Toddlers & Tiaras: Where Are They Now, a three-part special that reveals the sweeping transformation of America’s favorite young pageant queens, is available on Discovery+.
Though she was barely old enough to know what pageants were back in the day, Ava Perez and her enthusiastic dad David were in love with the pageant life — including everything from costume designing and routine choreographing to hair and makeup. “To some people, I probably seemed a bit over the top. But to my dad, I was his princess,” Ava, 14, tells PEOPLE.
These days, Ava’s interests stretch beyond pageants, but she’s grateful for the lessons she’s learned throughout the years. “I had learned about confidence from a young age,” she says. “My dad also taught me you get out of life what you put into it. That is why I’m always dedicated and determined in everything I do, whether it’s my music or my academics.”
“Back when I was younger, I was FULL of myself,” Danielle, 19, tells PEOPLE. “Confidence is great! But I was definitely arrogant. I will say, though, I was a beautiful child, but I shouldn’t have expressed it the way I did. Now I am a strong, independent, incredible woman. I know that may sound a little conceited, but it’s true! I have done a lot for my community with my Be Bigger Organization, helping my bipolar community with my blog and apparel line. I love the woman I am today and I owe it all to the pageants!”
These days, Danielle is working towards her goal of becoming Miss USA one day. “I’m currently working towards competing at Miss Nevada USA 2021,” she says. “I also am enrolled at Post University to get my Bachelor’s in psychology, with the intentions to become a therapist! I’m working towards my goals every day to make them a reality.”
“I would describe myself as happy-go-lucky, definitely a performer, very funny, and a country girl with big dreams from a small town,” Eden, 15, says of her younger self.
“I think the way that I see myself now is very self motivated,” adds the teen, who has been busy making original music and working on a makeup line. “Whether it’s a test I have to prepare for to keep that 4.0 GPA, a cheer stunt that I have to overcome the fear of doing, or an audition that takes me out of my comfort zone, whatever it is I’ll do it to the best of my ability. I’m also a very creative type — I love drawing or painting, and I especially love playing the drums and composing music. At the end of the day, I’m a conqueror, no dream or obstacle is too big and no task too hard IF you’re willing to put the work in! I guess I’m a ‘gotta make it happen’ kind of girl.”
Eden says she wants to go to college (Harvard!) but also wants to continue pursuing music and acting, and “most importantly, encourage girls and boys around the world to reach for the stars and never give up no matter how big their dreams might be or where they come from!”
“I loved the stage, and performing to me was like putting on a play with a live audience,” recalls Bella, 14. “I was always in ‘go’ mode but I feel like that confidence and fearlessness I had back then has helped me so much in my teens with academics, public speaking even being Cheer captain. That being said, let’s be honest — I was one big meme.”
“I am way more calm and reserved now, but still have my silly side,” she adds. “I have a busy home life and between being cheer captain, 4-wheeling, jet-skiing, modeling and running my brands, I always have something exciting going on.”
As a young girl, Liana Pirraglia was always considered the “underdog.”
“In the third grade, I was ambitious and open to trying new things,” Liana, 19, tells PEOPLE. “I was so excited for opportunity to be featured on Toddlers & Tiaras, I wanted to participate right away. It was cringey to be portrayed as the underdog of the pageant. I am always a winner in my own way.”
“I am the same ambitious person that I was back then,” she continues. “I am hard-working, dedicated, confident, and resilient. Through the years I’ve enjoyed improving my abilities as an actress, singer, dancer, and model. It is something that I plan to continue doing forever. I always strive for the best!”
Her dream? To make it big in Hollywood one day. “I would love to also be on Broadway, in a sitcom, and in TV series. In addition to my acting career, I want to share music with the world that people can connect with and enjoy.”
Madison was known by her pageant stage name, “Tootie” — and you might also remember her high-pitched voice. “I cringe when I hear my voice from when I was on Toddlers & Tiaras,” she admits.
These days, the 20-year-old is focusing on one thing: true happiness.
“My biggest dream in life is to be genuinely happy and to enjoy what I do every single day,” she tells PEOPLE.
The Sprinkle Sisters (Elizabeth, Makayla and Savanna) were known for their big hair and southern charm. “I was very shy and reserved, but pageants allowed me to step outside my comfort zone,” Makayla, 20, tells PEOPLE. “I feel like I’m the opposite of how I was then. Now I’m very confident, driven and outspoken. I feel like I have pageants to thank for that.” Adding, “I’ll graduate college this year with an exercise science degree, and I love anything fitness-related. I would love to live in Los Angeles by the beach and train celebrities.”
Says Elizabeth, 18: “I enjoy anything cosmetology-related and would like to be a professional makeup artist.”
Adds Savanna, 22: “I absolutely love anything that has to do with animals, so I’d love to open up a large rehab facility for native wildlife, along with continuing to grow my current farm.”
Back in the day, the Tiara Twins (Alycesaundra and Giavanna Lyerly, 13) were infamous for their over-the-top gowns, custom tour bus, bodyguard and outspoken mom. “I am a twin, so everything that we did, we did together. I think that when I was younger, I was probably annoyed that I had to share with Giavanna,” Alycesaundra says. “Luckily, we have both grown up and she is my best friend and I her biggest supporter.”
These days, the girls — who still love the glamour of pageant life — have discovered new hobbies, including knives and crossbows. “I have definitely got my screaming fits under control,” Giavanna jokes. “I’m still very outgoing and enjoy doing pageants and walking runways. We also live on a farm and have chickens and cows.”
Adds Alycesaundra: “I have definitely grown up a lot since Toddlers & Tiaras. I love school and enjoy reading. I began designing clothes a few years ago and have shown at NYFW for the past eight seasons. I am growing in my craft and working hard to be successful. And I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty. I enjoy working on the farm with my dad — it makes me strong and keeps me tough.”
Source – People