With the sheer volume of reality television shows on the airwaves today, maybe it was just a matter of time before one came to Bryan County.
The WEtv network recently chose the Ellabell family of Tony and Katie Leggett to star in an upcoming episode of Little Miss Perfect, a reality show about child beauty pageant contestants. The network recently sent a film crew to interview the Leggetts at their home and follow them around for a few days.
"The first time we watched the show I told my mom ‘wow, that would be really cool if we could be on it. Could you try to get us on it?’ We agreed that it probably wouldn’t happen," 10-year-old Kaylin Leggett said. "As soon as we got the call, I just couldn’t believe it."The main focus of the episode, which is slated to air early next year, will be 5-year-old Kyndal Leggett, but her older sisters Kelsey and Kaylin - all avid pageant competitors – were spotlighted as well. Among the footage shot by the WEtv crew was all three girls competing in a recent pageant and the family being interviewed by the Bryan County News.
Little Miss Perfect producer Suzanne Dakessian said the show gets applicants from all across the country, "and the Leggetts turned out to be a great choice. They are a wonderful family and were a pleasure to shoot. It should be a really fun episode to watch."
Dakessian said one of the things that made the Leggett sisters a candidate for the show was all three of them placing in the recent Bryan County High School Pageant.
WEtv.com describes the television show as a series of documentaries on "mothers and daughters - who will stop at nothing to win a crown... and some cash," but mom Katie Leggett said pageantry is more of a family adventure for her and her girls. She said it also helps build their confidence.
The Leggett girls have competed in hundreds of pageants across the state and have won some cash, in the form of savings bonds. This includes the U.S. National Forestry Title, which came with a $1,000 savings bond and a gem and crystal crown valued at $500. Both Kaylin and Kelsey have earned that title in recent years.
But it can’t be all about the money for the Leggetts, because much more is spent on the price of competing than winnings. For example, the family recently paid $1,500 for a particular dress. There are also entry fees, a recent $1,500 price tag for a glamour photo shoot and countless extras.
Dad Tony said he has opted out of going to most of the girls’ pageants because of the competitive and often cruel nature of many of the parents. He prefers to spend time with his girls on the ball field. He coaches softball at Hendrix Park. His team the Diamond Dolls, featuring daughter Kaylin, won the 10U district championship last month.
"Pageant moms are mean," Tony said. "I used to go to all the pageants until I went to one where all three of my girls won and some lady stands up and says ‘this thing is rigged; those kids ain’t that pretty!’ I got up out of my chair, and if my mother-in-law wasn’t there with me I probably would’ve…well, nevermind. I haven’t been back since."
Mom said she’d like to see Kaylin go on to compete for Miss Georgia and even Miss Universe, but Kaylin said her goals are more aimed at playing softball for the University of Georgia. Kaylin said, although she enjoys pageantry, she prefers "less girlie-girl" activities like playing softball or watching UGA football.
"Kaylin cried more about losing the recent state softball championship than she ever did about losing a pageant," Katie Leggett said. "And she wouldn’t be caught dead wearing pink outside of a pageant."
Meanwhile, 5-year-old Kyndal has gained the reputation as the wild child who does everything her way. "But she wins," Katie Leggett said. "You never know what she’s going to do."
As you can imagine, simultaneously getting three kids ready to hit the stage can be stressful. Katie Leggett said she’ll commonly line the three girls up backstage while doing an "assembly line of hair and make-up" while her mother fixes up their dresses – along with helping to keep her grandkids on their best behavior.
But Katie Leggett said it usually works out well in the end. "In case we lose," seven-year-old Kelsey said with a laugh.
The WEtv cameras rolled during a pageant last month in Savannah, which became an even bigger family affair than usual as mom Katie and even the family dog Champ got into the act. Mom participated in an acrobatic duel with Kaylin to the soundtrack of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" while Champ played Little Bo Peep during Kelsey’s performance.
Katie Leggett said pageants are very competitive and hard to win, but that hasn’t stopped her daughters from taking home thousands of trophies and crowns over the past several years they have competed. Kaylin’s room became a showcase for the awards, but the family had to resort to filling up boxes with them to put up in the attic when "her room got overpowered with them."
The WEtv television episode is slated to air on a Wednesday night sometime between January and March 2010.