Harli Rees is the tiniest pageant winner in town. At one year old she has already won twelve trophies, four crowns, two banners and a plaque. Her titles include three queen titles, Mini Queen, Prettiest Eyes, Prettiest Hair, Best Attire, Most Photogenic, and Personality Plus. She is the daughter of Tucker and Misha Rees, and grand-daughter of Stan and Sue Rees and Bonnie Smith of Las Vegas.
Harli’s pageant talent stems from her mother’s eight years of experience and titles won. Misha’s greatest title was that of Miss Hawaiian Tropic. When Misha was sixteen years old she was the international winner for this pageant. Harli now competes in the California tropics, the same pageant system where Misha won her crown. She is in fact competing in that exact same pageant, just in the baby category. California Tropics was previously known as the Hawaiian Tropics pageants. “My first pageant was when I was ten and my last pageant was when I was eighteen. Between that time I probably competed in twenty-five to thirty pageants. I did pageants when I was younger and it was something fun that my mom and I got to do together. We traveled to pageants and it was our time to bond.” Misha is now continuing that tradition with Harli.
Harli’s pageant life began before she was even able to walk. At three weeks old, she won the cutest kid contest at the 2009 Morgan County Fair, and kept on that track until her first pageant at six months old. She won in her age group at the California Tropics Christmas Pageant in Salt Lake City, Utah, then went on to compete in the Miss Royal Essence Mini Nationals in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her placing in the Miss Royal Essence led her to have a spot in the Tri-State finals for California Tropics in California.
Harli has advanced so far in the competition, out of countless babies, that she now was invited to the California Tropics International Pageant in Anaheim, California over Labor Day weekend. She’s won first place in three out of her four pageants, placing second at Tri-State. Tri-State includes girls from California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and other west coast states. Harli shows off her party wear, casual wear, and then swim wear alongside other babies in her category. Even at such a young age, she shines on stage and continues to win.
At the Miss Royal Essence pageant in Las Vegas, the hit television show “Toddlers & Tiaras” happened to be following three girls competing in the pageant. Although not one of the main girls, Harli as well as Misha were featured throughout the episode. Harli’s crowning as queen in her category was featured towards the end of the show. “They showed when she first went on stage to compete and again when they showed her winning her title. They (the film crew) just must have liked Harli.” Misha didn’t realize so many people watched the series until family members called after it’s airing to tell her they’d seen the two on television. Community members as well have recognized her and Harli at Jubilee and around town.
Harli’s dress is designed specially for her. The dress itself comes to Misha plain, where she then sends it to a designer in Arizona to stone the shell of the dress. All of the stones come from Tennessee. Misha finds styles she likes and relates that to her designer, and a few weeks later the dress is on Harli and completely dazzling. |There are 1200 stones on Harli’s dress. I don’t want to sell it but we probably will when she’s grown out of it.” Most pageant contestants sell their previous dress to purchase a new one due to the cost of the party-wear gowns.
Misha’s favorite pageant system is the California Tropics. Since she competed in it when she was younger, that is the system Harli will stay with throughout her life. Harli will take a break until she is three years old and able to understand a little more about pageants. Once Harli is old enough to advance to the three-year category, she will start the talent portion, where contestants usually begin to dance or sing.
Most girls receive a sponsor once they reach the international competition level. Some even receive sponsors at younger ages if they do well in pageant competitions and have promise to increase their talents. Most pageants have an age cut-off of about eighteen or so. From there, avid pageant competitors move on to pageants such as “Miss Teen California” and beyond.
Misha does recommend a pageant if it’s something a parent is interest in getting their child into. Jokingly, Misha also adds that girls don’t start getting “mouthy” until they’re older, so having Harli in pageants as a baby and winning them are good memories they will be able to continue.
“I think it’s a good experience. When they’re this little though, it’s just for fun; playing dress up with her is fun. We make new friends and meet lots of new people and my mom usually goes with us when we go to the ones out of town. Its three generations of buddies. My mom took me to the pageants, now I take her to pageants, and my mom takes both of us, so it’s fun for all of us to go.”
Harli could win a $5,000.00 savings bond if she wins a supreme title in the latest competition. From her former pageants, Misha encourages contestants to use sponsors as she did so the cost of competing is nominal. “I just think as she gets older it will be fun to do pageants and teach her that you can do anything you set your mind to. That’s what my mom always told me. Hard work pays off. With the pageants, a lot goes into them, but that’s with anything though; you have to work hard. This will be a good lesson for her. You can do anything you put your mind to.”