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Miss Nevada Nia Sanchez, 24, crowned as 63rd Miss USA

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Newly-crowned Miss USA Nia Sanchez, a fourth-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of taekwondo, says that women need to be able to defend themselves as a way to battle the problem of campus rape and that bringing awareness to the issue is very important.

The 24-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada, beat out 50 other contestants from all the states and the District of Columbia on Sunday night for the title of 63rd Miss USA. First runner-up was Miss North Dakota Audra Mari. Sanchez will go on to represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe competition later this year.

Nia Sanchez Crowned Miss USA 2014

In a vibrant red floor-length fishtail gown, Miss Nevada answered judge Rumer Willis' question about the high rate of sexual assaults on college campuses. Willis, the 25-year-old daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, said 19 percent of U.S. undergraduate women are victims of sexual assault and asked Sanchez why she thinks the issue is being swept under the rug and what should be done about it.

Sanchez said women need to take it upon themselves to learn how to defend themselves. After being crowned, Sanchez told reporters she lived for a time in a women's shelter at a young age with her mother and at age 8 took up taekwondo to learn self-defense and build up her confidence.

As an adult, she has volunteered at women's shelters, teaching residents how to defend themselves and teaching kids about "stranger danger."

"I relate to them on a personal level because I've been there myself," she said, adding that she plans to take her passion and knowledge for martial arts to the masses as Miss USA.

Sanchez also said she was "so proud to bring the title of Miss USA back to Nevada."

"I'm so excited," she said. "It's a dream come true."

Erin Brady, of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, the 2013 winner, gave up her crown to Sanchez after a three-hour telecast from the Baton Rouge Civic Center in Louisiana. Besides Mari, the next four runners-up, judged on interviews, evening gowns and swimsuits were: Miss Georgia Tiana Griggs, Miss Louisiana Brittany Guidry, Miss Florida Brittany Oldehoff and Miss Iowa Carlyn Bradarich. All the titles included USA after the state.

Bradarich got a second chance when the viewing audience gave her the most votes on Twitter in the pageant's first-ever "Save the Queen" option.

The subject of sexual assault was also on the mind of Miss Pennsylvania Valerie Gatto. She made headlines this week when she said she was the product of rape. During a taped segment that aired when her name was called, Gatto said her mother was 19 when she was attacked leaving work in Pittsburgh and became pregnant.

Gatto said she is living proof "that your circumstances do not define your life."

First runner-up Mari said she overcame being bullied in high school by competing in ice hockey. The Fargo, North Dakota, native wore a green floor-length evening gown and in her final interview talked about the importance of getting an education and going to college.

Contestants entered the stage on a glitzy float as Louisiana native singer-songwriter Marc Broussard sang the New Orleans hits "Iko Iko" and "Hey Pocky Way" to kick off the 2014 contest. The women introduced themselves while holding Mardi Gras masks in their hands as purple, green and gold confetti fell in the background.

The pageant also included musical acts by the country music duo Florida Georgia Line, rapper Nelly and Latin pop band Camila.

Celebrity judges walked a red carpet in evening gowns and tuxedos before the start of the show, posing for pictures and talking about the qualities they would be looking for in the beauty they crown the winner.

"It's very important that she has confidence," said Barbara Palacios, Miss Universe 1986 and a coach and judge for the new Telemundo reality show, "Miss Latina Universo." ''The right attitude and perseverance are also very important."

"It's all about the eyes," said Lance Bass of the pop singing boy group NSYNC. "I just want to see a girl that is just really having a good time up there."

Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe Organization, which includes the Miss USA pageant, also walked the red carpet.

Join the discussion

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kell2024 June 09 2014 at 3:48 AM

What the hell is Rumer Willis doing there and as a judge yet...give me strength....

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28 replies
jbdavidson June 09 2014 at 7:40 AM

Her advice on women defending themselves by taking martial arts is ill advised. Yes, it's sounds good on paper, but unless you have a black belt or compete in the MMA women will get a false sense of security and perhaps not take safety precautions such as walking with a friend, etc. The average woman has no chance against even an average man regardless of skill.
Better advice....buy a big dog or a gun.

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31 replies
Angela9 June 09 2014 at 2:55 AM

Congrats Miss Nevada! You are so right. I would say the younger a girl can learn self-defense the better!

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2 replies
ALLEN Angela9 June 09 2014 at 6:51 AM

They are still so light in the asss theres no way they can defend there self.

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24 replies
ricks1951f1 Angela9 June 09 2014 at 7:49 AM

I could not agree more. I have two grands kids in taekwondo already 5 & 7 years old.

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1 reply
Paul ricks1951f1 June 09 2014 at 4:53 PM

I have a 17 year old third degree black belt in Taek wondo, and he is taking it very seriously too. He also has a couple of nun-chuck from China. That is the real one and he can handle them too. Very fast. I am proud of him. He never picks a fight but many times defends the week

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malebub26 June 09 2014 at 6:12 AM

What...I thought California Chrome was the most likely to win. Sorry...different horse race.

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5 replies
vincent.barnes1 June 09 2014 at 3:05 AM

NOW eat something and keep it down.....

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3 replies
You've got IT! June 09 2014 at 3:18 AM

Donald Trump is such a dinosaur and the girls cannot stand being around him. Sigh.

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4 replies
You've got IT! June 09 2014 at 3:19 AM

The girls need their self-defense classes to handle Trump.

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1 reply
Paul You've got IT! June 09 2014 at 4:54 PM

Also slick Willy

Flag Reply +1 rate up
willande0@gmail.com June 09 2014 at 3:50 AM


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7 replies
artdmainman June 09 2014 at 3:32 AM

Not a bad looking broad, but I've seen better looking women that anchor the news.

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10 replies
texastotenmom June 09 2014 at 2:50 PM


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1 reply
princessamphrodite texastotenmom June 09 2014 at 5:19 PM

Unless you were born to two full blooded Native American parents... your ancestors were illegal immigrants......

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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