She’s tough, she’s black and she’s beautiful.
And, here she is, from northeast D.C., Miss USA.
Deshauna Barber, who serves in the United States Army Reserves in Maryland and ultimately made her home in the District, became the first military member to win the Miss USA pageant.
Her answer to a question about women in combat may have put her over the top with judges.
“As a woman in the United States Army, I think … we are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I’m powerful, I am dedicated,” Barber said. “Gender does not limit us in the United States.”
Barber, 26, announced that she will take a break from the Army Reserves and, ABC News reported that she’s already spoken with her superiors about the possibility of going inactive for a couple of years should she win the Miss Universe title.
She currently serves two days per month in the Army Reserves.
“My commander should be watching right now. Two days a month is definitely not active duty,” she said. “It is an obligation that I signed up for but they are very flexible in the United States Army Reserves.”
In a news conference following her victory on Sunday, June 5, Barber said her goal is to use the spotlight she’s receiving from the pageant as well as her Miss USA title to support veteran’s causes and to tackle the issue of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among military personnel.
When asked about what message she had for the presidential candidates, Barber said they should focus more on veteran’s issues, including the backlog at veterans’ hospitals.
“I think that a lot of the topics that they discuss aren’t as important,” she said.
Born in Columbus, Georgia, Barber relocated multiple times to places like North Carolina, Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia and finally Washington, D.C. Each of the moves were due to her father’s military career, according to Pageant officials.
She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Business Management from Virginia State University. Currently an IT Analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce, Barber joined the Army and was commissioned as a Quartermaster Officer in 2011. She’s currently serving as a Logistics Commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Perhaps, the candidates could take a lesson – at least about confidence – from Barber.
The District beauty calmly and, well confidently, nailed another question about confidence from the judges.
“To me confidently beautiful means understanding it’s not always about your appearance. It’s not always about who you are around and how they feel you look, where they feel you come from or your economic background,” she said.
“Serving in the military has taught me that being confidently beautiful is about being able to earn respect from people regardless of what you look like. As a woman in the military, people associate beauty with weakness and they learn very quickly that I’m extremely strong, and though I’m small, I’m powerful. Confidently beautiful is being myself and being very happy with who I’ve become.”
Meanwhile, those who watched the pageant and the judges likely concluded what USA Today noted which was that Barber’s competitors didn’t fair quite as well during the interview portion. Miss California Nadia Mejia was clearly rattled by her question about economic equality, struggling to pull her thoughts together. Miss Hawaii was thrown a curve about whether she would vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, which she respectfully sidestepped, which helped her come in as runner-up. Barber broke into a sob as her name was announced as the winner.
Before the pageant Barber said she’d be the same person as she was prior to the fame that’s now began.
“I’m being able to say that no one pageant girl does the same thing or has the same background, and I’m also saying that no one soldier has the same background and does the same thing,” she said. “We can be feminine, we can be in beauty contests and we can be models. So there are stereotypes on both sides that I feel like I’m breaking by even being here and being able to compete for Miss USA.”