YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Groomed for Spotlight by Her Mother, 4-Year-Old Tries for a Shot at Stardom

March 13, 1988|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

Broadway Baby,

Learning how to sing and dance

Waiting for that one big chance

To be in a show . . .

--Stephen Sondheim

She can pose on cue and hold a fixed smile until the last camera flash pops. With a little prompting, she will belt out a Broadway tune, whether she's in a parking lot or charming judges at a beauty pageant.

But after frequent sessions with her voice coach, the two-hour ride to her personal dressmaker three times a week and the regular evening auditions for commercials and television series roles, Tina Elizabeth Brosius is tired.

It's the price a princess must pay if she expects one day to be crowned queen. Even if, like Tina, she is only 4 years old.

Tina is being bred for stardom. But unlike thousands of other children in Los Angeles who have been groomed for the spotlight, Tina may actually be cast into it.

Her life is filled with agents, managers and producers. When other girls are watching the "Smurfs," she is singing "Broadway Baby" in the back of her mother's car. She often works longer days than career-climbing adults, and she must be ready to smile, sneeze or stomp her feet for strangers.

The marketing of Tina Brosius began in earnest two years ago, but it started to peak in December, when she received a full-page feature in the National Enquirer. Since then, her life has been a non-stop series of photo opportunities, most of them arranged by her mother--Beverly Hill of Beverly Hills.

"It's a lot of pressure to put on a little girl, but I'd really like for her to follow in Shirley Temple's footsteps," says Hill, who serves as Tina's publicist, coach and constant companion. "Of course, I'd like for her to have a television series and I'd love to have her on the cover of People magazine.

"But I also want her to be a normal little girl in an abnormal situation. I'd just also like to see her as a normal little girl in a limousine."

Last month, Tina made her national television debut on the "Late Night Show With David Letterman." She also was featured in a two-page ad in the trade sheet Variety, touting her role as the model and voice for a future animated movie feature called "Larr!Bear," as well as the movie sound track and the new line of Larr!Bear clothes.

She also could be seen on the "Will Shriner Show," as well as on the box for a new Mattel toy called Smoby. She's not quite famous at 4, but she's trying.

Tina began competing in beauty pageants at the age of 2. It was a continuation of a family tradition started by her mother, who claims that she grew up on the beauty pageant circuit in Memphis, Tenn., yet was never able to climb to the heights already scaled by Tina.

But the baton hasn't been passed so much as gripped in tandem. In August, when Tina won the Miss National Ideal Beauty Contest in her age group at the pageant finals in Las Vegas, her mother entered in the Mrs. division and won the talent contest. And at Tina's coronation, as she walked the long runway with her crown and her roses, there was mom, tears in her eyes, belting out "Maybe This Time" as if she was auditioning for a role in "Cabaret."

More Than 300 Awards

Tina has won more than 300 awards at beauty pageants during the past two years, and holds several national crowns for her age group. Her mother said Tina has entered more than 100 pageants in the past two years.

Her success at the pageants is somewhat surprising, since Tina looks like hundreds of other little girls. But when compared to her peers, she's like a girl among toddlers, exhibiting poise, intelligence and presence far beyond her years.

In other ways, however, Tina is a normal 4-year-old. She doesn't really understand the lyrics to the songs she sings. She would rather play with her food than eat it. She can sit spellbound for hours in front of a television watching cartoons. Her room looks like a testing laboratory for Disneyland.

But something changes when Tina puts on one of her pageant dresses or picks up a microphone. Then she becomes a girl who revels in attention. Then she becomes a little Miss America. Then she becomes the girl who would be queen.

"I have never seen anyone this young with that much talent," said Tina's voice coach Elisabeth Howard, co-director of the Vocal Power Institute in Van Nuys. "The attention span on a 4-year-old is usually about 15 minutes, but in my performance class, she sits riveted for two hours. I've taught thousands of kids, and I've never seen one with a stronger voice or one who wanted to be on stage more. It's like she needs it."

As Howard praised Tina after the voice lesson, Beverly Hill sat in the studio, crying. The more Howard talked about Tina, the more Beverly cried.

"My little Tina," Hill said, wiping her tears. "My little queen. Oh, thank you. Thank you. Thank you."

Tina stood in her mother's room, sorting out the dozens of outfits and shoes she would take on the trip to New York. She was wearing a black shirt with a giant gold star, a black and gold-trimmed bow in her hair, black shoes and gold lame pants.

Los Angeles Times Articles