Desperately Seeking Sarodj Durocher Bertin: The Interview
Life started like a dream world for Sarodj Bertin, complete with admission at one of the most prestigious dance schools in Haiti, and all the workings worthy of a little elite princess. She was born the daughter of Mireille Durocher Bertin, a brilliant young attorney, and businessman/activist Christophe Hector Jean Bertin. Then on March 28, 1995 after being picked up by her father from school with the rest of her siblings, they hurried over to a devastating scene: Durocher-Bertin’s body, along with that of a client, laid in a bullet-ridden, white Subaru, 15 bullets thrown in her body alone. Mr. Bertin soon afterwards went to live in the Dominican Republic where Sarodj, about 7, would spend her most of her early life.
It would become really apparent with time that Sarodj had inherited her mother’s stunning looks and poise, and she often represented Haiti at beauty pageants, as she did for the Miss intercontinental beauty pageant in 2005. Pageants would take a backseat for awhile, while Sarodj continued her law studies at the Universidad Iberoamericana. In 2010, Sarodj was crowned Miss Haiti and became part of Haitian pageant history when she became the first Miss Universe contestant from Haiti in more than 2 decades.
In spite of some slight brouhaha brought about by her selection, many rooted for her, and for everything that she represented; this spirit of determination and hope. Haiti had lost an estimated 160,000 inhabitants in the earthquake and was still looking forward to tomorrow; Sarodj had lost her mother, and had been pulling forward ever since. The parallel between country and citizen was interesting, if nothing else. At the international showdown for the tiara, the young attorney did not figure in the Top 10, but to some she was already a crowned queen even before she got on the plane to go to Las Vegas.
We thought it only fitting to catch up with her to see what she has been up to since then.
What kind of person is Sarodj Bertin? I am a normal person, that believes in her country, believes in her people and believes in herself! I just know what I want, and I work hard to make it [come] true.
You were born in Haiti, and lived in Haiti for a time. What are the most precious memories that you have from those days? I have a lot of beautiful memories of Haiti, with my family and my mother! I remember how we used to camp in Kenscoff, and how we used to go to the beach every weekend in Moulin sur Mer, and sometimes in Port Salut…we had so much fun in every get-away…that I can say I had a beautiful childhood.
There has been this strife between Dominicans and Haitians over the years. Do you think that it will ever be healed? I believe in fraternity, and I know that this is the solution for the relationship between Haiti, and Dominican Republic. It’s normal to have problems, especially when we share a border, but all problems have solutions. We just need to choose the solution that it’s fair for both.
Your mother the attorney Mireille Durocher Bertin was murdered in Haiti. That would have been led anyone in your place to say, “I will never set foot in Haiti. I will never have anything whatsoever to do with Haiti.” Yet, wherever you go, Haiti is the first word on your lips. How did you get yourself beyond that? Because I learned how to forgive! Haiti its my country and I will always work to have a better country! I lost my mother, and it was very hard for me and my family, but I believe she would not like me to forget about my country. She always fought for the rights of people in Haiti, and for a better country.
How did you manage to heal from such a horrendous experience? I am not totally healed; I just accepted it, and moved on! Because I always say that, everything in life happens for a reason, and only God, knows which is. And so we have to learn from each experience, good or bad, easy or difficult.
What are people most surprised to learn about you? That I am grateful for life and to God, even when I suffer! No one likes suffering, but it does happen, so we have to deal with it, without blaming anyone.
You have several foundations, including one that you started with your father. Would you mind discussing them? I have only one foundation of my own and it’s Sarodj for a Purpose. I do help many other foundations, including my father’s—Alliance International pour la Récuperation D’Haiti—and another called Manitas en la Calle. I support also many charity work such as Catwalk. I have been working in charity since 2002, but now I created my own foundation, because I have many things I want to do for my people.
It’s been said that there is a great deal of discrimination against Haitians in the Dominican Republic. Have you ever been a victim? No, I have not. I thank the Dominican Republic, that has been my second home; they gave me and my family the opportunity to grow, study and work in their country. It is true that it’s been said that there is discrimination, but it hasn’t been said that there are also a lot of opportunities.
How do you respond to the saying that beauty is both a blessing and a curse? I believe that everything in life can be a blessing or a curse, it will all depend on how you use it, and why you use it for. People say that being beautiful opens and closes doors, so make sure you identify the open doors to take advantage of the opportunities.
Was the trip to Port-au-Prince for the Miss Haiti 2010 your first trip to Haiti since you went to live in the Dominican Republic? No, I have been going back to Haiti since 2007, and even had some clients in Haiti, and worked as their lawyer, so I went back and forward very often, now I am permanently in Haiti.
What is Haitian identity like in the Dominican Republic? I am Haitian in the Dominican Republic, and all over the world. It’s an honor for me to be a Haitian and to say so.
When you had the Miss Haiti title, there was this negative energy that was going around, about how you weren’t “Haitian enough”. After being Miss Haiti, I wasn’t in any place enough, I have been traveling all over the world for 2 years now, representing my country, and making people see other things about Haiti. I believe that my job as Miss Haiti, is not to sit down in Haiti, so they can say I am there. If I want to change the image they have of our country, I have to do it internationally.
From what we’ve read, your father married a Dominican woman, and your professional and social circle is almost completely Dominican correct? With that, how have you managed to keep your Haitian identity? My father never got married after my mother’s death. He still thinks about her, and he still loves her; for him she is still here! But I understand he needs to get married one day, and he can get married with whom he feels like—doesn’t matter if she will be Dominican, or Haitian, or Chinese. I have a lot of Dominican friends, but they are not more than my Haitian friends. I do have also a lot of Venezuelan, Colombian, Italian, French friends. None of my friendships can affect my identity, because I am sure of what I am, and where I come from.
Haitians come in all colors, as do Dominicans. Yet there is this perception that dark equals Haitians, and light equals Dominican. Do you think the fact that your looks lean more towards the supposed Dominican prototype look has helped you escape some discrimination? No, I do not think so, because everyone in the Dominican Republic knows for sure that I am Haitian. And I believe that us Haitians are the first ones that accent that difference, because all over the world, I have found Haitians that tells me i don’t look Haitian. It seems to me that we are the ones mistaking about our color, because White, Black, Light, Brown, its all the same; Haitian is Haitian.
As a beauty queen, do you ever feel that someone who approaches in friendship or in love, might have ulterior motives? I don’t, because I don’t judge people, so I don’t expect to be judged.
You took part in the video for the song “Dekole”, and you’re quite the actress. Is acting something you’re actively pursuing? Actually it is, I have been taking acting classes for more than one year now, and already shot a movie, but my movie hasn’t come out yet.
Do you see yourself ever living in Haiti for good? I am living in Haiti, now I have my apartment and I spend more then 2 weeks a month in Haiti, the rest traveling.
Do you think you would have become a lawyer, regardless of whether your mom had been one? Maybe not, because all the things that have happened to me in life, are the things that make me be who I am today! So everything had a influence in my life, especially my mother. Jesus once said that it is by the fruits that a tree bears that you can evaluate it. What kind of fruit does the Sarodj tree bear? I am not the one to tell you what are the fruits. I work hard, to give many fruits, and one day you’ll get to see them all mature, and ready to eat!
What’s your advice to all the future Misses of Haiti? Enjoy, because its a beautiful experience, but work because it’s also a job, you have to represent you country, so never forget the reason why you have been chosen.
What’s next for you? I want to built a home for children in Haiti, under the name of my mother, and I am raising funds for this project right now. Just shoot a calendar to promote Haiti, and the funds of the calendar, are all for my foundation. Have a couple of movies that we are negotiating for this year, so hopefully I’ll get to do another one.
SARODJ AT A GLANCE
What kind of music do you like? Your favorite stars and band? I like old music, and classic music, but I enjoy all type of songs. Some of my favorite singers are: Dalida, Edith Piaf, Andrea Bocelli, Marc Antony, Nana Mouskouri. What do you do for fun? Reading a good book, or going to the movies, enjoy a cup of coffee with friends. Have a good meal. Having fun for me is easy, because I enjoy everything I do. What’s your favorite vacation spot? Italy. When was the last time you had a really good cry? When I had a bad dream, I dreamt someone died. Between your dad and siblings, who are you the closest to? I’m really close to all my family. But I have a special relationship with my father.
What kind of person would your friends say you are? They would just say I am a good friend. And your most prized possession? My faith.
Your biggest regret so far? None. I don’t regret anything, because I live every moment with all my energies, and I believe that everything happens for a reason.
Give instructions to your future husband. Respect, understand, communicate, be fair and you will have no problems with me.
Your favorite book. God Arrives in a Harley because it’s a book where you clearly understand that you should never judge people for what they look like; you should give them the opportunity to show you how they really are!
Your favorite movie and what you like most about it. The Secret Garden. It’s a beautiful story, and I learned with it, that when you believe in something you should fight for it. It’s never late to turn back when you are wrong.