MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The U.S. candidate in the Miss Universe pageant said Wednesday she did not vote for Donald Trump but she hopes the president-elect can unify Americans at a “nerve-wracking” point in U.S. history.
Deshauna Barber, a 27-year-old Army officer from the District of Columbia, expressed confidence America can hurdle its political difficulties after “one of the most controversial elections I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Barber is among 86 candidates vying for the Miss Universe crown on Jan. 30 in Manila, where journalists asked her about Trump’s victory and inauguration on Friday.
“Although everyone may not agree, including myself, with the election, I still support the commander-in-chief and I plan to until the end of his reign in office,” Barber told The Associated Press in an interview. “I just hope that we’re able to give him a chance.”
“It’s quite nerve-wracking because it’s just kind of the unknown at this point,” she said. “But I have a lot of faith in the United States of America and I truly believe that our country is going to jump these hurdles and that we’re gonna be better.”
Barber said she’s hoping Trump will be able to focus on unifying Americans and “my greatest fear is that won’t happen.”
Barber, whose parents also served in the Army, is the first soldier named Miss USA. A logistics commander who hasn’t yet been deployed in a combat zone, she said she hoped to be eventually because “that is what comes with the job.”
Her entry in a beauty pageant from the army, two worlds which are “in utter opposite,” reflects her versatility, Barber said. Other candidates include a lawyer, a scientist, a sociologist and an agricultural expert in a diverse collective that breaks stereotypes of women, she said.
If she becomes Miss Universe, she said she’ll work to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder of troops returning from war.
The attention on pageant candidates and winners allow them to espouse crucial issues, making the contest relevant, Barber said, citing how the current title holder, Pia Wurtzbach from the Philippines, has campaigned for wider awareness about the spread of HIV.
“We’re more than swimsuits, we’re more than crowns, we’re more than evening gowns,” Barber said. “We are women that use these crowns as a way to have a platform to discuss our cause.”