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MOUNT WASHINGTON - Mariann Berkedal may be from Norway, but the former Bullitt East exchange student called Mount Washington her second home and if you asked she would tell you just how much it has meant to her.
Besides giving her a second family and lifelong friends, Berkedal said her stint in Mount Washington helped her become more confident and independent.
Shortly after visiting Mount Washington in September, Berkedal packed her bags and made her way to China to represent her native country in the Miss World pageant, and with her she took the confidence and independence she gained from her second home.
Since then Berkedal has been traveling throughout Asia with her fellow contestants, making appearances and participating in special events, while competing for the Miss World crown.
This past weekend Berkedal won the title of Top Model in a preliminary competition, securing her place in the Miss World Final, which will be held on Saturday in Sanya China.
“I really can’t believe I’ve been chosen best model out of so many wonderful girls here,” said Berkedal. “It’s a great honor for me and, of course, I’m delighted to be in the top 25. Now I can look forward to the final.”
Despite modeling since she was a teenager, the 23-year-old is relatively new to the pageant world. As a matter of fact, prior to competing in Miss World she had only been in one other pageant.
In 2008 she decided to compete for the title of Miss Universe when her modeling agent persuaded her to give it a try.
“I never thought I’d do this again,” she said.
After competing with hundreds of women, she won her country’s title. Though she didn’t take home the top prize, she said the experience helped prepare her for Miss World.
Berkedal was initially hesitant to participate in Miss World because she was concentrating on her education, plus she was anxious to marry fiancé, Frode Hegglund, and start a family.
On the other hand she said it was hard to say no when pageant officials asked her to compete.
“I thought, ‘it’s now or never,” she said.
She competed with around 2,000 women to represent Norway in the Miss World pageant and to her knowledge only one other woman has represented the country in both Miss World and Miss Universe.
“It’s an honor to represent Norway twice,” she said.
Though thankful for the opportunity to compete and proud to represent her country on the international stage in 2008, Berkedal was somewhat indifferent to the Miss Universe pageant.
“I wasn‘t really motivated to win in 2008. I guess I was just tagging along at first…I didn’t have much faith in myself,” she said.
Berkedal said she was much more motivated this year and she was glad to be competing for Miss World, adding that she felt the pageant was a much better fit for her with its motto “Beauty with a purpose,” and the pageant’s emphasis on service.
“It feels like me,” she said. “You actually make a difference through different projects and you meet people who will impact you forever.”
Berkedal’s keeping her fingers crossed, but she said she wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if she lost.
“I’m hoping to win, but I’m not expecting it,” she said.
While Berkedal has two national pageant titles under her belt she’s much more than a pretty face. She speaks German and English in addition to her native Norwegian and she plays the piano.
Berkedal was at the top of her class when she graduated from Bullitt East in 2005. Now in her senior year at the Norwegian School of Business and Management, she maintains high marks in her classes and after she earns
her bachelor’s degree in business administration, Berkedal plans to pursue a master’s degree in development and natural resource economics.
She’s still considering her options as far as possible careers, but she would like to tackle environmental issues, particularly exploring alternative energy sources and help developing nations build their economies.
When she’s not modeling, sitting in a classroom or trying to make the world a better place, Berkedal likes shopping, reading, movie nights, listening to acoustic music and spending time with her family and friends.
Berkedal grew up in Stavanger, Norway with her parents, Magne and Tove and her siblings, Knut Arne, Ole Andreas and Synnove.
Today she lives in Norway’s largest city and capital, Oslo, with her cat Pontus.
The Miss World pageant will be telecast from Sanya, China on Saturday morning at 10 on E!. For more information about the pageant, visit www.missworld.com.