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GIRLS: A PORTRAIT OF CHANGE // LEANNE

LeAnne Cone, age 13, eighth grader at Stewart Middle School in Zephyrhills. Family: Mother, Debbie Cone, 33; father, Mickey Cone, 34; brother, Keith, 9; sister, Stephanie, 11

Every morning, I talk to God and ask him to help me through the day. He helps me with my grades. He helps me put up with when my parents are arguing or my brother and sister are yelling.

I got baptized with my best friend Michelle. We're so close. If I'm doing something wrong, she tries to keep me on the right task.

Sometimes parents just don't understand what you're saying. If you try to tell them something, they think that you're being smart. If I say, "Yeah, I know," she says, "Don't get smart with me."

Some things I talk to my mom about, she'll understand. She was just like me, when she was young. Some of the things are weird, like when I talk to her about boys. Sometimes she's just, like, "Yeah right, he's cute." And sometimes she just has a cow. "No, you're not going here or there!"

When she was 17 or 18, she ran away from home and got married. She doesn't want me to be like that. She's trying to talk to me about boys. She wants me to tell her everything.

I want my life to be so different. I want to be rich and have a gorgeous house and have the perfect family, which, that will probably never happen, and have, like, one or two kids and have them not argue, and have a clean house. I want to marry someone and both of us not smoke or drink.

I'm going to be a doctor or a lawyer or something. I want to . . . go to college and be a doctor. But I don't see how I'm going to do that because I hate the sight of blood, but I'm going to try.

(Beauty pageants) are fun _ (my mom) takes my friends to the pageants. I had no self-confidence before I went in pageants. Now I think that if I try to accomplish something, I believe I can achieve it.

It was a really big pageant (the first time I entered). I had this dress that was so pretty but it was flat. That's why it wasn't that good. I didn't even place. I didn't have a crinoline under it to make it pouf out. And I guess that was counted against me.

The boys are dumb these days. They say, "Try to do a backbend," just to see if your shirt goes up.

My dad's, like, you're not going out with a 15-year-old. He's like, "LeAnne, I know how 15-year-olds work."

We're close, but then again, he's just so quiet, and he's always at work and whenever he's home he's, like, outside or next door or asleep. He's just a quiet, country boy. He's overprotective. He's like, "Get away from my daughter."

My mom thinks I have no stress. There's a lot of stress when you're in middle school. Guys are always in your mind and you need to pay more attention to school. I have to worry about cheerleading and school and guys and church. I yell at her sometimes because me and her do all the work in the house. My dad needs to get involved more.

LeAnne gets last-minute instructions from her mother, Debbie Cone, before leaving for a Tampa beauty pageant. LeAnne's brother, Keith, 9, and cousin, Ginny Cone, 10, listen in.

Brandy Barnett, left, of Land O'Lakes, and LeAnne get beauty and modeling pointers at Barbizon School of Modeling in Tampa, where LeAnne received a six-month scholarship as part of her selection as Miss Pre-Teen Tampa by Premiere Productions.

LeAnne chases friend John Braxton at a family-sponsored car wash to raise money for pageant fees and gowns. "I just want to play around. Not actually be, like, committed when I'm this young," LeAnne says. "I like to flirt with people. Whenever I have a boyfriend they say, "Oh LeAnne, you're flirting.' I feel bad."

Father, Mickey Cone, and LeAnne's sister, Stephanie, 11, look on as mom gives LeAnne a congratulatory hug after her win in the Evelyn Stewart's Florida Model Pageant.

Most Wednesday afternoons before church, LeAnne and her friends gather at the Burger King in Zephyrhills. From left, Dawn Dees, LeAnne, Peter Albanese and Michelle Friedler enjoy each other's company.

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