Confidently beautiful means understanding that it’s not always about your appearance or who you’re around or how they feel you look or where you come from or your economic background. 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 very strong and although I’m small, I’m powerful and confidently beautiful is being myself and I’m very happy with who I’ve become.” – Miss USA 2016
The decision came down to Miss District of Columbia and Miss Hawaii for the crown of Miss USA 2016 and there is no question that 26 year old Deshauna Barber embodies exactly what it means to represent the United States.
She is a lieutenant, and was commissioned in 2011 as quartermaster officer and logistics commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit at Fort Meade Maryland, from Northeast DC in the Army Reserve of the United States. To date, she is the first military officer to win the title of Miss USA. She is also an information technology analyst for the United States Department of Commerce, as well as the ninth African-American Miss USA and the second to graduate from a historically black college. Adding the title of Miss USA to the long list of accomplishments is definitely an honor.
“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…Gender does not limit us in the United States.” – Deshauna Barber, during Miss USA 2016 pageant.
Barber was born in Columbus, Georgia on December 6, 1989. She had a much uprooted childhood where she had to move numerous times due to her father’s military career to several states. As a result of her family being firmly dedicated to service, she joined the United States Army at the age of seventeen.
“I consider it to be a family tradition,” she said in a pre-show interview of military service. “It’s something that runs through our veins — patriotism and service for this country.” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016
She never saw herself entering pageantry, she revealed that after she met a very unlikely person who changed her life forever, is when she decided to compete.
“I never wanted to compete in pageants, it came randomly when I used to work at Target as a salesperson between my semesters at my alma mater undergraduate school and a lady approached me and asked ‘hey have you ever considered pageants?’ and I said no…I didn’t then I even watched the pageants by then, but she helped me pick out my pageant dress and go to my first pageant and ever since then it’s been something that I’ve been doing consequently every year…” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 in an interview with Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero
Soon enough she became Barber’s pageant coach, but later died of leukemia in 2015 so she wasn’t able to see her win Miss District of Columbia USA much less Miss USA 2016. Barber attributes her emotional state that night to her very long journey and story; as she has been through a lot to be where she is today. Barber also told Tanya Rivero in her interview that her journey included gaining strength from the challenges of her childhood years:
“I was also bullied in high school and middle school for my small frame… Kids are immature and they pushed and nagged at me because I was thin, so it was something I battled with which was self-esteem issues throughout school….So now that I’m Miss USA on stage with my crown it’s really something I want to push to inspire young girls and boys because right now social media is really taking over and a lot of these kids have to deal with the Facebook and Instagram and with cyber-bulling which I never had to deal with so I can’t imagine which makes it even worst.” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 in an interview with Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero
She said throughout her competing in pageants she has had her family and friends behind her supporting her every step of the way.
“My family was a bit taken aback when I told them I wanted to join pageants, but then have all been supportive.” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 in an interview with Good Morning America.
Deshauna is not only beauty and brawn, but she has brains. She obtained her first degree in business management from Virginia State University and recently graduated with her Masters of Science degree in Management Information Systems and Services from the University of Maryland.
During her reign as Miss USA 2016, she plans to carry out her duties to the best of her ability within the organization and outside with her own campaigns and projects.
“I am still going to continue pushing for Miss Universe organization for the already established platforms for ovarian and breast cancer awareness that they have been pushing for the past couple of years and I also want to push for supporting our troops, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) care for our soldiers and discussing the backlog at the VA right now, so that’s what I’ve been pushing in DC and as Miss USA I am going to push that at the national level as well…” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 in an interview with Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero
She plans to take a break from the Army Reserves, currently continuing to serve two days per month.
She has won Miss District of Columbia USA 2016 on December 19, 2015 and then Miss USA 2016 on June 5th in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Winning Miss USA was so emotional and so surreal and to even have the sash and crown on…. In that moment I was next to one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, Miss Hawaii…. I just felt very flattered that they decided that I was the candidate, that I was the person, they thought would be the best representation of the Miss Universe organization as Miss USA, it’s so surreal…” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 on Good Morning America.
She believes that she will be breaking the stereotypes of both the military and for pageants having won the Miss USA 2016:
I consider that I’m breaking the stereotypes of pageants as being an airhead, uneducated, without a career and the stereotype of the military side as you being unattractive and very masculine, so I feel like on both sides of the spectrum I was definitely breaking the stereotype.” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 on Good Morning America.
She goes on to represent the United States at Miss Universe 2016 where she will compete for the crown to succeed current Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. Barber said that she was confident going into the competition and is sure to have that same confidence going to compete in the Miss Universe.
“I felt confident going into the competition but I made sure to humble myself because I never wanted to go into it being arrogant or feeling as if you have it in the bag because pageants are unpredictable but it was awesome that I made it this far and won.” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 in the interview on Live With Kelly.
Her future plans, along with her duties, also incorporate being a role model for those who look up to her:
“My plans for the future more than anything is just to inspire….Every time I run into persons and they tell me I am their role model….and I say you know what, I’m a regular person. I am someone who has had some serious battles in their life and I represent the average woman in the United States and I’m glad that I can stand on this platform and they can say ‘You know what, I can relate to her’.” – Deshauna Barber, Miss USA 2016 in an interview on Lunch Break with Tanya Rivero.
What does Miss USA 2016 Win?
– Luxury accommodations in an apartment in NYC, including living expenses and a salary
– Gifts from the official sponsors
– Consultation with a professional wardrobe stylist and access to an appearance wardrobe
– A one-year scholarship from the New York Film Academy
– Professional skin and hair care services as well as fitness services throughout reign
– Representation by the Miss Universe Organization and Rubenstein Public Relations
– Modeling portfolio
– The chance to travel the country as a goodwill ambassador
– A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that opens professional doors that would not otherwise be accessible
By Alexandra Daley