Linda Derry, 7, of Springfield Gardens can be shy at times, but participating in pageants, an activity she loves, gives her confidence to follow her passion for performing.
“At first I was nervous, but I got used to it and just go out on stage and do my thing,” said Linda, who’s a student at Cambria Center for the Gifted Child, where she’s performed in school assemblies since the age of 4.
When the youngster was 6 years old, she had the opportunity to watch a Darling Divas & Dashing Dons Pageant after her mother, Liza Colon-Derry, met the organization’s director, Cheryl Williams, at the LaGuardia Plaza Hotel, where Colon-Derry works. Seeing the performance up close got both the young participant and her mother hooked.
“I didn’t go all out [our] first time; I saw it more as a fashion show,” Colon-Derry reflects.
“She had party dresses, so I just used the one with the most ruffles and at least two other casual outfits we already had. She ended up winning ‘Mini Supreme.’”
Participating in pageants has given Linda the platform to learn the importance of sportsmanship at a pivotal time in her development, an impressive feat at such a tender age.
“She will congratulate other contestants and tell them they have a pretty dress or did a great routine,” Colon-Derry notes.
Her last pageant in March, Int’l Prince & Princess Nationals, was the first time the young participant didn’t place in the top two spots of Queen or runner up. Because of her ability to focus on the positives, she didn’t let not placing in a winning position get her down.
“It was a tough competition in a pageant we never participated in before … but she understood that not everyone could win and wants to try again next year,” Colon-Derry said.
Unlike stage moms like those seen on the hit reality show “Toddlers & Tiaras,” Colon-Derry opts to keep her daughter’s costumes and styling natural and uses props that are not over the top — as pageants can get very expensive.
It’s quite easy to go on spending sprees while participating in competitions of this caliber. Registration fees can go as high as $400, plus the price of a hotel room if lodging is needed, not to mention lots of shoes for the constantly growing feet of a child.
“I just buy a boutique dress versus a $600 cupcake dress. I do her own hair and just a bit of gloss,” Colon-Derry said. “I’ll keep her props simple because I want her to have fun and not see it too much as work.”
Since 2010, Linda has participated in nine pageants, winning eight crowns, 11 trophies and nine sashes, along with toys and $150 in prize money. This budding starlet has been named Division Queen and Division Princess four times each, along with awards such as for “Prettiest Eyes,” “Best Runway Outfit” and “Best Portfolio.”
When Linda is not on stage competing the younster enjoys playing tennis, going to birthday parties and attending street festivals.
Linda is interested in at least four more pageants this year — and though a break would be nice for the duo, the young Queens contestant has her eyes set on an even larger goal.
“She doesn’t want to stop till she is Miss Universe,” her proud mom said.