Pageantry helps Fargo girl defeat speech problemsFARGO – Lizzy Bertel, of Fargo, has been practicing her interviewing skills, polishing her baton twirling routine, and brushing up on her dance skills in preparation for a national pageant competition – and she’s only 9 years old.
By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM
FARGO – Lizzy Bertel, of Fargo, has been practicing her interviewing skills, polishing her baton twirling routine, and brushing up on her dance skills in preparation for a national pageant competition – and she’s only 9 years old.
Lizzy is representing North Dakota at the 2012 Miss American Sweetheart Pageant next week in Florida.
She will compete for the national Miss American Sweetheart title and thousands of dollars in cash awards, prizes and scholarships.
“I feel really excited even though I know I will have a lot of competition,” Lizzy said.
Despite the competition, Lizzy said she feels ready.
Her talent for the pageant is a baton twirling routine set to the Chipettes version of “All the Single Ladies.” Her routine includes tricks like throwing her baton, letting it spin, and then catching it and weaving it between her fingers in one hand while she holds her heel with the other.
Lizzy said she likes being involved in pageants, performing on stage and being a leader, but she really got excited when she talked about going to Disney World while in Florida for the pageant.
Her parents, Erin and John Bertel, entered Lizzy in her first pageant when she was 5 years old because she had trouble speaking clearly and they thought participating in a pageant might help, Erin Bertel said.
Lizzy was born six weeks premature and her ears weren’t fully developed, so she couldn’t hear properly, her mom said. She also got sick a lot and developed chronic sinusitis. Because of those issues, Lizzy’s speaking capabilities were diminished, Bertel said.
She was in speech therapy and was doing well, but when she started kindergarten she was having trouble with her pronunciation and was becoming self-conscious about her inability to speak clearly, Bertel said.
Bertel felt disheartened, wondering where she had fallen short and how she could help her youngest child develop her self-esteem and get over her fear of public speaking, she said.
They tried to involve Lizzy in community theater, but she wasn’t chosen because of her speech problems, Bertel said.
Then they considered involving her in pageantry.
“I thought about pageant people and what I knew about pageants, and we decided most of them are really pillar role models of the community,” Bertel said. “They speak well. They interview well. They’re driven.”
So Lizzy entered the Dream Girls USA Pageant and ended up winning the state competition.
Because she had to give a one-minute introduction, Lizzy slowly overcame her fear of speaking publicly, Bertel said.
The change was so evident, Lizzy’s kindergarten teacher asked what they were doing and said she fully intended to pass Lizzy on to first grade, Bertel said.
“I felt elated,” Bertel said.
Lizzy then won the national Dream Girls competition, Bertel said.
Miss American Sweetheart is Lizzy’s second pageant.
Inspired by her daughter and the change’s she’s seen in Lizzy, Bertel plans to compete in her first pageant, the Mrs. International Pageant in December, she said.
While there can be a lot of negativity surrounding child pageants, Bertel said Miss American Sweetheart is nothing like the pageants depicted on shows like “Toddlers & Tiaras.” No makeup is allowed, curling irons are discouraged, and a judge even checked to make sure Lizzy’s teeth were her own, Bertel said.
“This is a very wholesome pageant,” Bertel said. “It’s driven largely on interview.”
Bertel also said she doesn’t push Lizzy – Lizzy drives herself.
“The day she doesn’t want to do it, we won’t do it,” Bertel said.
Miss American Coed Pageants is a scholarship pageant system for girls and young women between the ages of 3 and 22.