It's 9 a.m. and the sun is starting to heat up the State Fair of Texas. The cast of Little Women: Dallas hangs out near the public relations office of the fair, talking with one another and their boyfriends. A few fair workers recognize Bri Barlup, a transplant from Little Women: Atlanta.
"Aren't you from that TV show?" a worker asks. She wants a picture with Barlup. Asta Young, another cast member who was standing nearby unrecognized during the interaction, also jumps in the picture.
The day of production for Little Women: Dallas is running behind by two hours. Some cast members were late to show up and there was an issue with one of the fair golf carts being used to shuttle everyone around.
While the women are getting their mics on, they rummage through a cooler and begin to snack on Doritos and Gatorade. "Don't eat too much," a producer tells the cast. "We're going to eat at the fair and then ride rides, so you don't want to be sick."
Little Women: Dallas is the newest addition to Lifetime's Little Women franchise. It has a lot in common with Bravo's The Real Housewives, a show that documents a group of friends as they navigate their relationships with each other and significant others, and their careers.
But Little Women is campier than the Bravo series, if that's possible. And of course it's different in that it stars little people instead of average-sized people. Both a producer and Young, who was chosen for the cast because of her large social media following, say you can expect slightly less drama than is typical for a season of Housewives.
“If I had to compare us to them — I mean, there will be some cattiness, there will be some drama, but at the end of the day, it’s more about us bonding as a group of girls and us trying to help each other out to, like, further each other’s careers and relationships," Young says.
Before production began, the cast seemed happy to be with one another. As they waited for the crew to get their cameras and gear ready to migrate to Big Tex, the site of the first scene of the day, the women did one another’s hair, and chatted amicably with each other as well as the boyfriends and baby daddies who were present.
Young, Amanda Loy, Tiffani Chance and Caylea Woodbury are all new to the Little Women franchise. Joining them are Emily Fernandez and Barlup, from Little Women: Atlanta.
Fernandez moved back to her hometown of Dallas this year to give birth to a son, who died at 3 months old because of multiple health complications, including seizures and blood surrounding his brain. Barlup moved back to Dallas to support Fernandez, her best friend, through the grieving process.
A producer told me those events will be captured in part on the show, and since they've already been discussed in the media, there's likely to be a good amount of truth to the portrayal. The same can't be assumed for all of the story lines on the upcoming show, although it's hard predict how much of it will be "real" based on the small portion we witnessed Thursday.
A source who was on set for filming at Quarter Bar in Uptown tells us that scenes between Young and her husband were completely fabricated for the show. Young's husband was shown bartending, while Young worked as a server. These are jobs they do not have in real life, according to our source.
Just as the crew was getting ready to head over to Big Tex, Chance ran back inside the public relations office to remove her white hat and fix her hair. Barlup helped her to fix it and then the women were shuttled to the first filming location.
A producer set up a legal notice informing anyone who walked through the shot that they were being filmed. An older woman asked me if one of the women was on Dancing With The Stars. She then turned to her husband and said, "Those little people are so cute."
After the camera crew set up near Big Tex, the cast of little women and their boyfriends walked back about 100 yards and then walked toward the camera, laughing and talking and pointing at the iconic giant man standing before them.
If you had any remaining doubt about reality TV's inauthenticity, the process would have done away with it for you. The cast reshot the same scene a few times until the producers were satisfied with it. Then they migrated to the Fletcher’s corny dog stand, the crew following closely behind.
Once they reached it, they formed a U-shape so the cameras could catch all of their faces. As they talked, the producers would regularly interrupt to adjust their clothing, make requests of them or stop people who were clamoring for pictures.
That's the thing about the Little Women franchise. It's meant to show that these women living with dwarfism in Dallas are just ordinary people like the rest of us. They're not supposed to appear as celebrities, as is the case with Keeping Up With the Kardashians. So when people approach them for autographs or pictures, it messes with the picture the producers are trying to paint.
Because Thursday is senior citizen day at the fair, the onlookers mostly consisted of older people, speculating with each other about who these women might be. "I think that's Little People: LA," one woman said to her friend. "Those girls are actually pretty," said another. Eventually they got their picture.
Little Women: Dallas premieres at 9 p.m. Nov. 2 on Lifetime.