Our new Miss USA is trading in her combat boots for a tiara. District of Columbia’s Deshauna Barber has made headlines and history as the first military member to win the title of Miss USA. The more we learn about her, the more we like her.

A strong advocate for gender equality, the country watched as Barber brought those values to life, proving that she could walk the runway with poise and grace, and also confidently speak about her demanding role as a female Army Reserves officer.  She took the pageant world by storm, challenging any preconceived notions of what a beauty queen should be and by extension, what femininity truly looks like. She is breaking the mold, and we love her for it.

She is breaking the mold, and we love her for it.

The undeniable juxtaposition of soldier and pageant queen affirms women everywhere who feel that femininity is not exclusively defined by perfectly curled hair or a bedazzled pageant gown. Rather, it can simultaneously be found in discipline and strength, like that found in our women serving in uniform. Barber stresses the fact that it does not have to be one or the other. She confidently posed at the end of the runway in the bikini competition, unashamed and unapologetic, knowing that all eyes were on her, including those of her fellow military service members. The idea of glamorous pageantry affecting her credibility or authority in the eyes of her military peers does not concern her. She has more important issues on her mind.

miss usa
Image via @missusa

“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,” said Barber. “We can be feminine, we can be in beauty contests, we can be models. So there’s stereotypes on both sides that I feel like I’m breaking by even being here and being able to compete for Miss USA.”

Barber plans to use her role as Miss USA to bring awareness to the physical and emotional trauma that affects many returning service men and women, specifically post traumatic stress and suicide. Her experience and authority bring extra passion to this effort. We were reminded of this experience as images of her, makeup-free and in uniform, flashed across the Vegas competition screen. Powerful imagery for a competition that places so much emphasis on physical beauty.

As women, a reminder that femininity can be found in strength, grace, discipline, and intelligence should be welcomed enthusiastically.

Whether a pageant lover or critic, there is no denying the changes that Deshauna Barber has brought to the Miss USA competition. “I see beauty as being an internalized feeling,” said Barber. Strange words to hear coming from a beauty queen. Strange, but incredibly refreshing. As women, a reminder that femininity can be found in strength, grace, discipline, and intelligence should be welcomed enthusiastically. So we welcome our new Miss USA with open arms and can’t wait to see what she has in store for us this year.

Image via Deshauna BarberWritten by Darling Digital Media Intern Jessica Tomkins

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