Sanchez, 24, won the title of Miss USA 2014 on June 8 at the Baton Rouge River Center in Louisiana.
“I’m so excited. It’s a dream come true,” Sanchez said after the three-hour pageant that was televised on NBC. She represented the state of Nevada where she now lives.
Dressed in a vibrant red gown, Sanchez seemed to cinch the title after confidently answering a judge’s question about how to solve sexual assaults of female students on college campuses. She responded that it was important for women to defend themselves and bring awareness to the issue.
“I think more awareness is very important so women can learn how to protect themselves,” she said. “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.”
At the age of 8, Sanchez started taekwondo lessons to learn self-defense and build her confidence. She became a certified instructor with a fourth-degree black belt. Her father David Sanchez, Sr. owns the Menifee Martial Arts Academy and she taught there.
Sanchez beat out 50 other contestants from all the states and the District of Columbia for the title of 63rd Miss USA. She will represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe competition later this year.
Her other past titles include Miss Menifee Valley 2008, Miss Citrus Valley USA 2009, Miss Riverside County USA 2011 and Miss Hollywood USA 2012. She also competed in Miss California USA 2010 and was 2nd runner-up.
She said she’s proud to bring the Miss USA title back to Nevada. Sanchez won the Miss Nevada title in January and was determined to be the first Nevada contestant to win the Miss USA title since the pageant began in 1952. She moved to Las Vegas last year.
Anne Bowman, director of the Southwest California Pageant and Miss City of Menifee Scholarship Pageant, has known Sanchez since 2008 and is happy about her new title.
“She put Menifee on the map,” Bowman said. She added that Sanchez will do well in her role as Miss USA because she’s charming and comfortable meeting and speaking to people.
The Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce’s CEO Dorothy Wolons called Sanchez Menifee’s latest superstar. “It’s exciting to know that great things can come out of small places like Menifee,” she said.
Sanchez, who was born in Sacramento, moved to Menifee with her younger brother when she was 8 following her parents’ divorce. She was raised by her father.
She attended Callie Kirkpatrick Elementary School, Menifee Middle School and Paloma Valley High School where she was a cheerleader and homecoming queen in 2007. She graduated in 2008. She also attended Mt. Jacinto Community College for a while.
Sanchez visits family and friends in Menifee about once a month, but now that she’s Miss USA, her visits will be less frequent. She’s planning a brief visit in September, according to Bowman, and the city will probably honor her achievement in some way.
She misses Menifee now that she’s older and has traveled to 12 countries. She appreciates the city’s small hometown vibe every time she visits. “I really love it,” she said.
After her reign as Miss USA, Sanchez plans to go back to college. She received a $46,000 scholarship as Miss Nevada and gets a scholarship to the New York Film Academy as Miss USA. She said her major is still undecided, but she knows that she wants a career working with children. She’s considering becoming a psychology major so she can counsel youth.
Sanchez has a steady beau, but will have to wait to marry him after her reign as Miss USA is over. Her beau is actor Daniel Booko who has had movie roles in the “The Hunger Games,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
For the next year, she’s going to in New York City and keep busy fulfilling her dream job as Miss USA.