Deshauna Barber On The International Racism She Received As Miss USA: They Said My Skin Looked Like A Poop Emoji

June 5, 2017  |  

2016 Miss Teen USA at The Venetian Resort and Casino – Arrivals
Featuring: Deshauna Barber Miss USA 2016
Where: Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
When: 30 Jul 2016
Credit: Judy Eddy/

Photo Credit: Judy Eddy/

When Deshauna Barber was crowned Miss USA 2016, it set off a whirlwind year of Black Girl Magic, but, as has come to be expected, not everyone was excited about the brown-skinned beauty representing the United States, particularly people abroad.

In a piece on Refinery 29 about her experience as Miss USA from the moment the crown landed on her head to her proudly passing on the title to another curly haired beauty, Kára McCullough, this year, Barber details the racism she endured and that bold choice to showcase her natural mane during this year’s pageant.

“After winning the title, I had people say I was using the military card for my win, along with other hateful things. And while competing for Miss Universe, I had to deal with colorism internationally. A lot of people in different countries considered me ugly because my skin is darker. The darker you are, the poorer you are — or whatever the case may be.

“Competing in Miss Universe and dealing with the fans of competitors in other countries got tough. I had no idea how much racism I would experience from an international standpoint. They’d send me monkey emojis, and say that my skin looked like a poop emoji and tag me in photos with apes… I didn’t speak about it, because I didn’t want to deter anyone from competing. You want to make it seem like everything is happy and hunky-dory, but there are a lot of very challenging moments.
“The internet has become such a hateful tool that people use. That’s why it’s so important for me to have confidence in myself and to push through. I could have let the words of these people really get to me. When you’re doing something that people aren’t used to, some people just won’t like you. I can’t change who I am to make someone else comfortable. If they’re ignorant, then they’re ignorant. There’s nothing I can do to fix that.”
It’s that knowledge that it’s not her job to make other people comfortable with her beauty that pushed Barber to rock her natural fro during her final walk at the Miss USA pageant this year. That, and an urging from her mother.
“My mom always pushed me to wear my natural hair, and I would always would say no. I didn’t think I would be crowned Miss USA if my hair was in its natural state. She’d still push me, because she thought they’d love it. And she was right,” Barber said. Sadly, her mother passed away in August 2016, two months after Barber was crowned.
“I knew that the pageant would be airing on Mother’s Day, and what better way of paying tribute to my mom? It was a huge secret that we kept from production and staff, so everyone onstage saw my Afro at the same time — they were just as shocked as the audience.”
Barber took things one step further and even convinced McCullough to rock her natural curls in this year’s pageant.
“People don’t realize that I’m the one who told Kára she should wear her curls onstage. Kára is my good friend. D.C. is very small, and the pageant community is even smaller. We’ve competed against each other for years. So when she came to my Miss Universe sendoff party with her hair curly, I looked at my director and said, “I think she should wear her hair like that.” Kara was hesitant at first. But after some convincing, it separated her from the group. People could relate to her being comfortable with her natural hair. I think there’s something beautiful about that.”
Check out Barber’s full piece on
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