As Missy Payne walks in the Biggers Sports & Fitness building at Highland Park United Methodist Church, someone stops her to let her know the gym will be closed for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday.
Payne pleads with the woman, insisting her competitive cheer teams need more practice time before competition.
Being prepared is something Payne, founder of Cheer 4 Your Life, is both familiar and unfamiliar with. Before competing on the show “Survivor,” her brother advised her to learn some basic survival skills. But Payne didn’t listen.
“My brother, an old Navy pilot, said, ‘OK, Missy, you need to learn how to make a fire and you need to go outside and get wet and uncomfortable. And you need to start eating. Pack it on.’ I listened to none of his advice.”
Even without taking her brother’s advice, the Preston Hollow resident still managed to finish third on the most recent season of the show.
Payne’s season of “Survivor” was deemed a “blood-versus-water” scenario: each competitor also had a loved one on the show.
Payne described having her 20-year-old daughter, Baylor Wilson, on the show as “really hard.”
“I just couldn’t stand it,” Payne said about seeing Wilson, an aspiring musician living in Nashville, compete. “That’s my little girl. I really did pick her up and carry her, which is so ironic and parallel to our lives.”
Both Payne and Wilson said competing against a loved one allowed them to lean on each other, which was a disadvantage in the end.
“I would have won the million bucks had I not had a kid [and] had I not gotten hurt,” Payne said. “I really would have. I’m just that strategic. But she threw a wrinkle in my plan.”
Payne sprained her ankle during the last week of the competition. She twisted it during a challenge, causing her to be on crutches for the remainder of the show.
Even with the sprained ankle, Payne still didn’t want to quit.
“I’m a pretty determined, crazy woman,” she said. “And most of my friends look at it and say, ‘Man, I would have quit. I just would have. I just couldn’t.’ We already had a girl quit from the whole thing that I tried to nurture and carry along the way — I tried to carry everyone along the way, really — but to watch her quit and go, ‘How do you come this far?’ I don’t know. I was there to win.”
Not giving up and sticking to her morals is something Payne strives to instill in her cheer students.
From the teams’ non-stomach-baring uniforms to the class she teaches — “Survival Skills With Missy” — a class about confidence and relationships, Payne tries to walk the walk.
“It’s just a continuation of what she’s been doing my whole life,” Wilson said about her mother being a role model for young girls. “It just never really had a title, I feel like. She’s always been the lady in our city and town that was scooping up other people’s kids, who would come running to her for advice, and just kind of nurturing them and taking care of them as best as she can, but at the same time giving them advice and direction. I feel like this is just kind of a more official way of doing that.”
Since being on the show, both Wilson and Payne want to make a difference.
In an attempt to give back, they are hosting a contest, where the mother-daughter duo will visit someone for their birthday.
“What if my mom and I paid it back to our fans, who spent an entire season watching us and rooting us on?” Wilson said.
As Payne sits in her office, a group of middle schoolers on one of the cheer teams walk in giggling. They hug her neck and ask to watch one of Wilson’s music videos on the computer.
“She’s so pretty,” one of the girls exclaims about Wilson.
Payne beams with pride.