Emalee Nazarino: Miss Seattle's Outstanding Teen 2019 - My Beautiful Mariposa

“Mariposa: Mariposa is Spanish for Butterfly and was named for a phenomenon that left early missionaries to the area awestruck as legions of delicate butterflies alighted by the dozens around them.”

Our beautiful Emalee Nazarino is the epitome of the path from cocoon to her flight as a beautiful butterfly, inside and out. As a contestant for Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen pageant, Emalee has taken her early childhood struggles and created a life mantra that we all should live by:

“You define your disability, your disability doesn’t define you.”

You see, Emalee was born one month prematurely, and her parents were told by multiple physicians that she would have a learning disability for life. The doctors cautioned them that Emalee would “never graduate from high school” because her brain damage was so severe.

Like many parents, Debbie and Mark simply would not allow that to be the story. Speech therapy, patience, love, and a support system that continued to speak life into their sweet, shy daughter were constant in her early years. At one point in her early childhood learning, a teacher took the time to understand what Emalee needed and sought to teach her in a way that made sense to our emerging butterfly.

This gave Emalee a bit of confidence to spread her wings. Her mom encouraged her to enter her first online pageant at the age of four.

She loved it! There were big sisters to mentor her, fun events, and the beginnings of her journey to overcome her disability and turn it into her “Why” behind the “What” of competing in the Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen program. Her journey has gone from wearing the crown as Miss West Sound’s Outstanding Teen 2018 (placing 4th runner up to Miss Washington’s Outstanding Teen) to currently reigning as Miss Seattle’s Outstanding Teen 2019 to competing for the State Title on May 25 and 26, 2019.

With over two hundred hours of community service and over seventy appearances a year, Emalee is focused on one goal: Being the best version of herself. She does this by showing love to others and embracing everyone’s unique gifts. Her platform focuses on Special Needs: “You define your disability, your disability does not define you.” This is a lesson that she takes into schools and encourages kids that no matter what their struggle is, they don’t have to let it define them. Everyone is delightfully and uniquely themselves.

Emalee shares that she learned this way of being from her parents. The love they have shown her through her challenges has made her who she is today. A year and a half ago, just two weeks after she was crowned Miss West Sound’s Outstanding Teen, Emalee lost her father suddenly to a heart attack. She was deeply saddened, yet felt her service was his legacy and he would want her to carry on with her dreams and goals.

She shared that her father’s gravestone reads:

“Loved well. Lived generously. Impacted many. Missed greatly.”

Those words drive her to be the very best version of herself and to love others selflessly.

Emalee, your dad would be so very proud of his beautiful Mariposa. Your friends, family, and all those you have touched along the way certainly are as well.

May you spread your wings and fly, but take time to enjoy the view too. Best of luck from all of us!

Your cheering section will be loud and proud!