Falling to the stage beneath her, Miss Mississippi 2018 pointed to the sky in celebration as a crown was placed on her head. After three years of standing on the Vicksburg Convention Center stage, Ole Miss Most Beautiful Asya Branch clinched the coveted state title.
“Being crowned Miss Mississippi is a dream come true,” Branch said. “The feeling of hearing my name being called was indescribable. I am so grateful and thankful for the opportunity.”
The Booneville native began her pageant journey in 2016 after her senior year of high school.
Branch originally intended to get her feet wet in the Miss Mississippi Organization by competing in the state’s Outstanding Teen pageant, but was ineligible because of her age.
This led Branch to venture outside of her comfort zone and sign up for her first Miss Mississippi preliminary pageant. That year, Branch was crowned Miss Historic Crossroads.
“I was so happy when I placed in my first preliminary,” Branch said. “I decided to keep going and continue working toward becoming Miss Mississippi.”
The title allowed her to compete in the 2016 Miss Mississippi pageant for the first time, where she placed 11th overall and received a preliminary swimwear award. Branch would continue to compete the following year as Miss All-America City, and be named fourth alternate at the 2017 Miss Mississippi competition.
“Each year I continued to do better and place higher,” Branch said. “It encouraged me to keep training and working to become the best that I could be.”
At this year’s 2018 competition, Branch took to the Miss Mississippi stage as Miss Tupelo alongside 49 other contestants. She performed her talent in a beaded, silk evening gown, showed off her dedication to a healthy lifestyle in swimwear, confidently answered an onstage question and partook in an interview with a panel of judges.
Branch spent months gearing up for all aspects of the competition. She said she was at peace with how she performed throughout the week, and thanked God for allowing her to perform at the best of her ability. She was awarded, for the second time, a preliminary swimwear award, but was proudest of her vocal performance of Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time.”
“Talent is my favorite part of competition,” Branch said. “I like to sing songs that have a personal meaning to me. As I was singing, it was like I was telling the judges that this was my moment.”
As Miss Mississippi, Branch will travel the state to make appearances, volunteer with charities and spread awareness of her personal platform, empowering children of incarcerated parents.
During her year of service, she hopes to be a positive role model and represent her state well. Branch said she sees her title as more than just a crown, and has already served Mississippi by donating medical supplies to Batson’s Children’s Hospital, as well as spending time with the hospital’s patients.
In addition to serving the state, Branch will represent Mississippi in the Miss America pageant in September. She will continue to train for the competition by practicing her talent, completing mock interviews, exercising to stay fit and keeping her knowledge of current events up to date.
“I had an entire year to prepare for Miss Mississippi, but have only a few months to prepare for Miss America,” Branch said. “Having so little time is going to be chaotic, but I am so excited to represent Mississippi on the Miss America stage.”
If Branch is crowned Miss America, first runner up Tanner Fant will take on the duties of Miss Mississippi. Branch will then travel around the United States as the face of The Miss America Organization.
For now, Branch is still trying to wrap her head around her newfound title. Throughout the past week, she has received an abundance of support from her friends, family, fellow Ole Miss students and Mississippi residents. She said she is thankful for all of the encouragement she has received, and looks forward to the year ahead.
“This is the job of a lifetime,” Branch said. “I hope to make Mississippi proud as I continue this exciting year.”