BEAUTY QUEEN Deshauna Barber has opened up for the first time about the volume of racist messages she received since being crowned Miss USA in June.
The army reserve officer spoke to The Huffington Post to discuss the importance of her win for young black girls but to also share how racist trolls left her discouraged and questioning her “self worth.”
"I faced a lot of backlash when I was crowned. I had no idea of the backlash I would face,” she said.
“I don’t want to say I felt shielded because I was in the military, but I felt like the respect that I would be given because of the fact that I wear the uniform and I serve this country and so has my family, the sacrifices that we’ve made, I just knew that everyone would just be ‘whoo whoo’ and ‘We love Deshauna, she represents this country.’ And I have been positively received, but there’s been a lot of negative.”
She added: "I was called tar monkey [and] the n-word. I had a lot of moments where people thought I was better off being Miss Africa USA versus Miss USA. And to me, it was very discouraging."
The 26-year-old recalls seeing her social media followers multiply after receiving her crown, but said she was initially shocked at the negativity and admitted the negative responses made her question her self-worth.
She said: “I went from maybe 800 followers on Instagram to 30, 40,000 in less than two hours. I went from being someone just sitting in a cubicle being a government contractor and having my weekend in the military, to being kind of tossed in the spotlight. I had to really re-evaluate how I feel emotionally about myself and the confidence I have. Because there are moments where I was like, ‘Man, am I really that ugly? Do people really feel like I don’t deserve to represent this crown?’ But there’s a lot of little black and brown girls that are looking up to me that are saying, ‘You know what? She looks like me.'”
With the help of supporters and her close family and friends Barber has been able to overcome the hurdle to continue her reign as the current Miss USA.
As part of her duties, Barber has been inspired to reach out to other young people to discuss self esteem and self love.
“I really had to understand that I’m an American woman and I can be Miss USA,” she said.
“Just because my skin is black doesn’t mean I’m ugly. I really had to think about that long and hard. I thank my mum and my boyfriend and my siblings for being able to help my self-esteem raise.
I had some really hard days the month and weeks after because of the amount of messages I was getting that were so negative and hurtful, and the amount of racism I faced. Just the social media part of it was so difficult. But I am so happy that I was really able to build my confidence and understand, ‘You know what? Deshauna, you are a queen. You have to stand up. You have to represent that.’ And I want to push and make other women that look like me understand that you are beautiful and that I’m glad I’m able to represent us.”