Once upon a time, Nicole Bieda was nervous about speaking in public.

"I would not be able to come in here two years ago," she said Wednesday in the Hesperia Star office. "I would be red and sweating."

But her father worked with the father of Young Miss Hesperia 2006, Victoria Luce, and they encouraged her to give her first pageant a try.

Almost from the beginning, she was forced to start working on her public speaking ability.

"It's really neat how they set it up." There was the pre-pageant judges' interview, on-stage introductions and an on-stage question and answer session she had to endure.

When she first began competing, Marisa Yepiz, Miss Hesperia 2006, took her under her wing.

"She helped me, sat me down, helped me practice the interviews. [The other girls] will be honest and critique you."

Bieda won the tiara as Miss Apple Valley 2007, where her father's business is based. And once she won the title, the rising senior at Hesperia Christian School found herself a regular at Apple Valley community events.

"My principal was really cool," Bieda said. "He understands that this was important. ... It wasn't a full-time job, but it is."

Today, Bieda, 18, has traded one crown for another: On July 12, she won the Miss Hesperia pageant.

"This was close to home," she said, of running a second time. Graduating from high school and working as a hostess at Carino's in Victorville and attending school for the next two years at Victor Valley College before hopefully transferring to Cal State San Bernardino to study education, "You lose track of stuff that's important."

She's not the only Miss Hesperia to have worn another Victor Valley community's sash: Miss Hesperia 2004 Lindsey Merritt later was named Miss Apple Valley 2006.

Bieda said that girls interested in competing shouldn't find the competition intimidating.

"We have so much fun back stage," she said. "We're dancing, goofing off. It helps."

The depiction in films and reality shows of back-biting pageant competition hasn't been anything like her experience of the two Miss Hesperia pageants, both organized by Mariloma-based Empire Pageants.

"We're all rooting for each other, it's just like a game," Bieda said.

Other Hesperia royalty was crowned on July 12: Baby Miss Hesperia is 12-month-old Navaeh Flowers. Petite Miss Hesperia is 22-month-old Christiana Roberts. Toddler Miss Hesperia is 3-year-old Angelina Martinez. Pixie Miss Hesperia is Mesquite Elementary School student Allyson Patten. Junior Miss Hesperia is Hollyvale Elementary School Student Marissa Torres. Pre-Teen Miss Hesperia is Cedar Middle School student Paige Foraker. Young Miss Hesperia is Cedar Middle School student Kylie Patten. And Teen Miss Hesperia is Summit Leadership Academy student Jessica Bieda. (Photos of 2008 Miss Hesperia title-holders will appear in the June 29 edition of the Hesperia Star.)

Bieda's job and school are in Victorville. Might she go for the hat trick next year?

"No, I don't think so," she laughed. "It wasn't that 'I want that crown,' I wanted to be involved."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.