By Brenda Neygent
Alexis Bentinganan has big goals for a nine-year-old, but she also has the guts to make them happen.
The girl with the rich, clear voice – diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on in 2013. At the age of 7. She has been performing for most of her life and dreams of being a pop star. That’s if she can squeeze in a little stage time between her work as a scientist, “Before I got diabetes, I wanted to be a scientist for fun,” she said. “Now I want to find a cure for diabetes and cancer.”
That confidence makes it all seem possible, especially when Alexis belts out “The National Anthem,” a song that is notoriously difficult to sing, but seems effortless for her. (Search her name on YouTube to see for yourself)
She’s been perfecting her voice under the tutelage of her father. From the first time she stepped on stage, audiences have been mesmerized.
Before she sings, usually in front of crowds at Orlando Magic games or matchups between the Mets and Yankees, there are butterflies, but those only last for a moment.
“Before I go on stage I have a nervous breakdown,” she said with the drama of a typical 9-year-old. “Well, not a nervous breakdown. But I get a little nervous. Then the adrenaline hits, and it’s wonderful.”
She began singing along with the car radio, and her college trumpet player father immediately recognized his daughter’s potential.
He is now her vocal coach and is not afraid to give his daughter the tough advice she needs to improve her skills.
“He tells me he’s not going to sugarcoat it,” she said. “And he tells me when I’m flat or when I’m sharp.”
Her first public tune was “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” her dad’s favorite. After singing “The National Anthem” at a special program in kindergarten, she received a standing ovation said mom Bambi. She later received an invitation to sing at a high school football game. From there, the gigs have been growing in importance.
Thanks to her OmniPod, which she asked for four months after she was diagnosed. The stress she might experience from performing has little impact on her blood glucose, and she no longer has to dread administering insulin and checking glucose numbers.
“I hated doing the shots and the pokes,” she said, adding that she refused treats including carrot cake rather than take extra insulin to counteract them. “I hated it so much.”
Now, the avid singer and swimmer spends all the time she’d like in the pool thanks to her waterproof insulin pump, which is good news since her parents and little brother Clark live in Florida, where the heat is sometimes oppressive.
“You won’t see me running,” Alexis said. “It’s like an oven out there.”
The pool is her sanctuary, and she can live in the deep end if she likes, thanks to the convenience of her OmniPod.
“I love it,” she said. “It gives me so much more freedom. When I was first diagnosed, I felt like I couldn’t do anything. I was upset. But now, I feel lucky. I don’t even realize it’s there.”
Despite the heat, Alexis loves living in Florida, where she’s made lots of friends, including another girl with diabetes also named Lexi.
“There are about 60 Lexis’s at my school,” laughed Alexis. She is in the gifted and talented program, where she remains focused on her studies, at least when she’s not booking singing gigs.
And it is there that Alexis finds her true bliss.
“I don’t think of it as a job,” she said. “I think of it as playing and being happy.”