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Image: Miss Haiti Sarodj Bertin
Mary Altaffer  /  AP
Sarodj Bertin is the 24-year-old beauty queen of Haiti who speaks four languages and is happy to be able to help her country after the devastating earthquake.
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updated 8/18/2010 12:18:50 PM ET 2010-08-18T16:18:50

The first Miss Haiti in 22 years is not the typical contestant you'd find in a beauty pageant. She is a young lawyer who speaks four languages and is happy to be able to help her country after the horrific earthquake that devastated the impoverished Caribbean nation last January.

Sarodj Bertin had a privileged childhood in Port-au-Prince until age 9, when her mother, lawyer and opposition leader Mireille Durocher Bertin, was gunned down after announcing the creation of a political party that would compete with that of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the upcoming elections.

Her father then moved Sarodj and his other children to the neighboring Dominican Republic, where the 24-year-old beauty, who considered her mother her idol, studied law and worked for the International Alliance for Haiti's Recovery.

Nevertheless, she was obsessed with the Miss Universe pageant. After the earthquake, she entered a contest, won and spent the last few months in Puerto Rico with the director of the Miss Dominican Republic and Miss Haiti franchises, Magali Febles, who took charge of her training for Miss Universe, to be held Aug. 23 in Las Vegas. (The pageant will air on NBC and Telemundo, 9 p.m.-11 p.m. EDT.)

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In a recent interview at the Miss Universe headquarters in New York, Bertin spoke with The Associated Press about the importance of her new role, how she expects to help her country and a mishap that would have been the end of the world to any other contestant: Her luggage with her entire Miss Universe wardrobe disappeared on a recent flight to Miami.

AP: What are you going to wear now that you have lost your Miss Universe wardrobe?

Bertin: The people of Haiti have been extremely supportive. They learned what happened and a few designers came to me and loaned me their gowns, bags, shoes. And I, I feel like the most special person in the world right now because they cared for me.

AP: You are a lawyer, you're studying for a masters, you speak French, Spanish, English and Creole, and you are learning Mandarin. You are not the typical Miss Universe contestant.

Bertin: The Miss Universe pageant has always been a dream for me, since I was a kid. I used to watch the contest and think, "Why is my country not participating? I want to see Haiti participating." ... When I finished college, I gave up on the idea. I thought it would never happen. I thought someday ... I could celebrate the contest and send a girl myself. So when they told me that they were going to do it this year ... I trembled, I cried, I screamed.

AP: Some criticized the contest, considering it too frivolous, especially amid such a state of emergency.

Bertin: Everybody remembers Haiti in moments of crisis. ... I want them to see also the beauty that there is in my country, to be interested in giving opportunities to the young people. ... They should see it as a light, a hope.

AP: How do you think your participation in the contest can help your country?

Bertin: There are many people who want to help but don't know how and sometimes they need a voice to tell them what are the necessities of the people. I want the people, through me, to be who says what their necessities are.

AP: What are your expectations for the big day?

Bertin: Obviously, if I win I'm going to be the happiest woman. ... (But) regardless what occurs that night, my objectives are the same: work for my people.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Miss Universe 2009

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  1. And the winner is...

    Miss Venezuela Stefania Fernandez, center, reacts as she is named Miss Universe 2009. As the beauty queen dances with joy, the sparkling tiara falls to the floor at the end of the pageant, held at Atlantis on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009. (Andres Leighton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Making history

    Miss Venezuela Stefania Fernandez, left, takes the title of Miss Universe 2009. Fernandez, 18, makes history, as her country takes the crown for the second consecutive year. She is crowned by 2008 Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza from Venezuela, right. Venezuela has won the crown six times. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Ladies-in-waiting

    Miss Dominican Republic Ada Aimee De la Cruz, left, Miss Venezuela Stefania Fernandez and Miss Kosovo Gona Dragusha, right, wait for the decision. In the end, Miss Kosovo is second runner-up, Miss Dominican Republic is first runner-up and Miss Venezuela is crowned Miss Universe 2009. (Orlando Barria / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Moment of truth

    Ada Aimee De la Cruz, 23, representing the Dominican Republic, looks up nervously as she chooses a judge's name from a bowl for the question-and-answer session. De la Cruz is asked whether she believes HIV testing should be made mandatory, and she answers that it should, saying, "By just not being careful, in just one minute, we may lose our own lives." (Andres Leighton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Sick in style

    Miss Switzerland Whitney Toyloy, center, reacts to feeling ill as Miss USA Kristen Dalton comforts her during the beauty pageant. At left is Miss Czech Republic Iveta Lutovska and back right Miss Puerto Rico Mayra Matos Perez. (Andres Leighton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Dancing divas

    Miss Universe contestants dance to Sean Kingston's "Fire Burning on the Dance Floor" at the beginning of the beauty pageant. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Glamour goddess

    Miss Kosovo Gona Dragusha,18, poses in her purple Grecian-style gown. "I tried many dresses," she said. "This is the one I loved the most." Dragusha finished as second runner-up in the competition. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Ready for drama

    Pageant co-hosts Billy Bush, left, of "Access Hollywood," and "Celebrity Apprentice" star Claudia Jordan stand on stage at the Miss Universe 2009 pageant. Bush, hoping for some drama at the live televised event, opens the show by asking, "What kind of scandal will be created here tonight?" Unfortunately for Bush, no real scandals occur. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. The reigning queen

    Miss Universe 2008, Dayana Mendoza of Venezuela, greets the audience during the annual pageant. When asked what her most memorable moment was as Miss Universe, she answers that it was breaking her country's 12-year losing streak in the international competition. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Top 10

    Miss USA Kristen Dalton, of North Carolina, made it as a top 10 finalist during the Miss Universe beauty pageant, but did not advance after the evening gown competition. (Andres Leighton / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. If you've got it, flaunt it

    Miss Australia Rachael Finch shows off her bikini body during the swimsuit competition. Finch finished as the third runner-up, after being asked by a judge how she feels about women in some countries being banned from wearing bathing suits. Swimsuits, she said, give women the chance to "show our figures ... and everything we've worked so hard for." (Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Feel the beat

    Rapper Flo Rida, right, performs his hit songs "Jump" and "Low" during the swimsuit competition. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Blond 'Body Language'

    Reality TV star Heidi Montag gives her first live musical performance, singing "Body Language" from her debut album. Montag is best known as a star of MTV's "The Hills." Although fans cheer her on, more than half of her performance is blocked out as hosts introduce the 15 pageant finalists. (Lucas Jackson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. She's got the look

    Miss Czech Republic 2009 Iveta Lutovska, 26, gets dolled up in preparation for the pageant. She is a top 10 finalist, but was cut after the evening gown competition. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Touch-up

    Twenty-three-year-old Johanna Lasic, Miss Argentina 2009, sets her hair backstage moments before competing in the Miss Universe pageant. Lasic is not chosen as a finalist. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Strike a pose

    Miss Argentina Joy Lasic, left, Miss Colombia Michelle Rouillard and Miss Bolivia Dominique Peltier, right, rehearse their dance moves prior to the Miss Universe competition. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Sleeping beauty

    Miss Netherlands Avalon-Chanel Weyzig, right, naps in her seat as she and other candidates wait to rehearse for the competition. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Costume conundrum

    Miss Peru Karen Schwarz pre-tapes her opening number wearing an intricate costume. Bolivia protested against Miss Peru using a costume from Andean dance Diablada as the outfit in the national costume section of the pageant. (Ho / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Show stoppers

    Singer Anthoney Wright performs with dancer Cassie Dzienny during the 2009 Miss Universe preliminary competition in the Bahamas, a week before the final competition. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Working the runway

    Miss Montenegro Anja Jovanovic walks on the runway during the swimsuit event of the 2009 Miss Universe preliminary competition. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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