Emma Manetta, a princess and cancer-fighter

DOWNEY – To an outsider looking in, Emma Manetta would not seem too far removed from what might be expected of a 12-year-old girl.

“I like doing musicals with GO-FAME [Youth Theater Company]. I also like to draw and watch Netflix,” she said. “I like to shop too!”

Yet unlike many individuals her age, Emma has raised an amount of money that might surpass the imagination of most sixth graders for an organization that she firmly stands behind; and all in under a year.

Emma enjoys pageantry life when she’s not shopping or watching Netflix, and she has found a fair amount of success in it.

Three years ago, Emma made her bid for Little Miss Downey, however she was unsuccessful. Despite not placing, she enjoyed the friendships and experiences that came with pageantry. The following year she competed for Jr. Miss Downey, where she was crowned as a princess. Her success not only continued, it flourished, and in 2014 she was crowned Jr. Miss Southern California.

When Emma was awarded the Junior Miss Southern California crown, it then became her responsibility to choose a platform that she would stand behind for the length of her reign. She chose the Orange Coast Memorial Cancer Foundation.

“It’s basically a non-profit that works with Orange Coast Memorial [Medical Center] to help raise money for them, so that they can buy the newest medical technology for early detection for any kind of cancer.”

Through various forms of fundraising and speaking in front of donors, Emma has raised $12,150 for the cancer-fighting foundation.

Emma was all too familiar with Orange Coast Memorial before choosing her pageant-required platform however. Her decision hit closer to home than just a mere charitable effort.

“My mom was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer when I was five years old. We’ve been going to Orange Coast Memorial for seven years, and they’ve kept her alive for that long. So I just wanted to give back to them for all that they’ve done.”

Emma’s parents have been completely open and honest about her mother’s fight since the beginning, not pulling any punches about the harsh reality of the disease, yet continuing to encourage all their children to continue living life to the fullest.

“Whatever my doctor told me, I came home told them,” said Shawna Manetta, Emma’s mother. “I didn’t want anyone to feel pity for me, and I didn’t want them to worry about me dying; I wanted them to live each day. I explained to them that we each know that it’s a possibility I could die, but it’s a possibility anyone could die... So I didn’t want them to focus on that.”

Emma admits that she did not completely understand her mother’s condition at first, describing it as “a cold or flu that might’ve been a little worse, but not as bad as it really was.” However, her mother’s strength and positive attitude through her battle has helped make the process a little easier to bear the more she learns and understands. 

“Since I was five, I didn’t really know what it was… as I got older I understood it more,” she said.  “My mom was more honest with us and told us everything so it was something that was kind of easy to get through. She was always just so happy so it was something really easy.”

To this day, Emma’s mother continues her fight with cancer, which has since progressed to stage four. 

 Emma relinquished her Junior Miss Southern California crown last Saturday, May 23, however her pageantry is far from over. She was just recently crowned Jr. Miss California Beauties of the Nation, and will go on to compete at the National level, where if crowned, she will be required to select another platform.

According to her mother, Emma hopes to then work with City of Hope.