Meet 17-year-old Charlotte Trattner: Miss Teen US Virgin Islands United States 2015, an actress, model, award winning speaker, a high-school junior at Miami Arts Charter School, and already taking college classes at Florida International University. If you have the opportunity to meet beautiful, outgoing, and confident, Charlotte, it would never cross your mind that Charlotte was a victim of bullying. She is very well received by others, but during middle school, this was not the case. In today’s Lady Code interview, Charlotte shares her difficult past experiences with bullying, her first reactions, and how she overcame her struggle. Charlotte didn’t let bullying hold her back, and she is now on the road to Miss Teen United States 2015!
Favorite Color: Yellow, it reminds me of the sun and hope.
Favorite Book: Quicker, the first book in the Ell Donsaii series. I can relate to the main character because just like me, she threw herself into studies and was able to accomplish great things.
Favorite Workout: I don’t have a particular favorite workout, but I love healthy living and working out because I feel better internally. I snorkel, do Pilates and work out on an elliptical machine.
Occupation: Though I am still a student I model and act on the side. The arts are very important to me and I always want to be part of them.
Hobbies: I love acting, snorkeling for shells and baking gluten and dairy free treats with my mom.
Congratulations on being Miss Teen US Virgin Islands United States 2015! Can you tell us how you got involved with pageantry?
Thank you, I am excited about this new opportunity!
At the end of 8th grade I competed in a speech competition where the topic was “How my optimism helps me overcome obstacles.” I spoke about my speech impediment, learning disability and being bullied. The director approached me before the results were announced and said I had to take my show on the road. Having won the competition I realized that the “problems” I overcame were affecting children nationally and I had to share my story to serve as an inspiration to children and teenagers across the United Stated about overcoming obstacles and achieving their dreams. Pageantry seemed like the ideal avenue for pursuing many of my goals.
What would you say to a woman who may be on the line about competing in a pageant?
I would tell the girls to try it out for fun, there would not be any harm in that. Pageantry is not supposed to be about the glitz and glamour, but about the philanthropic work that the girl does. Girls who get involved in pageantry volunteer in their community, are kind, fun to be around and beautiful both inside and out. Many of the girls become best friends.
What is the most rewarding thing about pageants?
The most rewarding thing about pageantry is the smile you get when you help someone. The biggest gift you can give to yourself is through helping others and pageantry presents so many of these opportunities.
Tell us about your platform:
My platform is a community service program called Just Like Me 2 (www.justlikeme2.org). The goal of this organization is to inspire children with learning disabilities and speech impediments to break down the barriers that stand in the way of their goals. When I was struggling with my speech impediment and learning disability there wasn’t anyone for me to look up to as a role model who experienced the issues I was facing. By creating this organization and meeting with students in my community I can be there for children so they don’t feel so alone.
Can you tell us how you were bullied in middle school?
Yes, when I changed schools at the end of elementary school. I thought it would be great starting out at a new school because it was literally a brand new school and nobody would know each other, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone knew each other and I was always being teased for the way I talked (I had a lateral and a frontal lisp) and for my height (I was 5’7” in the 5th grade.) I remember running for student government and being the laughing stock of the school. Even though I was brave enough to speak in front of the entire school I was bullied every day and ostracized by every girl at school.
I am so sorry you had to go through that. How did you first react to it?
I knew that what these students were doing was wrong and that I was better than what they were saying, but that didn’t make it any easier. I came home every day from school and cried to my mom about all the hurtful things kids said to me, how I was stupid (even though I got really good grades) and ugly and I would never amount to anything because no one knew what I was saying. Throughout these formative years the taunting never eased up and I would walk down the halls with my face down, hiding from my tormentors.
How did you overcome bullying, and how has it made a difference in who you are today?
I was and still am very fortunate to have my parents to talk to when I need their help. They were my only friends during this extremely hard time. I didn’t get invited to any parties throughout these years. However, my isolation allowed me to put a lot more time into studying, which led me to realize that it was this extra effort I needed to excel in school with a learning disability. I decided to run for student council a second time because I couldn’t be bitter, I had to be better. Unfortunately, I was taunted even worse than the previous year. It was during this time that I got involved in speech and debate, which would seem like the most ridiculous thing for someone in my position to do. I had been going to speech therapy for 8 years and needed additional practice. It was because of this program that I ended up winning the competition I mentioned earlier in the interview.
I am highly empathetic to those who have been and are victims of bullying. Even though those years were the most difficult time of my life and I eventually did switch schools again because of the constant bullying, I realize that if it hadn’t been for those horrible years I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I became a better, stronger and even more capable person because of all the trials and tribulations that I faced.
Do you have any advice you can offer for our readers who may be bullied?
I look back at a time when students in a middle school journalism class made a hate book that included me in it, using the photos from the yearbook that they were supposed to be making. Through their laughter, I remember turning the other cheek because I knew that their hate and ridicule came from a place of insecurity and lack of self-esteem. I would tell whoever is being bullied that unfortunately there are people in the world that are driven by hate, but it is up to the individual to talk to their parents, friends or family and come out of the situation stronger and more driven to succeed, despite the obstacles that they are facing. If I had given up I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is important that as we reach up for our own goals we remember to extend a helpful hand to others. Helen Keller once said “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement” and I couldn’t agree with her more!
To learn more about the Miss United States Organization, please visit http://www.missunitedstates.com .
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