05.18.11

Pageant Moms Aren't All Crazy

After a pageant mother made waves by going public with her 8-year-old's Botox habit, the talent manager for Eden Wood, one of the circuit's biggest little stars, says the real pageant life isn't nearly so ugly.

Here's a riddle: What do Botox Pageant Babies and Big Foot have in common? They're both myths!

In the unapologetic world of glitzy pageants, parents readily admit to adorning their children in fake tans, false teeth, enormous wigs, and dresses that cost as much as a double-wide. But recently, news broke of a woman who claimed to be blowing the lid off a "dirty little secret" of pageantry. According to her, parents give their daughters "an extra jab" of Botox so they'll have an edge in kiddie pageants.

The elaborate world of children's pageantry can be a strange one indeed to the outsider. For the most part, pageant parents have a sense of humor about it, and are shockingly candid about the excesses and extremes to which they go to ensure they take home the crown. So it may come as a surprise that the woman proclaiming to be a pageant mom is not being entirely honest when she steps into the limelight to brag about injecting her 8-year-old daughter's cherubic face with Botox. First, we must note that she reportedly lied about her name and even where she and her daughter live (San Francisco residents breathed a collective sigh of relief). And now, TMZ is reporting that the so-called pageant mom is claiming to have made up the whole story to get cash from a tabloid. With all these apparent lies flying, why should we believe the outrageous assertion that Botox injections are commonplace in the world of children's pageants?

As the talent manager for arguably the best-known and most successful "pageant girl" in the world, Eden Wood, and as a pageant mom to three girls, a former contestant, and a judge and director, I have been involved in this industry for more than 20 years. I am not ashamed to proclaim loud and proud that I am a proponent of children's pageantry. Indeed, I have enjoyed this activity with all of my girls, and it churns my stomach when our fun hobby is attacked by morons who know little about the hard work that goes into competition and nothing about the benefits reaped by participants. Sure, there are loony pageant parents who grab your attention, and fantastic ratings in shows such as Toddlers and Tiaras with their wack-a-doo antics, but every activity hides its head in shame at the mention of "that parent" who takes everything too far. Remember the Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, Wanda Holloway, or Thomas Junta, the hockey father who beat his sons' coach to death?

It is perfectly normal for parents to want to showcase their beautiful children.

Since the tragic death of JonBenét Ramsey in 1995, those of us who enjoy the sparkly world of pageantry have been treated like the redheaded stepchildren of the entertainment industry. What those with the anti-pageant spin fail to mention is that the JonBenét case was severely mishandled by investigators and was never solved; there is absolutely no evidence that links her occasional participation in pageants to her untimely death. However, facts never seem to sway pageant naysayers from their point. Pageant parents have been accused of everything from being abusive, because of the makeup and tanning involved, to training our daughters for a life of debauchery on a stripper pole. Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of those who claim to be "child advocates" is that they have never been to a pageant. Instead, they base their conclusions off "reality" television shows and sensationalized docudramas.

The fact is, there have been no long-term studies regarding how children's beauty pageants affect the psyche of participants. If, however, I may pontificate about my oldest daughter, who participated in pageants from the ages of 5 months to 11 years (she is now 15), she is a brilliant honor student who excels in debate competitions, Girl Scouts, and her history class. I dare say, pageantry helped this once extremely timid child to overcome her fear of public speaking, which has helped her become the successful student and political activist that she is today. Alas, my longtime contestant is not a high-school dropout stripper who is pregnant with her second child while struggling to pay her rent. Instead, she is college-bound, awesome, and your POTUS 2036.

As a talent agent, I may be one of the few in the nation who don't shun clients because they participated in pageantry. In fact, I believe so strongly in my pageant clients that I wrote original songs for several and created a variety-show tour throughout the Midwest, Eden Wood and the Glamour Girls, which will have its run in June. Additionally, it will be my honor to join Little Eden and her mom, Mickie, as we pair with one of the most successful pageants in the nation, Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant, to take Southern-style glitz to the Outback in July. Although Eden was invited to visit Australia by the hordes of fans on her Facebook fan page, the response to her Australian arrival has been mixed at best. Bills to outlaw pageants have been written, protests planned, and a media frenzy created over the impending visit of this 6-year-old and the competition she will represent. Most astounding, if not ironic, is the response from the Archdiocese of Sydney and Melbourne. The Catholic Church believes that pageants for little girls are a magnet for pedophiles. Really? It seems to me that my children are more at risk for seduction while giving confession than while onstage competing for trophies and a tiara.

Watch Eden Wood's Pageant Music Video

It's heavy stuff to accuse a parent of offering up her beloved daughters to sexual deviants, yet that does not stem the tide of those jumping on board to condemn an event they know only through sensationalized media and innuendo. Pageant families enjoy this form of competition the same way any family enjoys any competition, such as baseball, cheerleading, gymnastics, or football. To insinuate that we tart up our babies (or worse, inject them with toxins) for the pleasure of the lowest human scum in society is beyond insulting and begs for a smackdown that would make Jerry Springer proud.

As pageants grow ever more popular and we take this uniquely American spectacle abroad, negative imagery such as the Botox Baby Mama does nothing to help our continuing struggle for understanding and acceptance.

It is perfectly normal for parents to want to showcase their beautiful children. But with women like "Kerry" claiming to be our representatives, our fun little pastime will continue to come under fire. Is it wrong to look forward to the next media-hungry headline grabber to divert attention from this wannabe pageant mom? Where's the Balloon Boy's dad when you need him?

Heather Ryan is a graduate of Drake University and wonk living in the heart of presidential political bliss in Iowa. A former congressional candidate, fundraiser for a pro-choice organization, and a U.S. Navy veteran, she is no stranger to controversy or standing her ground. Owner of Ryan Talent, LLC, she considers herself The Glitzy Feminist.