How Miss USA 2020 Asya Branch’s Christian Faith Influences Her Platform
By Movieguide® Staff
Miss USA 2020 Asya Branch said she relies on her Christian faith during difficult times and wants to use her platform to speak openly about her values.
“My father was the foundation of our family and our main source of income. My mom did everything in her power to try to continue allowing us to lead our best lives, but she was on a teaching assistant salary while caring for four children. She had to go back to school in order to become a full-time teacher,” Branch said. “That required me to step up and cook dinner, take care of my siblings, go to school and take care of myself at the same time.”
Branch plans to continue to raise awareness for criminal justice reform, a cause she is passionate about after her father was incarcerated for ten years.
“Being the child of an incarcerated parent, I’ve seen firsthand how it affects the family. I have been able to see how much things need to be changed within our prison systems. I saw how much I struggled, how my family struggled,” Branch told Fox News.
Branch is the sixth of eight siblings and previously made history as the first African American to be named Miss Mississippi.
Branch continued: “We went through it and yet many people had no idea. They often don’t see that other side. So I really wanted to dive into that. I wanted to raise awareness on the unheard voices, the struggles that not only children of incarcerated parents face, but the inmates who are also parents. I started working with at-risk youth and sharing my story. I want to encourage them, inspire them and give them an example that is relatable today.”
Branch is candid about the struggle she and her family went through because her father was behind bars.
“At one point, our home was foreclosed. We didn’t even know if we would get a roof over our heads. Luckily, we had some close friends who were willing to step up, help us and become our lifelines. They helped us have running water and food in our fridge. Those were some of the struggles we face. We didn’t know where our next meal would come from. We didn’t know if we would have a roof over our heads the next day.”
Despite the difficulty, Branch said that she relied on her faith to persevere and pursue her pageantry career.
“I constantly had to remind myself of two things. One, my dad always told me that branches bend, but they don’t break. So I had this mentality of always having to stay strong and never let people see my weakness,” Branch recalled. “Two, I’m a Christian. I really relied on my values and my faith. My faith helped guide me and it really gave me the strength that I needed. I think that’s how I got through everything.”
Branch elaborated a little bit more in an interview with Guideposts Magazine:
I liked making Daddy happy, but we were both a little headstrong. I signed up for my first pageant when I was seven, and he tried to talk me out of it. He worried that pageants would teach me to seek gratification from others rather than God. But I was outgoing and loved any chance to shine. I put my foot down, and Daddy gave in. He couldn’t help but pamper me.
Still, he made sure that all of us kids knew what was important. He took us to Burning Bush Church of God in Christ whenever the doors were open. Daddy was big on quoting Scripture. One of his favorite verses was Galatians 6:10: Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone— especially to those in the family of faith. …
I struggled with my self-worth and closed myself off, praying for answers about why this happened. Maybe God is teaching me to be independent and grateful, I thought. My parents had given me everything I wanted when I was little. After Daddy’s incarceration, we couldn’t afford those extras anymore.
Branch said that despite her father’s conviction, he maintained his faith behind bars and encouraged his family to do the same.
“Aside from God, nothing meant more to me than my family, my father,” Branch told the inspirational magazine. “I remembered that verse from Galatians Daddy liked to quote, ‘Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone.’ Maybe if I spoke about my experience openly, it would help other children of incarcerated parents feel less alone.”
Branch’s platform allows her testimony to shine.
“Daddy is scheduled to be released in 2022. He has been incarcerated for half my life, and I mourn the time we’ve lost. But I remind myself that God is the Great Redeemer. Only he could have transformed the hardest thing I’ve ever been through into an opportunity to do good and let my inner beauty shine,” she said.