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May 22, 2008

UAlbany's Yvette Nsiah Competes for Miss Universe in July

Yvette Nsiah, Miss Universe Ghana, just completed her junior year at University at Albany-SUNY.

Yvette Nsiah, Miss Universe Ghana, just completed her junior year at the University at Albany-SUNY.

Yvette Nsiah, a student at the University at Albany, has been crowned Miss Universe Ghana, and will compete for the title of Miss Universe in Nha Trang, Vietnam, on July 14.

Nsiah, an Africana studies major and education minor who just completed her junior year, was born on Long Island.  At the age of nine, she and her family moved to Kumasi, Ghana; they eventually relocated to the capital city of Accra.  When she graduated high school, she decided to return to the U.S. for college.  “My brother went to Albany, so I knew a lot about the school,” she said.  She decided to follow in his footsteps.

Her enrollment was fortuitous: during her sophomore year, she entered UAlbany’s annual African Queen pageant, and won.  This was her first foray into the world of pageants, and began to change her perception of these competitions.  “It’s not all about beauty,” she said.

After the African Queen win, Nsiah was contacted about competing for the Miss Universe Ghana title.  She returned to Accra, attended preliminary castings, and was chosen as one of five women to compete in the final event, eventually claiming the crown in late April.  “I still feel like it’s not me,” she said.  Remarking on her one year’s worth of experience – considered very little in the pageant world – she added, “I guess I have luck.”

Yvette Nsiah competing for the Miss Universe Ghana title.

Yvette Nsiah won the Miss Universe Ghana title in April.

Nsiah describes herself as “very low-key,” which is why she was wary of becoming involved with pageants.  “I did think it was all about beauty,” she admitted.  “But it’s all about questions.”  She added with a laugh, “You have to think on your feet with people staring at you.”

One other component that the Miss Universe competition stresses is passion, which Nsiah has in spades, especially concerning her chosen charity cause: foster care and children’s education.  “There are lots of kids suffering and that’s not fair.  They don’t have access to a lot of things and that’s not their fault,” she said.

If she wins the Miss Universe title, Nsiah will work for Donald Trump for a year, promote her charity, and receive a $40,000 prize, all while maintaining her status as a student at UAlbany.  Trump is the executive producer of the July event, which will be televised on NBC.

No matter the outcome of the contest, she is hoping it will propel her on to bigger and better things, both on a personal and professional level.  A musician who sings, plays keyboard, and composes her own songs, she sees this exposure as something to benefit a future career in music.  “It’s a great coincidence all this happened,” she said.  But she stresses that education, her own as well as that which she hopes to bring to less-fortunate children, comes first, and that any musical aspirations she has will wait until she is done with school.

For now, Nsiah will enjoy the month she will be spending in Vietnam.  Starting in mid-June, she will be sightseeing, meeting prominent local leaders, “And then we get to work,” she said with a laugh.

The 2008 Miss Universe Pageant will be broadcast on NBC on July 14.  Check your local listings.

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