EMMA Coronel Aispuro smiled as she touched the crown on her head after winning the town beauty contest and saw her father's boss, El Chapo, walking towards her.
Flanked by 100 gunmen, he stopped and announced he intended to marry the 17-year-old, the daughter of one of his most trusted henchmen.
A few months later, on her 18th birthday, Emma became the fourth wife of the infamous drug lord, who at 50 was 32 years her senior.
Despite the 'arranged marriage', she has remained loyal to the powerful drug boss throughout his arrest and lengthy trial for a catalogue of crime – including murder and drug trafficking – in 2016.
Now Emma, 31, has been arrested in the US for her alleged involvement in international drug trafficking and plotting her husband's escape from jail.
She faces charges of participating in a conspiracy to distribute cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana for importation into the US.
She is also accused of conspiring with others to help El Chapo – real name Guzman Loera – escape from Altiplano prison in Almoloya de Juarez in July 2015.
The Cartel boss – who had been on the run for 14 years before he was finally captured in 2014 – told police: "I killed two or three thousand. I’m a drug trafficker. I don’t kidnap or steal or extort or anything like that.”
The American-born beauty queen was a fixture at the trial of the century, hearing damning testimony from his mistresses, harrowing evidence he had drugged and raped underage girls and stories of torture and murder.
Some claimed the presence of the of the elegantly turned out Emma, in pencil skirts, stiletto heels and a cloud of perfume, was for the benefit of the judges and jury in the New York courtroom.
But her support – demonstrated by the matching burgundy jackets the couple wore in the New York courtroom – appeared unshakeable.
She told the New York Times: "I don't know my husband as the person they are trying to show him as but rather I admire him as the human being that I met, and the one that I married."
An arranged marriage after meeting at 17
The daughter of Ines Coronel Barreras, a medium-ranking lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel that El Chapo ran, Emma Coronel grew up in the world of drug deals and murder.
Despite her unflinching loyalty, hers was no fairy tale wedding but what many have called an “arranged marriage” – one which she had little choice but to accept.
In the run up to the pageant, it is reported that El Chapo bribed the judges to let Emma win – for a very good reason.
A Mafia tradition – which dates back to 1958 when Sam Giancana married the then Miss Sinaloa – dictates that mob bosses should marry beauty queens, and Emma was the prize El Chapo wanted for himself.
Born in Santa Clara, California, she grew up in Sierra Madre, Mexico’s biggest drug-producing region.
At 17, she met El Chapo at a dance and a few months later she entered the beauty pageant in her village of Canelas, which she won.
As she celebrated her win, El Chapo, who was surrounded by 100s of henchmen with guns on show, announced he would marry her.
After tying the knot, the newlyweds made an early exit and police, who had wind of the wedding, arrived too late to catch the elusive quarry.
Gun promise to six-month-old baby
For the next few years, Emma moved from place to place with her husband, staying away from the eyes of the law.
In 2011, heavily pregnant with twins, Emma drove to California to ensure her children – Emalí Guadalupe and Maria Joaquína – had US citizenship.
Seizing the chance, the police turned up at the hospital to question her but she refused to give away her husband's whereabouts and they left frustrated.
El Chappo, now 61, was far from the conventional father.
When the twins were six months old, he sent Emma a text saying “Our Kiki (Maria) is fearless. I’m going to give her an AK-47, so she can hang with me.”
The drug lord – who has 19 children by various wives and mistresses – also kept numerous lovers after the couple wed.
The trial heard that El Chapo – said to be worth £10 billion – paid for liposuction for one of his female drug runners, who then became his mistress.
Whether she knew about is many affairs is not known, but she was said to have “cackled” in the public gallery when one his lovers was reduced to tears in the witness box.
Other than that, the stoical wife showed no signs of emotion, smiling and waving at her husband in the dock.
In court, he was delighted to see his loyal wife, greeting her every morning with a wave or blowing her a kiss.
Emma kept a low profile in the early years of the marriage but, after El Chappo’s arrest in 2016, she gave a fiercely defensive interview to the LA Times, refuting allegations he drugged and raped women and girls.
She said: "He would be incapable of touching a woman with bad intentions, of trying to make her do something she didn't want to do.”
Flaunting her wealth
Around the same time, she took to Twitter to voice her feelings.
On 30 January 2017, as El Chapo was being extradited to the USA, she tweeted in Spanish: "We both knew that to make us a reality we would have to pay a huge price: distance, time, challenges and sacrifices. It was worth it."
She has since switched to Instagram, posting bikini selfies and pictures of her glamorous life to 42,000 followers.
Among the posts were pictures of her daughters’ Barbie-themed seventh birthday.
She posed in front of a life-sized Barbie-themed palace that she had constructed for the events and was pictured with her daughters, dressed in identical pink dresses and clutching Louis Vuitton handbags worth £1,700 each.
She has also been seen with a £2000 Prada handbag, one of many designer bags she owns.
A retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent told the New York Post: “The whole story with her is so surreal.
"She goes around and flaunts her wealth and lifestyle in front of everyone’s face.”
Other pictures on her Instagram include a firing range shot, with her shooting a semi-automatic weapon.
There are also numerous images of her in designer clothing, including a floorlength gold evening gown.
As the trial ended, in February 2019, she posted a photo of the courthouse and wrote: "Everything that was discussed in the trial about Joaquín, good and bad, does not change in any way the way I think about him".
After her husband was found guilty of 10 federal crimes, they gave each other the thumb up then she smiled, waved and touched her heart in a gesture of affection.
On Instagram she wrote: “God gave me your love, your smile and your kisses so that I never forget what it is to be happy.”
El Chapo was jailed for life plus 30 years and is serving his sentence at the US' most secure prison, ADX Florence in Colorado.
Putting on a show
But the outpouring of love and loyalty from El Chappo’s beautiful wife didn't convinced everyone – with many believing it’s all for show.
“Do these people covering the trial really believe in the beautiful love story between El Chapo and Emma?” says Anabel Hernández, the journalist who first interviewed Emma in 2016.
“Oh come on. She’s a distraction, and that in itself is important to El Chapo and the lawyers”.
Growing up in the heart of gangland Mexico, Emma was schooled in the strict code of conduct that rules the criminal gangs from a young age.
She is used to staying silent and steadfast as loved ones go down for their crimes – her father and older brother Ines were arrested and jailed in 2013 and Emma’s younger brother Edgar was arrested for helping El Chapo escape from his shower at Altiplano jail in 2015, the crime for which she is now in the frame.
With her husband jailed for life, she had continued to reap the rewards of his evil trade, living the high life and protected from harm by the Cartel.
But Federal authorities have been investigating Emma's role as an accomplice since her husband was sentenced, two years ago.
And she could soon be paying the price for her loyalty – swapping her luxurious villas and designer handbags for a prison cell.
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