Before she even left the stage in Las Vegas where she’d been crowned Miss USA on Sunday night, Deshauna Barber figured she already had about 200 texts waiting for her.
In the few days since becoming the third Miss DC to win the coveted national title, she’s had hundreds more — from friends, family and members of her Army reserve unit (in addition to being an IT analyst for the Commerce Department, the 26-year-old is a reserve officer based in Fort Meade, Md.). “I hate it when people don’t get back to me, so I’m really trying to answer them all,” she said during an interview Tuesday from her new home, New York City, where she’ll be based during her year-long reign.
Amid all the texting, plus the photo sessions and her other post-pageant interviews, we chatted with Barber about her life in Washington, the 2016 presidential election and her relationship status.
Were you surprised at the reaction to your answer to the judge’s question about women in combat? It was like people didn’t expect you to be so forthright.
As soon as they asked that question, I just smiled because it was so fitting for me, for my background. I knew it was going to be an awesome moment to impact those stereotypes that I’ve been trying to break since I got into pageants. I knew that I could really shake things up.
I’m going to pose the question that Miss Hawaii was asked: Are you voting for Hillary or Trump and why?
I’ve gotten this a lot today. This is what I would have said: My platform that I’ve been pushing has been a focus on veterans’ issues — and I have not heard either candidate discussing what they’re going to do about PTSD, about veterans returning home from deployments … and the backlog at VA hospitals. Until I hear their positions, I’m going to wait.
So you’re undecided?
Pretty much. Though I have heard something recently about Trump raising money for veterans’ groups, and I want to know more. I haven’t been fully educated on that yet.
Do you think that the Trump-or-Hillary question at the pageant was unfair?
No, I thought it was fair. As a titleholder you’re expected to be able to handle questions, whether it’s from journalists or anyone. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I thought she did an amazing job answering that question.
Your answer to the question about women in combat sounded like a feminist’s response. Would you describe yourself as a feminist?
I don’t want to say that … but I’m a proud woman and I believe in the capabilities of women to do just as much as a man can do. Not just in the military — we’re taking over corporate positions, too. There are still a lot of issues where women are being discriminated against — we’re making 77 cents on the dollar, compared to men. But we’re doing a good job showing that we’re capable.
Okay, let’s talk about your life in D.C. What neighborhood do you live in?
I’m in Northeast near Trinidad and near Gallaudet University. It’s a great neighborhood where there are a lot of students, and it’s so cool to see them doing sign language on the sidewalks.
What are your favorite D.C. spots?
I love Gallery Place — there’s a movie theater there, one of the best IMAX theaters, and Lucky Strike, the bowling alley. I’m a movie buff, and I love bowling, even though I’m not very good at it! H Street is one of my favorites — I’m addicted to Ben’s Chili Bowl.
The chili cheese fries?
What was the last movie you saw?
I think it was “Captain America” — I’m not really into superhero movies, but my boyfriend wanted to see it.
What will you do after your year as Miss USA is over?
I want to move into acting. I’ve been in a cubicle for the last five years, and I’ve realized that’s not what I want to do. I want to use my time to pursue the entertainment industry.
What’s your dream role?
Hm — it would be on “Game of of Thrones” — maybe that’s because it’s my favorite show. Or “The Walking Dead” — to be in that apocalyptic world, I would love that.
You mentioned a boyfriend …
Yes, he’s Mr. USA now. We’re lucky that he’s in D.C., so it’s just a 2½-hour train ride. We’re going to be fine. He’s been incredibly supportive.