Nia Sanchez wants to move on from controversy following her recent coronation as Miss USA to more important things: volunteering and helping children and women through her new high-profile platform.
The 24-year-old Latina told Fox News Latino Monday that she is really excited about finally getting started with her philanthropic work after she finishes her whirlwind media tour.
“Being Miss USA, you have so much more influence than you did before because you are on a different platform,” Sanchez said. “So I am really excited to have this change in my life to be part of something good – encouraging women.”
After Miss Nevada won the pageant, questions were raised about her true connection to the state. There were suggestions that she met the minimum pageant residency requirements and didn’t actually live in the Nevada. She has adamantly denied the allegations.
The controversy over her residency was followed by ridicule over her response to a question about sexual abuse on college campuses, when she said women need to learn to “protect themselves.”
Sanchez told FNL that while her answer did cause controversy, she only thinks about it in a positive way.
“I joined Taekwondo when I was 8 years old… it became something I fell in love with and I do plan on using it to help with women’s encouragement and empowerment,” she said. “And no, nobody has to train in it for 12 years like I did or jujitsu, but I think it’s healthy and helpful to know escape techniques and equip yourself to get out of a tough situation.”
Along with empowering women as Miss USA, Sanchez wants to continue the work she has done in shelters in Nevada and California and take a page from her mission work in Mexico.
“I did mission work very consistently throughout high school and also after high school,” she said. “My home church, they did mission trips every three months in Mexico so we would bring food and bicycles and clothes and shoes and we would really support the communities in the area that we would go to south of Ensenada. It was wonderful and I really enjoyed it.”
Sanchez is half-Mexican half-European – something she very proud of and nothing she would ever change. But she said she has been asked to change her name and identity before.
“I had someone once tell me, ‘You know you are doing well in pageants, but you’re not as successful as you want to be. Maybe if you don’t use Sanchez as your last name, you’ll do better,’” she said. “And I was shocked. I was born and raised Nia Sanchez. Why would I want to change who I am?”
She said she is proud of her cultural heritage.
“I am Hispanic and I am also German and European and I love both parts of my culture,” she said.
That being said, Sanchez does not now Spanish. But that’s something she wants to work on.
“I know the basics. I can go to the restroom and say please and thank you and hello and my name, but I am going to be studying it more this year and my roommate is the ex-Miss Venezuela, now Miss Universe (Gabriela Isler),” she said. “So I am hoping to pick some up from her.”
Lucia I. Suarez Sang is a Reporter for FoxNews.com.
Follow her on Twitter @luciasuarezsang