Billtown beauty: Local teen to compete in Miss Teen USA pageant

A Williamsport native will compete in the Miss Teen USA pageant against 50 other girls.

Sydney Robertson, 16, will travel to Atlantis, Paradise Island, in the Bahamas to vie for the crown.

Robertson hopes the community will watch her represent them as the competition streams live online at, starting at 8 p.m. Friday for the presentation show and 8 p.m. Saturday for the finals competition.

To qualify for Miss Teen USA, a division of Miss Universe, she won Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA last December after competing only in a few pageants. She also was voted Most Photogenic and Miss Congeniality.

“I love the Miss Teen USA experience,” Robertson said.

While being Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA is a great honor, it also comes with many responsibilities, including appearances and volunteer work.

“You’re a representative for a year,” she said.

Recent appearances and volunteer work Robertson has done included a Williamsport Crosscutters game, Community Theatre League camp, Children’s Miracle Network telethon, Geisinger Children’s Hospital, Give Kids the World fundraiser, Lycoming Animal Protection Society (LAPS) and Operation That’s My Dress, which gave Robertson an opportunity to help girls with family in the military pick out their dream prom dress.

“It shows you can do things you enjoy and still give back,” Robertson said of her volunteer work. “You get to see kids do what they love to do, being able to do something you love to do.”

Picking a favorite appearance is hard for Robertson, because she always reflects on each one, seeing them all as favorites.

Her father, Allan, manages her event appearances. Her mother, Diane, helps her with her physical appearance. Her sisters, Holly and Lindsey, are her cheerleaders.

“They love being able to cheer me on,” Robertson said. “We’re individuals, but we’re all really close.”

Her family also has sacrificed a lot for her, especially for her modeling career, she said. She has done a lot of driving back and forth from Williamsport to Manhattan, New York, which is a three-hour drive each way, for what could be just a five-minute casting audition.

“No words can describe how thankful I am,” Robertson said.

Robertson first decided on a whim to enter the Miss Teen USA pageant in Pittsburgh after seeing an advertisement on Facebook for it back in 2011.

After filling out the information, she received a call the next day for a phone interview.

Then, she received an email notifying her that she was accepted.

“That sparked my interest,” Robertson said.

With little time left to prepare, she bought a dress at Amber Rose downtown and a bathing suit from Victoria’s Secret. She had no professional coaching and her family helped her get ready.

In Robertson’s first-ever pageant, Robertson won second runner up, or third place.

“I was not expecting to make the top five,” she said. “I wanted to make the top 15. The top 15 win a plaque.”

By placing so high, she realized something important.

“I was the youngest girl there (at 14),” Robertson said. “I had no coaching experience. It shows you can go in totally being yourself. That was really incredible … You can come, be yourself and have a good time. That’s what it’s all about. If you fake it, everyone can see it.”

There are three titles in the Miss Universe organization: Miss Teen USA, Miss USA and Miss Universe.

Teenagers aged 14 to 19 can compete in Miss Teen USA and women aged 18 to 26 can compete in Miss USA and Miss Universe. Women 18 and 19 years old can pick which competition they want to enter.

Yet for Robertson, the Miss Teen USA competition will be her last.

While she has loved participating thus far, she wants to focus on other things in her life.

She will graduate next year, a year early, from Commonwealth Connections Academy, a state-chartered cyber school.

After she graduates, she will move to Manhattan to focus on her acting career.

“Once I set my mind to something, (I) stick to it,” she said.

So much has happened so fast for Robertson in just two and a half years.

“I’m really fortunate,” she said. “Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA basically started my career.”

After she received second runner up, Robertson took a year off in 2012 from competing to focus on her modeling career.

She had been discovered by a judge from a previous competition, who put her in touch with a modeling agency in Ohio.

Later, she started modeling in Manhattan as well.

Something that Robertson likes sharing during her appearances is that even though no one asked her to change, she still suffered from self-confidence issues.

Robertson said she felt as though she didn’t look like the other models.

She struggled with weight fluctuation until last autumn and winter, when she decided she would rather be happy than worry about more important things.

As Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA, she wanted to be a role model for others, which meant she had to be happy, not just for herself, although that was important, too.

“I would never take (the experience) back,” Robertson said. “It made me so much stronger … I have off-days. No one should be ashamed.”

Being able to talk about herself will make the question and answer part of the competition easier.

“You don’t know what to expect (what questions they will ask),” Robertson said. “As long as I know myself, my opinions and my background, it will help me answer … I go with my instincts. I keep calm, cool and collected.”

This weekend, contestants will be judged on swimsuit, evening gown and interviews.

On Saturday, the numbers will dwindle from 51 contestants to 15.

Those 15 will move on to an onstage question and answer session with the judges. From there, winners are revealed from fourth runner up, third runner up, second runner up and then Miss Teen USA will be announced.

Her friends, family and neighbors all will be hoping it will be “Sydney Robertson” on the announcer’s lips.

Editors note: A previous version of this story reported that Robertson was the first person from Williamsport to compete in the competition. However, the Sun-Gazette was informed that this was incorrect.

Mary (Engel) Choate represented Williamsport in the Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant, a division of the Miss Universe organization, in March 1979.