The New Miss USA Defended Gender Equality In The Military Because Women Are “Just As Tough As Men”

Miss District of Columbia, Deshauna Barber, was crowned Miss USA 2016 Sunday, and on top of being a stunning beauty queen, she’s also an Army Reserve officer and IT analyst. The 26-year-old turned the event that usually revolves around sparkly dresses, high heels, and beach-ready bikini bods (whatever that means) into a much more powerful feminist platform. When asked about women serving in the military during the question portion of the pageant, Miss USA declared, “We are just as tough as men.”

At the live event in Las Vegas, judge Joe Zee from Yahoo Fashion asked Miss D.C.: “The Pentagon recently made the decision to open up all combat jobs to women. Now some have questioned… whether this has put political correctness over our military’s ability to perform at the highest level. What are your thoughts?”

Like the kickass goddess that she is, Barber perfectly maintained her composure while strongly defending women’s right to serve in combat. “As a woman in the United States Army,” Barber said to much applause. “I think it was an amazing job by our government to allow women to integrate into every branch of the military. We are just as tough as men. As a commander of my unit, I am powerful, I am dedicated and it is important that we recognize that gender doesn’t limit us in the United States Army.”

Barber, who comes from a military family, was commissioned as a Quartermaster Officer in 2011 and is currently a Logistics Commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit at Fort Meade, Maryland, as well as an IT analyst for the U.S. Department of Commerce, according to her pageant bio. She is the first-ever military member to win Miss USA, though she’ll take leave from the Army Reserves now that she’s won, U.S. News reports.

She only serves two days a month right now, which she said is “definitely not active duty” at a press conference following her big win. “It is an obligation that I signed up for, but they are very flexible in the United States Army Reserves,” she said.

2016 Miss USA Competition - Show
CREDIT: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The new Miss USA is committed to veterans’ issues and wants to use her new title to help address suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Americans who served in the military. When the pageant judges asked her about the current presidential hopefuls, she brought up her passion once again, saying they need to focus on veterans’ issues more. “I think that a lot of the topics that they discuss isn’t as important,” Barber said on stage, donning a gold gown.

Winning such a prestigious pageant gives Barber the attention and resources to raise awareness about women in the military and the struggles veterans face. Directly addressing stereotypes about both beauty pageant contestants and female military members, she proved her strength in both roles.