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Ermelinda Manos

A girl's date with destiny

.On Dec. 13, 2003, Ermelinda Manos finished as third runner-up in the Miss Nevada Teen USA Pageant. That sort of close call -- honor without victory -- is usually bittersweet for a beauty queen. But to her it was pure honey. She had come so far, and proved something to herself.
Ermelinda ManosErmelinda Manos
How far had she come? All the way from Albania, where she was born during the tragic days of communism. It was less than a generation ago -- she is still a teenager -- but it seems so distant now. The ancient land of Albania was the most isolated nation in Europe, cut off from its many neighbors like a beautiful princess held captive in a stone tower.
Ermelinda ManosToday, Albania is very different. It is a land of smiles, cultural diversity, optimism and hope. It's very much like Ermelinda Manos herself.

She's 6 feet tall, elegant and comely, a girl who stands out even in Las Vegas. She's an athlete, an outstanding scholar, fluent in Albanian, English, Spanish and Greek. (She spent much of her youth in Athens, Greece.) She plans to earn degrees in foreign relations and criminology, and work for the benefit of both Albania and America.
And now she wants to be Miss Albania. At some point in the future, she plans to return to her homeland and compete for the title. If she succeeds in that, she will go on to try for Miss Universe. She wants to be the first Albanian and the first Albanian-American to win that crown.

She has a saying that helps guide her life: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice." It's an American saying, but someday we may hear it in Albanian.
Photos courtesy of Ermelinda Manos
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