South Tahoe grad wants chance to reign as Miss America: Miss Nevada carries message against drinking and driving |

South Tahoe grad wants chance to reign as Miss America: Miss Nevada carries message against drinking and driving

Terri Harber
Trevor Clark / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Miss Nevada, Caleche Manos, signs photos for children at the Boys & Girls Club on Stewart Street in Carson City on Friday.

Life’s little glitches probably aren’t that big of a deal if you’re walking around with a crown on your head. Or if you’ve been able to face hardship and ultimately find a way to see the world through a positive eyes.

“You’ve got to roll with the punches,” said Caleche Manos, the newly crowned Miss Nevada and 2002 South Tahoe High School graduate.

She was a huge hit Friday with the roughly 200 youths at the Boys & Girls Club of Western Nevada. It didn’t matter to her — or them — when she began to sing the country song “Concrete Angel” that her background music wouldn’t play properly. She gracefully changed course by singing an a cappella version of “God Bless America” instead.

Manos won the state title July 13 as the representative for Carson City. Pageant officials allow women to make attempts from their hometown competition areas, then from nearby locations.

The third try for Miss Nevada proved the charm for Manos, who was second runner-up in 2005 and first runner-up in 2006, representing Silver State and Reno-Sparks, respectively.

“Now, all of Nevada is my community,” she said.

After emphasizing that it was important to make good choices and life decisions “that will make your family and friends proud,” she signed at least 200 autographs, and hugged and kissed scores of children.

And Manos, who is almost 5 feet 11 inches tall and towered above everyone else in a set of four-inch heels, bent down countless times to allow the children to better see and touch her crown. She’d like to find a way, or a device, to more easily put on and take off the sparkly accessory, which she has to wear during all public appearances.

“Kids want to try it on, they’re so enamored by it,” she said. “But it has to be attached very well so it won’t come off easily.”

Manos, 22, earned her poise after years of grieving over a family tragedy: Her only brother, Caylin, died about five years ago in an alcohol-related traffic accident at age 19. He would have turned 25 last week.

“I couldn’t open up about it for a couple of years,” she said about the accident. It’s why she chose education about the dangers of drunken driving as her “platform” during the competition.

Eventually she joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving, gathering her thoughts and eventually finding her own voice – and has since used it to help stop people from driving while intoxicated. It also helped her become at ease with public speaking. This is why the topic compels her, she said.

“The platform chose me and it comes from a very passionate level,” she said. “And I’ll get to speak with young people, especially high schoolers, who are especially prone to underage drinking.”

Manos is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno. She expects to complete her final semester in December, unless preparation for the pageant becomes too rigorous and she ends up taking time off before earning her bachelor’s degree. She’s pursuing a double major in communications and interior design.

If she wins the Miss America title in January, she’ll have to take off a year from college to fulfill the obligation, which includes personal appearances across the country.

She could also earn a significant amount of money to complete her education if she does well in the competition. This year’s Miss America received a $50,000 scholarship and the small group of runners-up also received five-figure amounts for schooling. The Miss America Pageant is the largest source of scholarships in the nation for young women.

She plans to pursue a master’s degree in business after the pageant, which is why she’s eager to obtain her bachelor’s degree in December.

Young women only get to participate in one Miss America pageant ever, however.

“If you’re a parent, you have a better chance of watching your son play in the Super Bowl than seeing your daughter walk across the Miss America stage,” she said. “It’s really a dream come true.”

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