Certain things in life come wrapped in stereotypical cellophane, through which perspectives can get clouded. Football players are always big, dancers are always thin, beauty queens are always beautiful. While these stereotypes have evolved for a reason, people don’t come with a boilerplate tag attached. Such is the gift provided to each of us by the Master Artist.
Recently, one freshman Saint had a transformative experience, an experience that crumpled up some of those false stereotypes and discarded them backstage.
Gabrielle Berthiaume ’21 began training for the Miss NH Teen USA pageant in June. Having struggled with eating disorders and insecurity during her middle school years, Gabby made an intentional and cognizant effort to overcome her fears. She purposefully registered herself for the pageant, knowing she would have to work diligently to compete successfully. She focused on healthy eating habits, exercised regularly, and celebrated as she increased her weight. (Yes, she celebrated as she increased her weight.) “I was increasing my muscle mass and thus was gaining weight,” she remembers. “The stronger I became physically, the more my inner confidence grew.”
After many months of preparation, the pageant weekend (themed “Confidently Beautiful”) arrived. One very long Saturday included exhaustive rehearsals and preliminary competitions, including an athletic and evening wear component. Participants returned the next day for extensive interviews. “I was asked questions based on my resume, questions about my past experiences, my hobbies and interests, questions about myself.”
After the final round, winners were announced and Gabby was delighted to learn she had been selected as the recipient of the Crystal Trophy for Best Style. But the real award in Gabby’s story has little to do with a trophy and much to do with personal significance.
“There exists a big stereotype about women being used in pageants. I want to speak out to let people know how untrue these myths are,” says Gabby earnestly. “I was a very insecure girl. A year ago, I would never have dreamed of getting up in front of people and doing anything remotely like a pageant. But the confidence I gained and the friendships I formed with other girls has been extraordinary. The least thing I earned was my trophy.”
“One girl wore her crucifix all weekend- even with her evening gown. I wore my Holy Spirit medal, too. I am so confident in myself as a result of this experience, I’m so content with who I am as a girl, as a person, as me. I want to let other girls know that it’s ok to take a risk, don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to talk about your beliefs, to show people who you really are.”
Another misperception that Gabby shattered was the idea that participation in pageants is only for the elite. “To participate is expensive but I was able to get sponsors and fundraise the money. I wouldn’t have been able to participate without the help from sponsors.”
With prayer admittedly at the center of her pageantry experience, Gabby openly declares that God is her best friend. “I could not, would not have made it through this without Him by my side the whole way. He’s my biggest fan.”
There is absolutely zero doubt about that.
Congratulations, Gabby, on your success and also on your self-realization, which is an award of a lifetime. Seeing yourself through His design is like looking through a one-way mirror at the artistry of an extraordinary interior decorator.