It would be wise not to get on the bad side of Miss USA 2014: She holds a fourth degree back belt in taekwondo! At the 63rd annual Miss USA pageant—broadcast live on Sunday, June 9 from the Baton Rouge Civic Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana—Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez walked away with the coveted crown.
The pretty martial artist, 24, defeated 50 other beauty queens to win this year's pageant following swimsuit, evening gown and interview portions. and explained that she took up taekwondo as a means to defend herself and bolster her confidence after spending time as a young girl in a women's shelter with her mom.
Today, Sanchez volunteers at similar shelters and teachers women and kids to defend themselves against what she called "stranger danger" "I relate to them on a personal level because I've been there myself," she said.
Sanchez also avoided typical beauty-pageant-embarassment when fielding tricky questions from celeb judges. Judge Rumer Willis asked about the high rate of sexual assault on college campuses.
"I believe that some colleges may potentially be afraid of having a bad reputation and that would be a reason it could be swept under the rug, because they don't want that to come out into the public," she said. "But I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves. Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned from a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that's something that we should start to really implement for a lot of women."
Given the crown by Miss USA 2013 Erin Brady, Sanchez bested first runner-up Audra Mari (Miss North Dakota) plus fellow finalists Miss Georgia, Miss Louisiana, Miss Florida and Miss Iowa. Sanchez will go on to compete in the Miss Universe competition this fall.