After a “whirlwind” weekend, Amy Dominguez-Heithoff is glad the rest of the world can finally see what she has known all along.
“Sophia’s been our princess since Day 1. But seeing the whole nation recognize her talent, beauty, inner beauty, humility, graciousness and desire to do good for this world, it’s exhilarating,” her mother says.
Her daughter, Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff of Parkville, won the Miss Teen USA 2017 pageant Saturday in Phoenix, besting 50 other competitors representing the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Competing as Miss Missouri, the 17-year-old delivered strong performances in preliminary interviews and the active wear and evening gown competitions and placed in the pageant’s Top 5 alongside contestants from Oregon, Nevada, California and Indiana.
She secured the crown after a stellar question-and-answer portion, detailing her commitment to justice, including her work to establish Community and Scholars Cooperatively (CASC), an organization focused on making community service fun and easy for teenagers and lobbying the Missouri General Assembly for better care for adults with developmental disabilities.
“The experience was absolutely spectacular,” her mom says.
Her community service work was partially inspired by a relative who has Down syndrome.
“I would love to be the Miss Teen USA that could accept everyone, especially for their differences,” she says in her bio.
Sophia graduated from Park Hill South High School one year early and will soon begin her freshman year at the University of Kansas studying political science and ethics.
Her mother, along with Sophia’s dad, Andrés, brother Cayo and “an entourage of friends and family” made the trek down to Phoenix to cheer Sophia in person.
“It’s just been a whirlwind,” says her father.
Elsewhere, her mom says, family and friends around the world, including Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Germany, tuned in to support her.
This 35th Miss Teen USA pageant is run under the umbrella of the Miss Universe Organization, alongside Miss USA and Miss Universe. Miss Teen USA’s contestants range in age from 14 to 19. Unlike its sister pageants, it is not broadcast on television but streamed on the Miss Teen USA website.
This is the second time this year a Kansas Citian has found success in a Miss Universe pageant. Earlier this year, Bayleigh Dayton of Lee’s Summit represented Missouri at the Miss USA pageant, placing in the Top 10 and winning “Miss Congeniality.”
Bayleigh’s family traveled to Phoenix to support Sophia (a return favor after Sophia’s family traveled to Las Vegas over Mother’s Day to support Bayleigh).
“She’s so well-rounded and down-to-earth. As beautiful as she is outside, she’s just as beautiful inside,” says Sophia’s cousin Liz Hernandez of Kansas City, Kan., who attended a watch party with other relatives to watch Sophia take the crown.
“When they announced she had won, oh my gosh,” Hernandez said. “We were screaming like she was our own daughter.”
As the winner, Sophia will receive a $10,000 scholarship and $5,000 in cash.
Includes reporting by The Star’s Lily Oppenheimer.