Al­berta girl Aims to out­smart her ri­vals

Ju­nior re­porter hopes to in­spire oth­ers as a Canada’s Smartest Per­son Ju­nior com­peti­tor

Calgary Herald - - NEWS - ERIC VOLMERS

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.

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