Miss USA Deshauna Barber: Mother Cordelia Battles Lung Cancer, Misses Daughter’s Competition

Deshauna Barber, a 26-year-old Army Reserve officer from the D.C., was crowned Miss USA on Sunday night. Barber is in a way, experienced in fighting battles. One battle not so publicly known is Deshauna’s mom Cordelia Barber’s heroic battle with lung cancer.

The beauty queen’s mother, Cordelia, is battling lung cancer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and was unable to make the trip to Las Vegas to watch her daughter compete, according to WRAL News. When Cordelia Barber witnessed her daughter make it to the top five, the family went crazy.

Deshauna Darber Miss USA 2016 Army Officer

“I started sweating, and my stomach got sick…I had to have somebody turn my oxygen up, and I said, ‘Just go ahead and max it out because I can’t breathe.’ I said oh my goodness, this thing is serious.”

deshauna barber miss usa 2016 district of columbia
While watching Deshauna make it to the top three, things got even crazier, according to Dariona Sneed, Deshauna Barber’s older sister.

“When she got to three like, I couldn’t stay still. My legs were shaking. I think it was the longest time I have ever held my breath.”

Barber’s father is a retired Army master sergeant who served in Iraq after September 11, 2001, and her mother, brother, and sister also have military experience.

Barber said in a pre-pageant interview, “I consider it to be a family tradition… It’s something that runs through our veins — patriotism and service for this country.”

The couple has three children who have served in the military, Cordelia says.

“All of my children are doing well, they really are,” Cordelia Barber said. “As a mother, I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”

Deshauna Barber: First Military Member to Win Miss America

Deshaun Barber is now the first military woman and the ninth African-American woman to win the crown of Miss USA. Deshauna beat out 51 women for the title in the Las Vegas T-Mobile Arena on Sunday night. Holding the title of Miss USA, Barber will advance to compete in the Miss Universe contest later this year.

When asked what it means to be confidently beautiful, Deshauna answered, “Serving in the military has taught me that being confidently beautiful is about being able to earn respect from people regardless of what you look like. As a woman in the military, people associate beauty with weakness and they learn very quickly that I’m extremely strong. And although I’m small, I’m powerful and confidently beautiful is being myself and being very happy with who I’ve become.”

Miss USA says she’s discussed going inactive while fulfilling her duties as Miss USA.

“My commander should be watching right now,” Barber revealed to the Associated Press.

“Two days a month is definitely not active duty. It is an obligation that I signed up for, but they are very flexible in the United States Army Reserves.”

Fashion stylist Joe Zee, one of the celebrity judges in the pageant, discussed the Pentagon’s decision to open combat jobs to women. The Army reserve officer-turned-beauty queen was ready to answer.

“As a woman in the United States Army, I think it was an amazing job by our government to allow women to integrate to every branch of the military,” she said, according to her Miss USA profile. “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.”

The newly crowned Miss USA understands #confidentlybeautiful campaign to mean,

“To me confidently beautiful means understanding its not always about your appearance. It’s not always about who you are around and how they feel you look, where they feel you come from or your economic background. Serving in the military has taught me that being confidently beautiful is about being able to earn respect from people regardless of what you look like. As a woman in the military, people associate beauty with weakness and they learn very quickly that I’m extremely strong, and though I’m small, I’m powerful. Confidently beautiful is being myself and being very happy with who I’ve become,” she explained, according to USA Today.

Deshauna Barber says she will spend the rest of her Miss USA reign promoting her causes close to her, including PTSD treatment and suicide prevention for soldiers, according to the Washington Post.

[Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images]