By Niki D’Andrea
“I’m basically a guy with tits.”
This is how 16-year-old Red Mountain High School student Kelly Ortiz describes herself at the beginning of her “Pageant Queen” episode for the MTV show Made, which airs Saturday, February 16.
Ortiz was a tomboy who always wore tank tops, jeans, and beanie hats, and she never felt comfortable talking to girls her own age. She says she never fit in with any group, and considered herself “one of the guys.” She wore big-frame glasses, burped out loud, and wrestled around on the floor. The Mesa teen says she decided to try out for the MTV show Made -- which follows various people over six weeks on their quests to become whatever they like, whether it’s a figure skater, a freestyle rapper, or a pageant queen -- because she’d recently moved to Mesa from Texas and wasn’t adjusting very well.
“I was popular in Texas and I had a lot of friends there, but here, I had no friends,” Ortiz says. “And my mom really encouraged me. She wanted me to be more feminine and make more female friends, and just be happy. So that’s when I decided I wanted to be Made.”
Red Mountain High School student Kelly Ortiz, during the filming of Made: Pageant Queen.
For her metamorphosis, MTV brought in a team of trainers consisting of everything from nutritionists to vocal coaches, but the transition wasn’t easy for Ortiz. She had to learn how to walk her dog while wearing heels, try on tons of dresses and makeup, and perhaps most difficult, get over her stage fright and shyness in social situations.
“The most difficult part of this process for me was talking to people. It was so hard for me,” Ortiz says. “I dressed a certain way and acted a certain way to get people to talk to me, and I was talking to a new group of people every day, and sometimes they would give me weird looks or they would ignore me and continue with their own conversations. I had a major fear of rejection.”
Working with renowned beauty coach Jacqueline Brady was also challenging. Brady pulls no punches in the episode, bombarding Ortiz with “J-Bombs” (assignments designed to bring Ortiz out of her shell) and offering emphatic feedback like “that sucked” when Ortiz half-heartedly practices greeting people with a smile. But Ortiz says Brady wasn’t as tough as she seemed. “It was really hard sometimes, but she acted differently. When the cameras were on, she was really tough on me, but when they were off, she’d say stuff like, ‘It’s okay, sweetie, you can do this.’ I’m really glad I got to meet Jacqueline and have her be my coach.”
Additional coaching was provided by Brenna Sakas (Miss Arizona), who had Ortiz answering a series of pageant questions drawn from a fishbowl (she also made her sing in a bikini at a mini-golf place, but that’s another story). Ortiz found some of the questions silly, and couldn’t help but answer honestly, much to the chagrin of Sakas. When asked “What would you do with a red crayon?,” Ortiz answers, “I’d shove it up my nose.”
After an exasperated laugh, Sakas replies, “I’m not sure that’s even funny.”
For the “talent” part of the pageant competition, Ortiz decided she wanted to sing – something she loved to do, but had never done outside of her school choir. So MTV brought in local singer/songwriter Jody Gnant to help Ortiz. Gnant took one of Ortiz’s poems and helped her craft a melody, then brought her into a studio to record the track so she could practice. “Working with Jody was so amazing,” Ortiz says. “Out of everybody I met and worked with, Jody was the best one. We’re thinking about getting together and co-writing a song. She wants me to get out and perform, and she thinks I can do it. I think I can, too.”
Ortiz and singer/songwriter Jody Gnant
Such confidence proves the show had an impact on Ortiz, who, in one segment, had to sing the national anthem before a women’s basketball game at her school and looked so petrified it almost makes the viewer uncomfortable.
Since filming the show, Ortiz says some of her new strengths have stuck with her. “Now, it’s really easy for me to talk to girls, and I have female friends,” she says. “I hang out with a different group every day. And I wear skirts.”
But has she walked her dog in heels since the show?
Ortiz laughs. “No, not at all. Our dogs don’t actually get walked. The producer suggested I practice doing stuff in heels, like cooking breakfast or walking the dog. Our driveway is like, a 45-degree angle, our dog is very energetic, and I’m extremely clumsy. Like, over the summer, when my boobs got bigger, I would fall off balance.”
She laughs again. “But it was an interesting experience.”
And what would she do with a red crayon now?
“I’d probably give it to somebody else who likes crayons,” Ortiz says. “I’m more of a pastels and paint-type person.”
How did Kelly fare at the Ms. Tri-State Arizona Pageant? Find out when “Made: Pageant Queen” airs Saturday, February 16, on MTV. Check MTV.com for local listings.