Alberta girl Aims to outsmart her rivals
Junior reporter hopes to inspire others as a Canada’s Smartest Person Junior competitor
During her first few years in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Alexia Sabau’s favourite activity was interviewing family and friends with a toy microphone. According to her mother, she did this as early as age three.
Now 12 and living in Calgary for the past four years, Alexia’s stint as a “junior reporter” on both her own “Alexia in YYC” series found on YouTube and for various organizations such as the Calgary Stampede, Tourism Calgary and now-defunct Calgary International Children’s Festival is so ingrained into her identity that it’s the first thing mentioned in her online bio for CBC’s upcoming competition reality series, Canada’s Smartest Person Junior.
On top of that, she has also been enlisted by Global TV to dispense advice on school lunches, and has trod the boards in a number of school musicals. Presumably, this sort of thing tends to give one leverage when competing in a series filmed before a live studio audience.
“I’m in my environment in front of the camera, that’s where I feel most comfortable since I’ve been in front of the camera so much,” says Alexia. “I think that was definitely an advantage for me because on the set it was just like I had gone to another theatre play. I felt in my environment. I felt really relaxed, really calm. So I felt that was an advantage for me.”
How this would eventually pay off on the CBC elimination series remains to be seen. While the Toronto-shot series was filmed in August, it won’t premiere until Nov. 14. So, as is the reality with reality TV, the cheerfully talkative 12-year-old will have to keep mum about how she fared.
What we know is that the Grade 8 student — she skipped Grade 2 — is among 12 young competitors aged nine to 12 from across Canada who will vie for the title of Canada’s Smartest Person Junior throughout the six episodes, engaging in various challenges that test different aspects of intelligence. Alexia is the only Alberta competitor and seems to take her role-model duties seriously.
“I really wanted to be on the show to inspire all the kids around Canada to embrace their smarts,” she says. “Lots of kids are smart in different ways but they just haven’t embraced it and they don’t know. But once you embrace your smarts, you can really do anything.”
The series will be hosted by former Calgarian Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, a Canadian Screen Awardwinning actor best known for playing befuddled patriarch Appa on the CBC sitcom Kim’s Convenience. It’s a new twist of Canada’s Smartest Person, where adults would compete for the title with challenges that tested intelligence in six categories.
Similarly, the kids are challenged with tasks that test their linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical smarts.
“It’s incredibly humbling and inspiring at the same time,” says Lee, about being around these brainy youth. “This was not a type of competition
where it’s all about book smarts. The lovely thing about the theory of multiple intelligence, which is what the show subscribes to, is that intelligence is broken up into six different categories. All the kids were challenged in all those categories and the results were impressive. I’d say a lot of adults would be hard-pressed to compete alongside these kids.”
But intelligence was just one area where the competitors impressed, he says.
“What I didn’t realize and what surprised me was how full of heart they were,” Lee says. “They were incredible humans. They all became friends, they were all very accepting of me and each other and they all started rooting for each other. This was quite an example of what true sportsmanship and pure competition is.”
Still, it is an elimination series. “All of our hearts broke when one of them had to be eliminated from the competition,” Lee says. “It really was a roller-coaster of emotions, and it was unexpected how emotionally invested I got in the kids.”
However well Alexia ended up faring on the series, her future plans are ambitious if not completely focused at the moment.
“I definitely want to have my own talk show,” she says. “I already do, but I want it on a major, major network so I can reach everyone I can and inspire as many people I can. Longer term, I’m leaning more toward scientist and doctor. When I was filming I was leaning more to scientist and now I’m leaning more towards doctor, maybe a surgeon.”
I really wanted to be on the show to inspire all the kids around Canada to embrace their smarts. Lots of kids are smart.
Alexia Sabau, 12, is the only Alberta competitor for Canada’s Smartest Person Junior.