Deshauna Barber was crowned Miss USA June 5 in Las Vegas. Barber currently works as an IT analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce and is a Logistics Commander in the United States Army Reserves.
Barber won the hearts of the judges with an answer that built a strong defense for women in combat roles in the military.
“We are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I’m powerful. I am dedicated and it is important that we recognize that gender does not limit us in the United States,” she said.
Barber’s platform was dedicated to highlighting health issues veterans face when returning from combat, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, despite Barber’s phenomenal display of beauty, dedication and bravery, others were outraged at not only her platform, but her race. People posted their opinions on social media, reaching out to a Facebook page titled The Daily Caller. The page was created by Tucker Carlson, a Fox News contributor.
The comments revealed comments on why Barber, a black woman, did not deserve her victory over white competitors. Along with those comments, the desire for segregated pageants became a trending topic across social media sites.
Makayla Weiser, a 20-year-old Kansas State University student from Bonner Springs, competed in this weekend’s Miss Kansas Pageant. Weiser won a preliminary award for talent with a ballet en pointe performance to “Fuego” and received several scholarships.
She was asked about this debate and was appalled.
“[Barber] is a strong, opinionated, intelligent and beautiful woman,” Weiser said. “That is what we should see first, not her skin color.”
Weiser first began competing in pageants two years ago. She won the title of Miss Leavenworth County and went on to compete in Miss Kansas 2014. She was named Kansas’s Choice in 2014.
The Miss America Pageant system is the largest donor of scholarships to young women receiving college educations in the country. There are four points to the Miss America crown. They stand for service, scholarship, style and success. Weiser believes that the service point is at the front of her crown.
Many believe that pageants are just glorified beauty contests, but Weiser hopes to break the stereotype and encourage young women to participate, looking to winners like Barber as role models.
“I try to show women that you can be a strong military officer, a huge nerd and a poised, opinionated woman in these pageants,” she said.
Weiser dreams of going into the military as Barber has. She is currently an active member of the Air Force ROTC at Kansas State University. Also, her platform is very similar to Barber’s. Titled, “No Looking Back – Surviving PTSD,” Weiser hopes it will provide aid and bring awareness to servicemen and women struggling with PTSD.
With Barber’s win, Weiser is proud to see the pageant systems with more diverse contestants from all walks of life and seeing those contestants succeed in spite of hate and discrimination.
“People need to let go of the fact that the pageant world of Miss USA and Miss America will no longer be whitewashed,” Weiser said.