AceShowbiz - It's been only days after Asya Branch was crowned Miss USA 2020, but she already faces backlash. While some people rejoice to know that another black woman won the pageant, some others are baffled to discover that she once performed at a Donald Trump rally back in 2018. The 22-year-old model has now addressed the criticism as she defends herself and her belief.
Branch performed the National Anthem at a rally for Trump in Southaven, Mississippi, in October 2018. Additionally, she took part in a roundtable with POTUS. "Incredible honor to sing the national anthem tonight in Southaven for the President Trump rally," so Branch wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.
In response to the backlash, Branch told PEOPLE that her performance was under contractual obligation with the Miss Mississippi Corp, though she still felt proud for that. "Regardless of political beliefs, I find it an honor to be able to sing the national anthem anywhere and it just so happened to be at a Trump rally," she shared.
The Booneville native, who previously made history as the first African American to be named Miss Mississippi USA, went on to say, "And I know I caught a lot of backlash for that. But no one knows if that has anything to do with my political beliefs or not. I did have a duty as an employee of the Miss Mississippi Corp. as well as a representative of the state of Mississippi."
"If you can't get a seat at the table, you can't make a difference," she added. "I found that to be an inspiring and moving moment for me because it shows that I can accomplish things and I can accomplish my goals and really make a difference in the world. So yes, I caught backlash for it, but I feel like it was a meeting that gave me an opportunity to speak up on a cause that was very important to me."
Branch was named as Miss USA 2020 during a ceremony which aired live from Elvis Presley's Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee on Monday, November 9. The senior at the University of Mississippi advocated for strict gun laws in her final statement in the contest. "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," she said. "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 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," she added.