By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Lights, cameras, action.
That was the cue for 7-year-old Rebecca Alley of Temple when she appeared in the Jan. 27 show of TLC's 'Toddlers & Tiaras.' The cable series is an ongoing documentary of Texas girls who compete in beauty pageants.
'It's kind of like reality TV,' said Rebecca's mom, Stacey. 'Each episode, the camera follows a different set of girls. You get an idea of what pageant life is like - the preparation, comradery, the work and the fun.'
The experience was an enjoyable one for Rebecca.
'It was so cool,' she said. 'I liked being followed around and everything. It was fun to see me on TV. I giggled.'
She appeared in episode 102, the show that featured three mother-daughter beauty teams competing in the University Royalty Beauty Pageant at Austin. Rebecca took top honors, earning $1,000 and the title of Mini Grand Supreme, and Mrs. Alley received an honorable mention. The Alleys were selected to appear in the show after a series of phone interviews with TLC staff. Rebecca had competed in last year's pageant, so they were familiar with her. In that competition, she earned the title of queen for 5-6 age division and won $100.
Reruns of have been playing throughout the month, and Mrs. Alley said one is scheduled for Tuesday on TLC.
'We've got good feedback from family and friends,' Mrs. Alley said.
Rebecca's grandmother, Joann Alley of Temple, said her coworkers at First Community Title have been full of compliments, and Rebecca said her teachers at Western Hills Elementary School are proud of her.
'It's just been so much fun,' Rebecca said. 'I feel like Hannah Montana.'
In fact, becoming a pop star is a goal for the young girl. She wants to perfect her singing skills, so she can one day be a professional entertainer. She say she gets good practice with the choir at Oak Park Unithed Methodist Church.
As far as beauty pageants, she said her goal is to compete in one that has a prize of 'a brand new car.'
Rebecca has been competing in beauty contests and pageants for as long as she can remember.
'I have 32, 32, no 36 trophies from everything I won,' Rebecca said. 'And I have 30 crowns.'
She competes mostly in Austin where travel is close and convenient. Her costumes and make-up come from a variety of Central Texas venues, specialty stores and chains. Mrs. Alley said the cost of the hobby isn't any greater than that of dance lessons or sporting events.
'Plus there are usually cash prizes,' Mrs. Alley said. 'So that helps offset what we spend.'
Rebecca's interest in beauty competitions is partially genetic. Her grandmother enjoys them, and her two older sisters, Shayna, 18, and Brandy, 21, competed in a few pageants when they were young.
But Mrs. Alley said the older girls didn't enjoy them as much as Rebecca.
'I came to prefer modeling,' said Brandy, a senior at Temple High. 'I didn't like being judged at the pageants.'
Rebecca loves it, though.
'I like being able to wear make-up, and I like the costumes,' Rebecca said. 'My favorites are the swimsuits, and that's because I like to swim.'
She also enjoys the pageants because of the talent portion of the competition. And her talent is dancing.
'Rebecca choreographs her own moves,' Mrs. Alley said. 'Just like she picks out her own outfits.'
For last month's TLC pageant, Rebecca danced to the Latin melody of 'Papa Loves Mambo.'
'I like listening for beats in music,' Rebecca said as she gave a demonstration of the dance. Her performance was full of animated hand gestures, facial expressions and cartwheels. She likes to incorporate the moves she learns at gymnastics class into her dance routines.
How Rebecca prepares for a pageant dance is up to her.
'She sets her own practice schedule,' Mrs. Alley said. 'Sometimes its five or 15 minutes two times a day, and sometimes it's an hour on Saturday, whatever she feels like.'
Mrs. Alley serves as dance coach by making sure Rebecca does the right steps in the right order. But she's careful not to overstep her role.
'It's Rebecca's dance,' Mrs. Alley said. 'I'm only here to help.'
Other than practicing her dancing, pageant participation requires no alteration of Rebecca's lifestyle.
'She's on no special diet,' Mrs. Alley said. 'We like for her to get good rest, but we'd want that anyway.'
For the TLC show, Mrs. Alley had to compete right alongside Rebecca.
'I did it for her. It's something she wanted to do,' Mrs. Alley said. 'It was great to spend all that time with her while the show was being filmed.'
It was the first time for Mrs. Alley to compete in a pageant. Her participation is usually limited to helping Rebecca prepare and cheering from the audience.
'Pageant life is a whole new world,' Mrs. Alley said. 'It's like learning a whole new language, and it's a lot of work but you'd never know it from how much fun the girls are having.'
Fellow pageant-mom Lonnie Hernandez of Killeen agrees.
'Little girls like to be treated like Cinderella,' Mrs. Hernandez said. Her 7-year-old daughter Mackenzie is a frequent pageant competitor and one of Rebecca's closest friends. 'They like getting tans, wearing make-up and having their hair and make-up done.'
When Mackenzie saw Rebecca on TV, Mrs. Hernandez said Mackenzie squealed with delight.
'It's so much fun for the girls,' Mrs. Hernandez said. 'They get to go to hotels, meet new friends and be beautiful. It's something they want to do.'
For now, Rebecca and Mackenzie love pageants. Nothing about it is considered a chore. They like practicing for their talents, and they like picking out their outfits. But if their parents say if they outgrow it, then that'll be fine.
'As long as she's having fun at it, I'm all for it,' said Rebecca's dad, Brad Alley of Temple.
His wife nodded her head.
'She's all smiles when we do pageant work,' Mrs. Alley said. 'That's why keep on competing.'