Although she didn't win the competition, Hawa Kamara has made history as the first woman from Sierra Leone to enter the Miss Universe beauty pageant.
Blood diamonds, civil war and then an Ebola crisis have all held the West African nation of 6.1 million people back in recent decades, but Sierra Leone is now experiencing economic growth and ready to show the world it's open for business.
Kamara, who was crowned Miss West Africa in 2013, was born in Kono, famous for its diamond supply, and raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital.
CNN caught up with Kamara as she prepared for the contest in Manila and below is what she said.
Congratulations on being Sierra Leone's first entry in the Miss Universe competition. What does this mean for your country?
It is very important for Sierra Leone to be a part of Miss Universe. We have gone through so many tragedies in our country, like the Ebola virus, and civil war. People (from Sierra Leone) don't really get opportunities ... because (others) think we're not capable or that, as a country, we're not safe.
I think that's one of the reasons we weren't getting invited to things like this. This is an opportunity ... for the world to learn more about my country.
I'm here to tell people Sierra Leone is open. Sierra Leone is safe. You can come any time.