Miss District of Columbia, Deshauna Barber! The 26-year-old beauty beat out 51 other contestants -- including runner up Miss Hawaii, Chelsea Hardin, and Miss Georgia, Emanii Davis – to take the coveted crown
at Sunday night’s pageant, held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Columbus, Georgia native -- who serves in the military as a Logistics Commander for the 988th Quartermaster Detachment Unit at Fort Meade, Maryland -- was asked about the Pentagon's decision to open up all combat jobs in the armed forces to women, and whether or not the move was made in the interest of political correctness.
"As a woman in the United States Army," Barber began, before having to pause for a wave of cheers from the audience," I think it is 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 does not limit us in the United States Army," she concluded to a cacophony of applause.
However, one question didn't go over so well with the audience, or those watching at home. When Miss Hawaii came up to answer her question, Harper's Bazaar Executive Editor Laura Brown asked a pre-written prompt about who Hardin would be voting for in the upcoming presidential election.
"If the election were held tomorrow, would you vote Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump for president, and why would you choose one over the other?" Brown asked, as a round of boos emanated from the crowd.
Hardin skillfully sidestepped the divisive question, answering, "It doesn't matter what gender, what we need in the United States is someone who represents those of us who don't feel like we have a voice, those of us who want our voices heard. We need a president to push for what is right, and push for what America really needs."
Many viewers decried the question on social media, arguing that it was inappropriate to ask a contestant to publicly reveal who they would be voting for, and chastising the pageant for forcing Hardin into such an unfairly difficult position.
Many of those outraged by the prompt also complimented the 24-year-old contestant for her thoughtful and carefully worded response. It may have been her tact that helped Hardin reach the position of runner-up, over Miss Georgia.
After being crowned the winner by Miss USA 2015
, Olivia Jordon of Oklahoma, Barber could barely contain her excitement as she walked the stage with tears in her eyes as she thanked those who supported her.