Miss USA: 'I’ll Always Be the Girl Next Door From Menifee'

Despite winning the crown earlier this month, Miss USA Nia Sanchez said she'll always be the gir...

Despite winning the crown earlier this month, Miss USA Nia Sanchez said she'll always be the girl from Menifee.

Sanchez, 24, grew up in Menifee before moving to Nevada -- the state she represented when crowned Miss USA on June 9. Today, in an exclusive interview with Menifee 24/7, the former Menifee resident turned beauty queen talks candidly about being raised by a single parent, going back to school and practicing Christianity. She also reveals who's following closely in her footsteps.

You were raised by your father from age 8 to high school. What was it like to leave your mother and move to the Menifee Valley?

“I remember being nervous at first, but it ended up being a really good thing. I feel like I’m really balanced now because of the way I was raised with my dad. He’s in the military, he was raised in a military family, he worked in a prison as a sergeant, and he owns a taekwondo studio. I learned how to be very aware of my surroundings and to be very independent. I had my mom who was always there for me as well, even though she was in Washington. I got the best of both worlds.”

Your father raised you and your brother all by himself?

"Yes. We did have my grandparents as well, who would help watch us when he had to go to work and everything. But yes, he raised us as a single parent."

That's interesting that you were raised by your father. You'd think most children would want to be with their mother during a separation.

“It was a court decision that the children weren’t really involved with. I think it was just that he was the breadwinner and had a full-time job and the finances to really be able to take care of us, and my mom was still getting on her feet and everything. It’s how I was raised, so I don’t know anything different. But it worked for me and my brother, and we both love our parents so much.”

What do you remember most about your childhood in Menifee?

"The first thing that comes to mind is playing with my friends. We played in the park right next to the Callie Kirkpatrick Elementary School. We lived right in that area, so we could literally hear my dad call for us when it was time to come home. So I just remember playing in the park, running around the lake and spending time with my friends."

Do you ever miss being here?

"I do now. I remember when I was 18 and I had been to Europe and I had already moved to Washington, and I was trying to figure out what to do next. I was like, 'I don't want to go to Menifee; it's such a small town!' That was my 18-year-old mentality saying, 'I have to do something else!' But I feel like as I’ve grown up, I’ve come to appreciate the hometown feeling and every time I come home, it’s a cozy feeling, like you