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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Asya Branch was crowned Miss Mississippi USA 2019 in Tunica this weekend, becoming the first African-American winner of the state competition.

Branch, an Ole Miss student from Booneville, wins the chance to compete in the Miss USA pageant in the spring. But although she’s no stranger to the crown and sash circuit, she’s still amazed at being a “first.”

“It’s just so amazing to me that it’s 2019 and we’re still having firsts in the African-American community,” Branch said in an interview with WREG’s April Thompson. “It just blows my mind that I was able to be a first within my life.”

Asya Branch was crowned Miss Mississippi USA recently.

“We’re slowly but surely moving forward in the state of Mississippi,” she said. “It’s a state that’s 40% African-American, so I feel like the opportunities should be equally distributed, and I just hope that this hopefully inspires people to chase their dreams, even if the people before them didn’t look like them.”

Branch, whose father is in prison, said she’s excited about the opportunity to create discussions and inspire  families with incarcerated parents.

“I was judged so much growing up from having an incarcerated parent. I was viewed as a statistic rather than as a person with depth, and character, and so much to offer,” she said.

Branch also won the separate Miss Mississippi title in 2018, in an event that was part of the the Miss America organization.

“I am still on Cloud Nine,” she said about this year’s win. “I don’t think it’s completely resonated with me yet. I’m still just over the moon.”

See the full interview in the video above.