How many times have you checked out Facebook this week? There are plenty of cute kid pictures, shared articles, and must-try recipes. It is harmless, right? Now, imagine if you logged in to find someone impersonating you. Even worse, picture how that would feel if you were 12 years old.

That’s what happened to Miss Colorado American Junior Teen Ashley Berry and is why 14-year-old Berry uses her title to raise awareness about bullying through her organization, G.I.R.L.S. (Girls Inspiring Real Leadership Skills). It is working: Because of her experience as a victim, Berry was recently invited to the Colorado State Capital to testify for legislation against cyber bullying. Berry will compete for a national crown this fall, and we sat down to talk to her about being bullied, confidence, and what’s next.

5280: What was your experience with bullying?

I found out that I was being impersonated on Facebook when I was in fifth/sixth grade. A teacher and other people told me they added me on Facebook, but I wasn’t allowed to have [an account]. I watched this person post things pretending to be me as I was sitting in my room. I didn’t really know how to take it at the time. I became very depressed. I decided I didn’t want to go through this anymore, to be down on myself. I wanted to do something so that other people didn’t have to feel this way.

5280: What response have you developed to bullying?

I go around spreading an anti-bullying message from elementary school kids to adults. There’s a lot in my G.I.R.L.S. program focused on leadership because I think that’s key in battling this issue. The problem with the Internet is people can say whatever they want because they don’t see the reaction to the bullying. There aren’t laws to fight that right now. I really think it’s important to be unique and be able to stick out, even if other people are judging you for that.

5280: What have you gained from competing in pageants?

I like being able to make new friends. Also the public speaking, which I’ve gained through the speech and interview portions, has helped me become a national spokesperson. I really like what I’m doing as a speaker and that I can incorporate the pageantry into what I’m doing with G.I.R.L.S. I use the title to help my cause.

5280: What are your long-term goals?

I really want to attend a university in communications to further my career in speaking. I want to grow my G.I.R.L.S. program as much as I can nationally and, hopefully, internationally.

—Image Courtesy of Ashley Berry