CONWAY — SaLiz Anderson, 7, pranced into Appearances Salon and Day Spa in downtown Conway on a recent afternoon with a bright smile. She seemed more excited about the fruit punch she was drinking than the massage she was about to get in preparation for a pageant in Austin.
“We’re doing this just because,” said SaLiz’s mom, Sarah Anderson. “Sometimes before pageants, we get mother daughter massages.”
This time, the cameras from the TLC television show Toddlers and Tiaras were there to catch the activity on camera. The show was in town throughout parts of last week to capture footage for a future episode.
SaLiz has been competing in pageants in Conway, and around the state and region, since she was 11 months old, Sarah said. For several years, the Anderson family noticed camera crews from the show following SaLiz’s competitors.
According to TLC’s website, Toddlers and Tiaras “follows families on their quest for sparkly crowns, bit titles and lots of cash.”
The show follows young pageant competitors through good times and bad, sometimes catching meltdowns and out-of-control parents.
“The cameras seemed to be wherever she was,” Sarah said of her daughter. “She was never featured on the show, but every time they would pan the room in a shot, SaLiz would be there.”
SaLiz’s parents, who were encouraged by the show’s producers to apply for her to be featured on the show, learned of her selection several weeks ago and said they have heard nothing but positive feedback from friends in the community so far.
“Everyone is really excited to see her on TV,” Sarah said.
The show sometimes shows parents pushing their children to compete in pageants and exhibiting less than-appropriate behavior behind the scenes.
“I’m not that kind of mom,” Sarah said. “I am very high energy. For us, it’s all about doing our best and having fun.”
Sarah said SaLiz keeps competing in pageants because of how much fun it is, and also because of the dresses she gets to wear.
“I want to marry the dress,” SaLiz said, when asked about the dress she planned to wear in the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant on Oct. 29. “It’s red and silver with lots of bling and dazzle.”
Sarah said her daughter isin her element in the spotlight.
“She loves it,” Sarah said. “If we could do a pageant every weekend, we would.”
At Appearances on Oct. 25, salon owner Lea Berumen was a little less relaxed.
She applied mascara in the mirror nervously before Sarah, SaLiz and the television crew arrived for SaLiz’s massage.
“They called last week and asked if they could come,” Berumen said. “I’m kind of nervous, but we’re excited to have them. We have a lot of pageant girls come in all the time. I think every salon in Conway does, so we are all used to it.”
While Berumen’s own children did not compete in pageants, she said it can be a good confidence booster for little girls.
“Our favorite thing about this business is making people look and feel their best,” she said. “We have people cry sometimes because they feel so pretty after we do their hair, and they have never felt pretty before.”
That’s not the case for most pageant girls.
“They seem to be the ones with the most confidence,” Berumen said. “I think performing and being interviewed helps them develop that.”
Sarah pointed out that pageants aren’t everything for their family. SaLiz attends Florence Mattison Elementary School and makes straig ht A’s. Most of her classmates don’t even know she participates in pageants on the weekends.
“It’s important for her to be a normal kid,” Sarah said. “We just like to have fun.”
Staff writer Caroline Zilk can be reached at (501) 244-4326 or email@example.com.