The newly-crowned Miss Kansas USA knows pageants are not just about beauty but are more about being of service to one’s community.
Story by Ann Butenas
Her last name is certainly a recognizable one, but it is not one that wholly defines her. When you first meet Gracie Hunt, 22, if you sense a down-to-earth, energetic, determined and selfless individual, then please do not waver from that initial conclusion. Yes, she was born into a high-profile family, but despite that enduring legacy, it definitely appears Gracie is creating one of her own.
While Sunday, February 2, 2020 may be etched in the minds of many Kansas City Chiefs fans as the day the NFL team won Super Bowl LIV, that unforgettable date in history may have just met its match. On Sunday, April 11, 2021, Gracie, daughter of Tavia and Clark Hunt, co-owner and CEO of the NLF team and granddaughter of the legendary Lamar Hunt, founder of the Chiefs, won the crown in the annual Miss Kansas USA pageant. Following in the footsteps of her mom, Tavia, who won the same competition in 1993, Gracie considered this moment rather surreal, yet at the same time seemingly took it all in stride.
“I was beyond thrilled to win after all of the hard work I put into the competition,” reflected Gracie, who, within just 24 hours of her win was already hard at work making appearances under her new crown and about which she was incredibly excited. “I am committed to using this year to make the community a better place and to encourage people to give back, get involved and do what they can to help others.”
Gracie presents not only as a go-getter but also a go-giver. Her heart of service continually beats for others, as evidenced by her role as a Special Olympics Global Ambassador as well as over-seeing her own non-profit, Breaking Barrers Through Sports, which is designed to promote respect and inclusion of people through a medium of sports. Gracie also works in marketing and brand development for the Chiefs while simultaneously pursuing her Master’s degree in Sports Management at the University of Kansas.
But her innate tenacity doesn’t end there. A health and fitness enthusiast, Gracie juggles multiple roles in her drive to succeed and positively touch the lives of others. A blogger, influencer and spokesmodel, she is also a certified nutritionist and is working towards her certification in personal training. Health and fitness are not just passions, but also a lifestyle. As one who was diagnosed with celiac disease at a young age, she realized the importance of putting proper nutrition into her body.
“I’ve always been aware of what my body is telling me,” she explained. “Because I’ve lived through what it feels like to be sick, I love to help family and friends promote their health.”
Growing up in the world of sports, Gracie was an avid soccer player as a child and through her high school days. Unfortunately, her dreams of pursuing anything beyond that level were crushed due to a series of debilitating concussions she sustained in the game.. As a result, she pivoted from sports to pageantry, taking the exciting leap from ball fields to ball gowns.
Gracie’s interest in her mother’s pageantry days was increasingly piqued as she transitioned into her teen years. Several year ago, after watching a few clips of Tavia competing in the Miss Kansas USA competition, Gracie’s enthusiasm gained considerable velocity, and a new and even more-determined ambition was born. The journey, however, was not without a few preliminary stumbling blocks.
“Gracie was always into sports and loved animals,” Tavia mused. “She had never worn high heels before.” As a result, Gracie and Tavia locked arms and began focusing on Gracie’s pageant career, which in turn has created some very special moments for them.
“Some of the sweetest memories I have are bonding over pageantry with her,” said Tavia. “It is a special time between us with all the work and the process of getting ready for a pageant.”
Tavia is definitely proud of her daughter and goes to great lengths to do all she can to help Gracie fulfill her goals, but that parental support has far deeper roots.
“All we ever want for our children is to be happy, chase dreams and make the world a better place,” Tavia emphasized. “I’m excited to welcome Gracie into the Miss Kansas USA sisterhood. She has worked tirelessly pursuing this dream and it’s extremely rewarding to see her hard work pay off. I’m overwhelmed with the joy of sharing this journey with her 28 years after I was crowned Miss Kansas USA. I know she will take every opportunity to serve others and spread her message of respect and inclusion this year.”
“I am so proud of Gracie and the incredible young woman she has become,” he expressed. “It was a joy seeing her crowned Miss Kansas USA because I’ve seen how hard she’s worked to make her dream a reality. I have no doubt she will do an outstanding job serving the state of Kansas.”
As for the future, Gracie plans to stay within the pageantry arena and perhaps mentor other young girls to achieve their dreams. She also hopes to satiate her thirst for sports by remaining involved with the Chiefs for a long time to come. No matter what she does, however, she will undoubtedly always wear the crown of stewardship and goodwill.