When we’re children, we are always told to dream big and reach for the stars. Some children dream of rockets and far away galaxies, while others dream of movie sets and rolling cameras. But for Asya Branch, her dreams were always filled with bright lights, big stages, sparkling dresses, glittering crowns and talented women whose poise, elegance and grace led them to the title she hoped to one day hold.
Asya Branch, Miss Mississippi 2018, is a junior Integrated Marketing Communications major from Booneville, Miss.
Despite the glitz and glam of the pageant world, Branch’s journey hasn’t always been perfect. Prior to her success in the 2018 Miss Mississippi pageant, Asya competed in the pageant in both 2016 and 2017 before winning in 2018 with her title of Miss Tupelo.
Branch has taken away many lessons from her years of dedication to achieving her dream. “Throughout competing I’ve learned perseverance, and I’ve learned that you can improve in everything,” Branch said. “A lot of people get it in their heads that, ‘well I’m good at this, and I’m good at this.’ But you can definitely be better… Sure, I may be a good vocalist, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t improve. I may be a strong communicator, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be stronger; so having that mindset and knowing that you can gain something no matter how good you are– it can teach you to be better.”
Her journey also included some sacrifices. While other college students may have been hanging out with friends on a Thursday night, Branch was probably watching the news. “I was constantly keeping myself updated on the world around me, constantly going to the gym, just constantly doing everything that I could to prepare myself for the job that I truly wanted,” Branch said. “And that’s what it takes. Sometimes you have to give up little things to make the big things happen.”
Branch continued on to say one of her biggest takeaways from competing in pageants was “learning to constantly better myself and to grow through every experience… But since winning, I’ve had so many different opportunities…. It’s a very humbling job and it’s indescribable. It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.”
Since becoming Miss Mississippi, she has had the opportunity to encourage others while also sharing her story. “My platform is Finding Your Way: Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents,” Branch said. “I chose that because my father has been in prison for about half of my life, and when it first happened I didn’t know how to deal with it. It was something that I just swept under the rug and tried to avoid at all cost. I’d always change the subject or just rush a conversation along because it was not something that I ever wanted to address, but I realized there are so many people throughout our entire state, as well as the rest of the nation who suffer from having an incarcerated parent or guardian. They needed an example and a voice.”
Along with traveling all over the state to implement programs regarding her platform, Branch also has several appearances scheduled through any given week, which makes her days busier than most. However, despite her busy schedule, Branch couldn’t be happier. “It’s crazy, but I really enjoy it,” she said. “I kind of forget how busy I am because I’m always having such a fun time.”
When asked what advice she had for little girls with big dreams, Branch said, “Never give up. It takes setting your mind to something and doing whatever that it takes to get there.”
It is because she never gave up that with tears in her eyes and a brilliant smile on her face, Asya Branch was crowned Miss Mississippi 2018, fulfilling not only the hopes of 11-year-old Asya but every other little girl who dares to dream.
*Story to be featured in The Ole Miss 2019 yearbook