Miss Nevada, who has a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo, won the title of Miss USA 2014 in Baton Rouge on Sunday night.
Nia Sanchez, 24, of Las Vegas wore a red fishtail gown as she was presented with her sash, bouquet and crown. Prior to the big reveal, she was seen in a nervous embrace with first runner-up Miss North Dakota Audra Mari.
Other runners-up in the pageant – which is owned by Donald Trump – included Miss Georgia Tiana Griggs, Miss Louisiana Brittany Guidry, Miss Florida Brittany Oldehoff and Miss Iowa Carlyn Bradarich.
Winner: Miss Nevada USA Nia Sanchez, pictured, won the Miss USA crown on Sunday night
As the winner of the 63rd Miss USA pageant, Sanchez will move on to the Miss Universe 2014 pageant later this year.
The pageant queen, who works as a full-time model, referenced her martial arts knowledge in two interviews during Sunday night’s televised competition.
When asked about the security detail guarding the pageant contestants, Sanchez said her black belt gave her a sense of security and self-confidence, but added that she didn’t mind having the guards on hand.
Fighter: Sanchez, seen in her taekwondo uniform, has a fourth-degree black belt
Strutting her stuff: Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez takes the runway during the evening gown portion of the pageant
In the second interview, Sanchez was asked by Rumer Willis about a statistic that says 19% of female college students in the US are sexually assaulted, why universities may try to hide the issue and what can be done to fix the problem.
‘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 in public,’ Sanchez said in reply.
‘More awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves,’ she added.
‘Myself, as a fourth-degree black belt, I learned at a young age that you need to be confident and be able to defend yourself. And I think that’s something we should really implement for a lot of women.’
Sexual assault awareness had been a speaking point throughout the competition for Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto, who placed among the top 20 contestants.
Gatto had been open with the fact that she was the product of rape after a man threatened her mother at knifepoint at age 19.
‘If you know me, you know that I have always been vocal about my story and an advocate for sexual assault and rape,’ Gatto wrote on her Facebook page on Friday. ‘Now, to see everything unfold to the world, it is fulfilling and life changing.’
Contestants came from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. They were judged on their performances in the evening gown and swimsuit rounds, as well as personal interviews.
Advocate: Miss Pennsylvania 2014 Valerie Gatto, pictured, also mentioned sexual assault awareness throughout the competition.
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