NEW YORK – Miss District of Columbia Deshauna Barber made history when she was crowned Miss USA 2016 on Sunday, becoming the first winner who serves in the United States military.
The Army Reserve Officer and IT analyst sat down with FOXNews.com about why she decided to enter the pageant world and the importance helping veterans and active military members who could be suffering with post-traumatic stress.
“I grew up in a military family. My father, brother, sister, mother -- all Army," Barber said. "I wouldn’t say I had a very girly childhood and pageantry gives me the opportunity to really indulge in being a woman. So, wear your heels, wear your swimsuits, overdo your makeup, have big curls and lots of hairspray. It just gives me the chance to be really girly, and I think that’s what fascinates me about it. It also gives me the opportunity to promote a platform."
The new Miss USA is raising awareness for veterans' causes, specifically post-traumatic stress.
“There’s all these organizations that are doing amazing things and I want our political figures on Capitol Hill, I want them to make that top priority because 22 soldier -- 22 veterans -- commit suicide each and every day. That’s a catastrophic number," she said. "And it seems as though, I don’t want to say we lost sight of our veterans, I do think that sometimes they’re underappreciated for the sacrifices that they’ve made.”
The beauty queen said if loved ones see a military member acting differently, say something.
“In the military, we’re taught to be strong. We’re taught to be tough so we don’t want to say anything and that’s the problem there, and also what I’ve been pushing is that families pay attention when the soldiers come back, make sure that your friends pay attention," she said. "If something doesn’t seem right you need to say something and you need to not let it go along because they’re not going to say anything a lot of the times because they’re fighting a mental battle and mental scar and they think that if something’s wrong with them and they say something that it’s weakness and it’s not. It’s actually strength.”