks.
“In a previous segment of the competition, it also weighed on the country’s political polarization, attributing it to a lack of confidence in the “systems that seem to make our country work, from the media to business to our government.” ““
However, there seems to be a total lack of consistency in the application of the rules for wearing masks by competitors. For example, the introductory portion of the show featured dozens of perfectly made-up, maskless faces. But immediately after the commercial break, they were suddenly all masked for no clear reason other than to delight viewers with the imagined visual of 51 women in heels clamoring to find their masks backstage before the break was over.
LaForce later described the finalists dressed in ball gowns, again not wearing masks, as “10 Awesome Women, Spaced Six feet apart,” as if just saying it out loud would make it true.
No need to worry, though, because as has been pointed out repeatedly throughout the show, Graceland is seemingly full of hand sanitizer dispensers – just like the King would have wanted.
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