Pmate Hunter

Last year, Crista Nicole left her hometown of Springfield, Ohio with her high school sweetheart and headed west -- destination unknown -- to pursue a modeling career. When the two road-trippers arrived at the last-chance casino border town of Primm, Nevada, 22-year-old Crista saw a billboard for a Miss Hawaiian Tropic search that inspired her to make a U-turn back to Las Vegas. "I called the number and did the contest," she says. "I won and became a state finalist." But when she qualified for the national competition, she hesitated. "My boyfriend, Jared, and I needed to find jobs. He said, 'You have to go -- that's why we came out here.'" Crista took his advice and went on to win the nationals. She also snagged her first major modeling contract, with Hawaiian Tropic, and competes in the internationals this month. Driving cross-country to pursue a dream was easier with Jared along. "We've been dating for five years and he's my best friend," she says of her beau. "We were both athletic in high school and actually hated each other at first. He was a big-time jock, kind of an asshole, and I had no interest in getting to know him. But one day we were running beside each other on the treadmills and started talking, and we saw we had something." Crista enjoyed softball, soccer, basketball and track, and she even gave cheerleading a try to overcome her shyness. "I hung out with honor students and bookworms to keep out of trouble," she says. "I surrounded myself with positive things because I really didn't enjoy school -- the book part of it, that is." Miss May went to college at Kent State, where she studied psychology before deciding to model. "I'm going to finish school when my modeling career is over," she says. "When I was in college I wasn't happy at all. There was something missing -- I didn't want to do thetypical 'go to college, get a 40-hour-a-week job and have a family' thing right away." Crista spends her free time with her three Yorkies or dabbling in the arts. "I'm a very impatient person, and I think drawing, painting or sculpting is good therapy," she says. "I do a lot of drawing -- I maybe get one out of a hundred that I like." Would she describe herself as a high-maintenance kind of girl? "Coming from a big family, you can't be high maintenance at all," she says. "I'm a perfectionist and a fairly harsh self-critic, but otherwise I'm pretty easygoing. I think a lot of people miss out on the importance of life and get wrapped up in making money. They need to learn to kick back and enjoy everything they have."

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