The Miss USA contest will air Sunday night despite significant fallout following Donald Trump's controversial remarks about Mexico and immigrants; NBC and Univision are no longer airing the program; it is airing on the Reelz network.
Three of the Latina contestants spoke to NBC News about family, culture and (we had to ask!) participating in the contest despite the controversy surrounding Trump.
Miss New York, Tathiana Diaz, Miss California, Natasha Martinez and Miss Texas, Ylianna Guerra are all of Hispanic heritage. All three are born and raised in the United States and speak both Spanish and English.
Here’s what they had to say:
The American Dream: Miss New York On Her Family
With parents that were born in the Dominican Republic, Miss New York, Tathiana Diaz, says she learned the emphasis of hard work through her parents.
“They got a job once they got off the plane,” said Diaz, who has a bachelor's degree in communications.
The 22-year-old’s mom is an executive on Wall Street and her dad owns his own business in the Bronx, but the young Latina said it didn’t start that way.
“My mom started in the mailroom and then moved up...now she’s at the top,” said Diaz. “My dad at first helped his brother’s company and now he has his own.”
Diaz hopes to follow those steps in her own career.
“You have to work hard no matter what,” said Diaz. “We’ve always made that important and it is in all cultures but especially in Latino cultures.”
Miss California On Her Bustling Latino Household
For Miss California, Natasha Martinez, her household is filled with people at all times. The 23-year-old Mexican and Nicaraguan, who is an on-air TV host at KDOC-TV, lives with 7 family members, not including their two dogs and tortoise and her aunt that lives down the street.
On a normal day, it could be hectic.
“I would come home from school everyday to my grandmother doing squats in the kitchen and telling me not to eat too many tortillas,” said Martinez.
Growing up, Martinez understandably wanted her own space but now she says she’s beginning to appreciate her family more.
“I wouldn’t be the woman I am today and have my character without my family,” said Martinez.
Miss Texas: Tradition and Respect
Ylianna Guerra, Miss Texas, is a strong believer in knowing and appreciating one's roots, family and respect.
“The way I was raised, my parents never wanted me to forget my roots,” said Guerra. The 22-year-old Mexican-American, who graduated with a bachelor's in communications, recalled the mariachis at family parties and the annual tamales that she ate during Christmastime.
“Respect is number one,” added the Texan contestant, "...the respect you have for your parents and grandparents is huge in our culture.”
Despite Controversy, Proud of Latina Representation
All three contestants said they had received outside pressure to quit the pageant but each said they never felt like they were going to drop out.
“There is a big representation of Latinos in this nation,” said Tathiana Diaz, Miss New York. “We need to focus on the contestants and not Trump and not politics…I think we need to stand on that stage and show how hard working we are and what we are made of.”
“The controversy is pretty much behind us. Miss USA is not a political platform, it is about being a good representative of the United States,” said Ylianna Guerra Miss Texas. “This thing with Donald Trump, that’s the least of my worries.”
“Immigrants come to this country from another country and I am a good example of that. I am a college graduate and both of my brothers are in college as well,” said Natasha Martinez, Miss California. “That is the outcome of what immigrants do when they come to this country.”