BBH talks to Deshauna Barber

When Deshauna Barber was crowned Miss USA 2016 it put a smile on the face of many black women. In a society where darker skin still isn’t completely celebrated, it was a relief to see Miss USA rightfully crown Deshauna. Despite facing racism during her 2016 competition, she remained positive throughout and triumphed. I spoke to Deshauna to hear more about her run up to being crowned Miss USA 2016, her work with World Afro Day 2017 and to find out how she manages to stay looking so flawless!

How did it feel being a black woman and becoming Miss USA 2016?
It was an honour. The moment before they announced that I was the winner I was under the impression they would choose somebody else, just because I hadn’t seen a very dark skinned chocolate woman win Miss USA in over 20 years when Kenya Moore was crowned in 1994. So I wasn’t expecting to win. It was an exciting moment for me and I think for a lot of women my complexion too. I think that sometimes beauty pageants shun out darker toned women in our country so I was very excited to represent that.
During the competition you faced a lot of racism online. How did it make you feel reading those negative comments?
I recieved a lot of racism. There were a lot of people who felt as though I was better off representing “Miss Africa” vs Miss USA and it hurt because I am just as American as anyone else. I serve this country as a soldier and because I have held one of the most patriotic positions you can have in this country, I felt that it was almost a stab in the back. It felt like I put my life on the line for this country and serve my country but now I’m not worthy enough to be Miss USA? But with every bad or negative comment I had about 200 really supportive people out there so I tried to think of it with a ‘glass half full’ mentality.
Throughout your life or throughout modelling have you ever felt any pressure to wear your hair a certain way?
Yes especially being in the military. Army rules surrounding hair have gone through a lot of changes but there was a point in time where twists and dreadlocks were not within army regulations but recently I think in January of this year, twists and other styles have become an acceptable army style for your hair. Before the new regulation came out I did feel as though I really had to hide my hair and the same with pageantry; I have never seen a Miss USA with 4C highly textured hair win the competition. I have actually never seen that type of hair on the Miss USA stage. There have been women that have had curly hair that have won but not with my type of curly hair so it was an exciting moment for me just because I knew that before winning Miss USA I never thought that I would see my type of hair on the stage.
I understand your late mum was a natural hair advocate and you spoke a lot about her during your term, especially when crowning Miss USA 2017. What was the most valuable advice your mum gave you?
She has given me a lot of valuable advice but I would definitely say the best advice she gave me was to be confident in who I am. I think that sometimes when you win titles, especially something as prestigious as Miss USA, you want to conform so that people like you and so that people can accept you. I really just wanted to be who I am and be Deshauna and be confident in that and my mum was really big on pushing me to be comfortable in who I am. I really tried to live by that during my time as Miss USA and not being afraid of who Deshauna is. The reality is that they crowned Deshauna so that means that I am good enough and they love who I am so I shouldn’t be ashamed or feel like I need to hide that
You’re headlining World Afro Day 2017. What prompted you to join the movement?
When I was contacted I thought it was a beautiful thing especially as women with textured hair are not celebrated as much as we should be and I think that being part of a movement such as World Afro Day really encourages women with our texture hair and all textures to really embrace our hair.
Your hair is beautiful, can you tell us what your tips are for keeping it looking good?
Thank you! I try to stay as hydrated as possible and try to drink as much water as I can; at least 1-2 litres a day minimum. I am a big health buff so I drink really healthy smoothies every day consisting of strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, ginger root, lemons, a little bit of yoghurt and half an apple. I aim to drink that every day and not only has it transformed my hair but my skin as well. Our diets have a lot to do with our hair health and it is reflected in the way our hair grows. I do my best to make sure I have a very very healthy diet as well as always wearing protective styles. I try not to wear my hair out as much as possible and I always make sure that it is protected.
I noticed from your Instagram that you wear a lot of different protective hairstyles. Who do you seek hairspiration from?
I do! I’ve never mentioned it but I actually really love Issa Rae, her hairstyles are always so amazing and I take a lot of my inspiration in terms of hairstyles from her.
Being a darker skinned woman have you ever experienced any beauty struggles and do you have a brand that never fails you?
There has been moments where I have felt nervous wearing certain eye-shadows or certain lipsticks. I’ve always been nervous because I know it doesn’t look the greatest on me but I try to be a little bit more brave. Recently I’ve tried being bold and tried testing the waters by taking chances and exploring different looks. MAC is definitely my go to brand and I wear all things MAC. I love their lipsticks and I especially love their foundation. It’s really hard to find my actual colour foundation especially because I have a more yellow than red undertone. I have gone through a good amount of foundation brands that have not been able to match my skin tone until I found the MAC liquid foundation in NW47 which matches me perfectly. It’s the first time I’ve not had to blend a foundation.
To get your hands on tickets for World Afro Day 2017, visit

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