One day, Andalusia’s Bill Alverson was an attorney whose accidental hobby was just something he loved to do.
The next day, a seven-page feature in The New York Times, chronicling his pageant-coaching story of Miss America wins, suddenly crowned Alverson as the “Pageant King.” Before you know it, there’s a front-row seat into his world on TLC’s “Coach Charming” and the CBS network buys the series rights.
Today, it’s a scripted show on Netflix – “Insatiable” – which has been picked up for a second season.
An accidental hobby
Alverson is a Dothan native and Auburn University graduate who earned his law degree from the University of Alabama. He began practicing in Andalusia in the early 1990s, specializing in family law and criminal defense.
He did not make a practiced entrance into the pageant coaching world. Instead, he discovered the talent when prompted by his church choir director nearly two decades ago to help a local teen. Soon, word spread.
Over the years, Alverson honed his craft, making his way into the Miss Alabama Pageant system. When three of his clients earned back-to-back-to-back Miss Alabama titles, he transitioned to the national stage. Today, his client list includes three Miss America winners and scores of local, regional and national title holders.
“I feel that it’s our job to inspire those in front of us,” Alverson said. “When I look back on things, I can say that it’s been amazingly unbelievable. I never envisioned I’d be on a reality show, that I would have a TV show based on my life. Me? This small-town Alabama guy, who’d have thought it?”
But that’s exactly what happened. In 2014, Alverson’s rise as much-sought-after pageant coach landed him in The New York Times.
“I could not have planned it,” he said. “When I’ve done a lot of things to self-direct myself to create things, it has not been as successful. I do really well guiding others.
“I knew my path to go to law school and to become an attorney,” he said. “As an old-school Southerner, I guess when you have this dream, it takes a lot of faith.
“How I ended up on TV, it was completely out of my spectrum,” he said. “I met one person, who met one person who got an article written – seven pages in The New York Times. Angelina Jolie and Donald Trump haven’t even had that. Who else gets that? Me. Strange, right?”
That “unknown” factor played in Alverson’s favor. When the publication decided to accompany the written piece with a short video, Alverson was contacted by movie producers and directors all asking the same question: How does someone from Alabama wind up as a pageant coach?
Alverson’s quick wit, sharp tongue and all-honesty approach, which can be seen in the clip “Pageant King of Alabama” on YouTube, were all the makings needed for good television.
It just kind of happened
From there, the TLC show “Coach Charming” was born.
“Literally within 60 to 90 days after the article came out, I was signed by an agency and working with a production company for a nonscripted reality show,” Alverson said. “There is no way – and even as much as I like to create things to happen – could I have ever created a situation like that to happen.”
The TLC shows highlighted Alverson’s lawyerly approach to the clients he coaches, working on interview responses and perfecting their overall look and performance. It also gave insight into Alverson’s family life and how, while practicing law with his son, William, he managed to juggle the demands of a second career.
“The fun thing about (‘Coach Charming’) was I got to do it with my family,” Alverson said. “What a lot of people don’t know is that while that show was happening, we were simultaneously working on ‘Insatiable.’ It was crazy.”
Written by Lauren Gussis of “Dexter” and “Once Upon a Time” fame, the Netflix original series features Disney star Debby Ryan and Alyssa Milano, with Dallas Roberts filling the role based on Alverson’s experiences. It is the tale of a bullied teenager who – with the help of an attorney turned pageant coach who soon realizes he’s in over his head – turns to pageants to exact her revenge. The “darkly comedic” 13-episode series debuted Aug. 10 and has been picked up for a second season.
“It’s just fun,” Alverson said of the show and its creation process. “I get to do a cameo in the first episode. I did a few lines, but I think only one made it in. It was very surreal to sit on the set with all these famous people with a chair that said ‘Insatiable’ on the back and know this is my story.”
In its early stages, the show received strong criticism that it “fat-shamed” young women and was detrimental to their self-confidence. One woman led a petition for the show’s cancellation.
It wasn’t a surprise to Alverson.
“The woman is an international spokesperson on this issue and basically saw an opportunity,” he said. “After the show was released, her petition essentially died because it falsely represented the show and, in fact, the show does the exact opposite.
“The show is satire and is off-cuff humor, but it does show the negative effects of many different types of bullying and the results of being a victim of bullying,” he said. “It’s a comedy, but the show’s design is to evoke conversation, which clearly it has.”
His Hollywood moment
Since 2014, Alverson has traversed the strange path to Hollywood. Again, the word “surreal” comes to mind.
“I coach differently,” Alverson said. “I get why people say pageants are shallow and superficial. One of my lines in the (TLC) show was, ‘Life is a pageant.’
“It was true then, and it’s true today. It is. Everywhere you go. If it’s not, why are you dressing your kid cute for picture day? It’s how it affects you and what you do with it.”
Alverson described himself as “very lucky and very fortunate” to have met people who are successful. He credits his journey with those meetings.
“We all have ideas of what we would love for our life to be,” he said. “As a child, I wanted to be an ambassador. I remember watching TV and visualizing myself in it. Little did I know that one day, that would become true.
“When I coach, I tell my clients to be prepared for the unexpected, but also be prepared to move in any circumstances and direction you’re in,” he said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do – be prepared for what comes my way and be thankful for it all.”
So, what’s next on Alverson’s to-do list?
“My grandfather told me he always wanted to learn something new every day,” Alverson said. “If other opportunities present themselves to be on TV, I’m all for it. I want to travel more. I’m always intrigued with people. I want to spend more time with my grandchildren.
“I’m a big Romans 8:28 guy – ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose,’” he said. “I’m not a celebrity. I’ve been to Beverly Hills and Hollywood. I’ve seen superstars, people who’ve been famous all my life. It was fun, but I hope – at the end of it all – I want to have made a difference when it counted the most.
“Because you know, the thing is, it could all be gone tomorrow,” Alverson said. “So, don’t get lost in who you really are. I am still the guy who likes to ski on Gantt Lake, who goes to Walmart. But today, I’m planning on going to a premiere for a TV show.”
This story originally appeared in Alabama Living.