Seven Questions for Miss Nevada/USA Nia Sanchez

The pageant winner on taking aim at Miss Universe, empowering women and her ultimate dream job

Miss USA 2014How’s your preparation going for the Miss Universe Pageant in Florida on January 25? 

I’ve started to try to eat healthier now. After Miss USA [in June], I was like, “I’m going to eat Nutella as much as I want.” But I’m getting back on track. I’m lucky that my roommate is the current Miss Universe, so I can ask her some questions to help me out with it.

What are you most confident about going in? 

Personality—that’s a lot of the competition. You have to be beautiful and physically fit, but the Miss Universe organization has to be able to work with you for a year. I’m just fun and outgoing and friendly. And that’s a good thing when you have to do lots of interviews and meet people of all different types of backgrounds.

I’m the type of person who wants to talk to everybody, but that’s going to be a problem [at the competition] because there are going to be some people who speak only Spanish or Chinese or Japanese. I’m going to be sitting there trying to use the three words of Japanese that I know to make a conversation.

What have you learned in your run as Miss USA? 

That it’s really not about you, but more about other people. We are so involved in charities and different organizations; you have to really want to give back. If you go into the job and don’t want to do community service and don’t want to give back and be involved with others, it’s probably not the best job for you. I like that part of it.

I get to work with Shade Tree, raising money and working with women and children. We did a Royalty Day when I had my homecoming. We’re looking at working with Walk of Hope, a fundraiser for Shade Tree, next year. Almost every time I come back, I get to do a little bit of something. I love that [Miss USA] let’s me work on the [charities] that are important to me as well.

 Your answer at the Miss USA competition about colleges hiding the rate of sexual assaults drew a lot of attention. What do you emphasize when speaking?

Something that has been close to my heart is empowerment of women. I have been so blessed to be encouraged by women in my life who have helped build me up and be more confident. That’s something I want to be able to do for others, whether it’s talking about self-defense or talking to someone who got out of a really bad relationship.

There was some controversy about whether you lived in Nevada long enough at the time of the competition. Do you feel like you’ve had a chance to resolve that? 

Once people saw all the facts—anybody could really look at it and go, “Oh, OK, she’s lived all around the world and was in Nevada most recently”—it makes sense.  I’ve gotten to tell my side of it. It’s all done; it’s all in the past.

 What are your best tips for competing in a pageant? 

Be confident. You can’t look at another girl and go, “Oh, my gosh, she’s going to win.” Know that you’re going to do the absolute best you can. Be yourself. Judges can tell if you’re trying to be someone else [or saying something] you think they want to hear. The judges can tell if you’re having a good time or if you’re scared.

What about everyday beauty tips?

Sunblock, lots of sunblock. Keep sunblock on all day, every day so you look young even into your older years. Taking care of your skin is so important.

How did you feel when you were crowned Miss USA?

It was overwhelming—amazing joy! It was so exciting, goodness gracious. It was a joyful blur. I just loved every single moment. I knew my life was changing. I couldn’t wait to move to New York and just have the whole entire year of experiences.

Have you met any memorable people during your reign?

I’ve met so many it’s hard to pick one, but if I were to go off of interviews on TV of people that I’ve met, Kelly Ripa is one of my favorites. She’s so nice and friendly—exactly how she seems on TV she is in person.

I hope to meet Shania Twain. I have been a fan as long as I can remember. I remember being in second grade knowing every single word to every single song that was out on her newest release. I’ve seen Celine Dion in Las Vegas but not Shania Twain, so it has to happen.

What was it about the competition that inspired you to pursue it for so long?

I love competition. I did taekwondo in my youth, and I liked the competition aspect of it. It gives you something to strive for. That was the main reason, but I made so many friends, so even though I didn’t win, which was many a time up until this point, I liked the friendships that I made through it.

Did you have a lot of women mentors in taekwondo?

There were more men, but there were women at the national tournaments whom I [admired].  I’d be like, “I want to be like her one day—she is so good!” I was lucky to talk to a few of them and be encouraged by them, but there weren’t any that trained at my school. My encouragement just in general has come from my pageant girlfriends. Miss USA 2009 Kristen Dalton—I was really lucky to meet her at a social gathering. She’s always been really encouraging and uplifting.

What are you most looking forward to in the next few months outside of the actual competition?

I’m excited for the holidays in New York City. I haven’t been in a big city that was snowy all the time. I get to be in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. I got to have Christmas in the city.

Will you come back to Nevada after your reign?

I am so torn! My heart wants to go back to Las Vegas, but I really love New York. Long term, I think I’ll be in L.A. when I get married, because my fiancé is living in L.A.

What do you hope to pursue after your reign has ended? 

I want do entertainment-type hosting—red-carpet interviews, things like that. I’ve done a national commercial, and I would like to continue in that type of field. But long term I would be so happy if I could just be a stay-at-home mom, maybe do like a small job here and there on the side to be able to have a family and settle down. That’s down the road, though.

Miss Nevada USA

Sanchez will help crown her successor as Miss Nevada at 7 p.m. Nov. 23, Artemus W. Ham Concert Hall, $45-$70, 702-895-2787,

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