Miss Mississippi credits incarcerated father as source of support, encouragement

This year’s Miss Mississippi said her incarcerated father is her biggest supporter, telling a local newspaper, “I know he’s proud of me.”

Asya Branch won the state pageant title Saturday and competed with the platform Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents.

“My father’s been incarcerated half of my life, and it was tough, extremely tough,” Branch told the Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Miss.

“Going through school, being judged. Society wants to judge the children of incarcerated parents, it's shameful, it's blameful.”

“Going through school, being judged. Society wants to judge the children of incarcerated parents, it's shameful, it's blameful.”

- Asya Branch, Miss Mississippi 2018

But it’s her struggles that shaped her desire to “bring people a message of hope and love,” the newspaper reported of the pageant winner from Booneville.

Her father’s unwavering support carried her to the crown.

“He's my biggest encourager and supporter and motivator,” she said. “He's so thankful for this organization and everything it's molded me into."

Branch told the local newspaper that she’ll have a recording of the  pageant TV broadcast on DVD ready when he’s released, so they can "relive it together."

The University of Mississippi student said her father is the most influential person in her life, according to her profile on the Miss Mississippi website, saying she’s a “daddy’s girl.”

Branch's mother has also been a particular inspiration, she told the Clarion Ledger. 

"You can't please everyone, that's impossible, but your parents are the first ones, you know, that you want to make proud."

- Asya Branch

"Every step of this path has been truly incredible and my mom's been with me through it all," Branch said. "She came up to me last night and I could see the joy in her eyes and how proud she was. You can't please everyone, that's impossible, but your parents are the first ones, you know, that you want to make proud."

Branch told Fox MS News Now that she is most thrilled about reaching more children of incarcerated parents and providing support for them.

Amy Lieu is a news editor and reporter for Fox News.