The pageant life was not initially part of Gracie Hunt’s game plan.
A budding soccer star, the daughter of Chiefs owner Clark Hunt yearned for a future on the field. She had hoped to play at college at SMU after starring on her high school team, but four concussions derailed that dream. Fortunately, when the now-22-year-old philanthropist decided to segue to the stage, she had a familiar face — not to mention a pageant expert — in her corner: mom Tavia Hunt.
“I went and I watched my first one with her when I was around 17 years old, and it was a foreign industry to me,” Hunt recently told The Post. “I was like, ‘OK, you’ve done this, I clearly have no idea what’s going on, but can you help me?’ And she said, ‘I’m not sure because you walk like a soccer tomboy, but we can give it a shot,’ and the rest is history.”
Earlier this year, Hunt was named Miss Kansas USA, a title Tavia held in 1993 when she competed in Miss USA and was later named the second-runner up. Hunt followed in her mother’s footsteps again in November, when she participated in Miss USA and placed in the Top 16.
“It was a wonderful experience, truly, the whole week was,” Hunt said of this year’s Miss USA pageant, in which Miss Kentucky’s Elle Smith won the coveted title. “I just had the best week and a great time.”
Prepping for Miss USA became something of a full-time job for Hunt, who worked with about six interview coaches as well as a walking coach, Kristen Bradford.
“When looking at walks, that was my most challenging part of competition. If you’ve seen ‘Miss Congeniality,’ when [Michael Caine’s character, Victor Melling] tells [Sandra Bullock’s character, Gracie Hart] to glide, it is not easy when you’re walking in those stilettos on stage and you don’t think about things like the weight of a dress, and if it has a slit or not, and how that affects your weight and your movement,” Hunt said.
“I found an incredible walking coach and we worked for one-to-two hours every single week via Zoom or sometimes in person, from meeting in the summer of 2020 until I stepped on that Miss USA stage.”
But at the end of the day, Hunt knows her worth is measured beyond a crown and a sash.
“My greatest takeaway from Miss USA is knowing I am enough. I want young girls to realize that they are enough, whether or not you walk away with a crown,” Hunt said.
With the new year ahead — as well as another trip to the postseason with the reigning AFC West champion Chiefs — perhaps Hunt will soon be adding new memories to her collection of iconic games list.
“There are three in the last couple of years that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Hunt recalled, beginning with the Chiefs’ AFC Championship win over the Titans in January 2020.
“Getting to watch my grandmother [Norma Hunt] lift up the Lamar Hunt Trophy, which is named after her husband, my grandfather, and getting to watch my dad hold it, and it being named after his father, and just the emotion within the eyes of everyone who watched, from the coaches to the players to the family to the fans.
“We’re a really close family and to see what they worked so hard to achieve for 50 years, and to see that look in everyone’s eyes knowing, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to the Super Bowl,’ was something I still get chill bumps just thinking about.”
Weeks later, the Chiefs topped the 49ers in Super Bowl 54, which is another iconic game at the top of Hunt’s list. But this past February, the Chiefs fell short of a Super Bowl repeat after a loss to the Buccaneers. Despite the outcome, the game came with a life lesson for Hunt.
“Whether you walk away as a winner or not,” she said, “you’ve got to choose to be joyful and choose to make the most of tomorrow.”
And with 2022 just a day away, Hunt is looking forward to expanding her personal and professional horizons in the new year.
“I’m going to be working this next year on launching my own company in the health and fitness space, which I’m really excited about,” Hunt said. “I’ve also been asked to participate in two different reality TV shows … so you’ll have to stay tuned to see what I end up maybe going on.”