SINTON – Lillibeth Martinez has always had her eye on pageantry. From the crowns to the dresses, she adores it all. Her love of pageantry will be taking her way to Florida in February for the 2020 Miss Celebrations USA Nationals competition.

Mindy Marie Salinas, Lillibeth’s mother, said her daughter had wanted to compete for so long but wasn’t able to due a car accident.

“We had to postpone pageantry for a long time because she was in physical therapy,” said Salinas. “We didn’t even know if her legs were going to grow because of the spot she was hit at, so we just barely got her in pageantry.”

Salinas said it was difficult to see her daughter injured and not fulfill Lillibeth’s desire to compete. 

“She couldn’t move and she couldn’t do anything,” said Salinas. “It was really hard.”

Once she completed physical training and got a release from her physicians to compete, Salinas entered her daughter in her first pageant in September. 

“We’re just like ‘OK, let’s try your first pageant and she won,” said Salinas. 

“Then the next one she won and the next one she won and now she’s going to nationals.”

Lillibeth has garnered attention since she started competing. After singing “Esta Noche Te Olvideo” by Sarah Monique at her last competition, Spooky by the Sea in Corpus Christi, she gained a lot of attention from Facebook and from the singer herself.

“Sarah is Lillibeth’s favorite artist,” said Salinas. “Lily actually got to meet her because of the video of her singing and got to sing with Sarah.

“We weren’t expecting this; we kind of were just wanting to let her have fun. Now it’s blowing up really quickly in the last couple of months and it’s like, ‘God, we’re blessed.’ 

“She couldn’t do anything for a long time so it’s kind of hard now see her do so much more than what I expected her to do.”

Salinas said they weren’t aware of the Miss Celebrations USA pageant. A pageant director had contacted her about the event two weeks prior to the competition set in San Antonio. 

“We didn’t know anything about Miss Celebrations USA except that it was a big pageant,” said Salinas. “So we’re like, well, let’s just go and see how she does.”

Lillibeth was crowned as Toddler Miss Celebrations USA and Pink Cadillac Runway Queen along with winning categories like prettiest eyes, hair, smile, best formal and fashion wear as well as most photogenic. Earning Toddler Miss Celebrations USA earned her a spot for nationals.

Salinas said there has been an outpouring of support from the community.  Before moving to Sinton, the family resided in Mathis. 

“There’s been so many people that have just donated or just prayed for her,” said Salinas. “It’s amazing to see so much support from the community. That’s what pushes us and motivates us. We want to represent these towns that are helping us.”

Lillibeth said she loves competing. She said she likes to make new friends and dress up like a princess. 

Being a pageant mom has been stressful for Salinas, but she said it’s worth it to see Lillibeth on stage doing what she loves. She advises moms who want to enter the pageantry world to make sure their child wants to compete. 

“There are moms who push their babies that don’t want to compete,” she said. “It has to be what your child wants to do, they have to want to do it. If they don’t want to do it, they’re not going to succeed.”

Lillibeth will be competing in the category Toddler Miss Celebrations USA. 

“There’s also categories like grand supreme and mega supreme,” said Salinas. “She can win above her division if she does very well.”

The Miss Celebrations USA Nationals competition will be in Orlando, Florida. The competition will last from Feb. 13 through 16. 

AJ Lopez is the assistant editor at the News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270 or at sanpatricio@mySouTex.com