CLIFFSIDE PARK, N.J. — Izabela Hasandjekic was already putting her sparkly earrings back on as she leapt across the Cliffside Park High School soccer field and into the back seat of her mother’s SUV.
Usually, the 14-year-old rising sophomore has more than a 10-minute car ride to transform herself from a sweaty soccer player into a graceful pageant queen.
But last Memorial Day, not even Miss Cliffside Park herself had a choice. Almost as if it was a scene straight of “The Princess Diaries,” Hasandjekic kicked off her cleats, twisted her hair into a braid and swung her sparkly sash over her shoulder.
“It’s all about self-confidence and poise,” said Hasandjekic, who made it to the Cliffside Park Fire Department for her holiday appearance with only seconds to spare. “Anyone can do it.”
Cliffside Park Mayor Thomas Calabrese and several local businesses will sponsor Hasandjekic next month when she’ll vie for the National American Miss New Jersey Junior Teen title in East Brunswick. Hasandjekic was crowned NAM Cover Girl and Cover Model in 2013, and has been the state’s ambassador for three years.
Life has never been about glitz and glam for Hasandjekic, who feels most herself on the soccer field. She’s more concerned with maintaining her perfect attendance record of 9 years and giving back to her community.
“I feel like everyone should be helping,” said the teen, who has raised more than $300 for School No. 3 through selling “Daddy’s Heart, My Heart, The Purple Heart” by three Cliffside Park students.
She also dropped by the school last month to deliver donations for the school's next set of care packages for troops serving overseas.
Hasandjekic is as accomplished on the soccer field as she is on the stage.
This year, she was the only freshman to play on her school’s varsity soccer team, ranked second in the league, and will start as the youngest member of an elite U17 team soon.
NAM showed Hasandjekic two sides of herself that she didn’t know existed.
“If I didn’t [compete] I think I’d still be shy — only focusing on soccer and school — and never wear glitter,” said Hasandjekic, wearing a sparkly, red headband.
“When else would I get to wear a dress, crown and basically be a princess?”