(NEW YORK) — As the first-ever crowned Miss USA to be in the military, it's safe to say Deshauna Barber is breaking barriers with beauty and brains.
"You do have your pageant stereotypes as being an airhead, being uneducated, not having a career," Barber of the District of Columbia told Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts during an exclusive interview.
"And then on the military side, you have women stereotypes as being unattractive, being very masculine and I feel like both sides of the spectrum, I'm absolutely breaking the stereotypes."
Barber, 26, entered the Miss USA competition as a first lieutenant in the Army Reserve.
Barber's parents both have military experience. Her father served for 24 years and met Barber's mother while in the military. Barber's brother and sister also serve.
"They were a little bit taken [aback] that I even considered pageantry, but they've all been so supportive," Barber said.
"I committed to the military at 17 by going in the ROTC program at my school and I commissioned as an officer in 2011, so I'm actually the only officer of all of us... so, they're like, 'We will never salute you,'" she joked.
Barber had the audience on their feet during a drop-the-mic moment at the June 5 pageant in Las Vegas, when she was asked about gender equality in combat.
"We are just as tough as men," she proudly said in her response. "As a commander of my unit, I'm powerful. I am dedicated and it is important that we recognize that gender does not limit us in the United States Army."
Following her victory, Barber said she had 250 congratulatory text messages, some from her fellow soldiers.
"They're very excited for me," she said. "My unit is extremely supportive and it's just been awesome."
As she begins her reign as Miss USA, Barber admits she's still stunned to have achieved the crown.
"In that moment...I was next to one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen and Chelsea, Miss Hawaii, USA, and I just felt very flattered that they decided that I was the candidate," Barber said. "I was the person that they thought would be the best representation of the Miss Universe organization as Miss USA so it's surreal."
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