Follow-Ups: Botox Mom, Bernard Lagat's Son, and Miss America's Daughter

Many of my blog posts fall into one of the following categories: beauty pageants, child beauty pageants, and competitive children.  Today's post features updates on some of my most popular stories in each of these areas. 1) Botox Mom (aka Kerry Campbell/Sheena Upton)- It's been reported that Botox Mom (who never actually used Botox it turns out) is working with the Department of Children and Family Services in California to keep custody of her two daughters.  Upton is taking parenting classes, undergoing mental health counseling, and living with a family member to help her girls recover from the events of this past spring. I don't think we'll be seeing the Uptons on this season of Toddlers & Tiaras, do you?

2) Miika Lagat was back in the news this weekend as his dad ran in the US Track and Field Championships.  In an interview Lagat reported: "Lagat, who's son Miika is his #1 fan and was cheering for him every lap of the 5,000m on Friday night, said it was OK with Miika that his dad did not win. Bernard said Miika told him BEFORE the race, 'You know what daddy, you've run a lot (this week). If you lose, it's part of running.'" Let's not forget that Miika is five-and-a-half. He's pretty wise for someone so young, but having grown up around racing I guess he's earned his wisdom. I wonder if he will be racing soon?

3) Speaking of children of celebrities, Diana Dreman was just crowned Miss Colorado 2011. What's special about that? Well, her mother is Rebecca King, Miss America 1974. I am 99% sure that this is the first daughter of a Miss America to compete on the Miss America Pageant's stage. As the daughter of Miss America 1970, I have a lot of respect for Diana for putting herself out there-- but I also worry for her. I never did pageants, though there was a moment when I was a kid when I thought, "Hey, I could do that." My mother, wisely, didn't let me participate saying, "If you win, people could say it is because of me. If you lose, it could be because of me. You need to do your own thing." Not surprisingly, my own thing did not involve walking on-stage in a bathing suit (because, really, I think for most people, that is the stuff of nightmares).

In any event, I do think that Diana has the "Miss America look." I read on the pageant message boards that her talent routine is weak (dance), but I would expect her to go pretty far in Vegas come January. First of all, it's a great story for the Pageant. I will definitely be interested to see what a) the mainstream media makes of this story, and b) what pageant insiders make of it. And, of course, I'll share my thoughts!

Two other quick things to note: Rebecca King, Diana's mother (who was also Miss Colorado-- the last to win Miss America!), signaled a new stage in Miss America's development, back in the early 1970s. King was basically the first to use her scholarship money for professional graduate school. She became a lawyer and has had a successful law practice. She has also stayed involved with the Pageant, serving on its Board-- so it will be especially interesting to see how this plays out, since Diana has presumably met much of the Miss A leadership over the years... Second, I can't resist noting that this is not the most (in)famous pageant mother-daughter duo to come out of Colorado. That, of course, would be JonBenet and her mother, Patsy...

Celebrity Children

Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat just lost the NBA Championships. But he's okay with it. Why? Because his daughter, Trinity, got to see him play in the Finals.

Now Trinity is two-years-old. But imagine instead that she was twelve-years-old. How hard would it be to watch your father-- or any parent-- lose a major game or tournament, in person?

This past weekend Bernard Lagat, an Olympic runner, competed in the 2011 Adidas Grand Prix in New York City. Lagat ran the 5000m and came in second. His five-and-a-half-year-old son, Miika was in the stands to watch. How do I know? Because in NBC's coverage they actually miked little Miika and recorded his reaction to the race, showing the visual during the race replays. Miika was screaming for his dad to win, and seemed upset when he came in second. He sat next to his mom during the race, and obviously his parents had to okay their son being miked and recorded. While Miika is adorable and full of personality, was this really the best decision? Clearly a lot of Miika's identity is wrapped up in being the son of a successful runner. What about his own identity?

It's not just the children of athletes who often have a spotlight on themselves based on their parents performances. This can apply to children of performers and politicians, along with notorious figures. For example, Karen Gravano, the daughter of Sammy the Bull, is in the news as part of the VH1 show Mob Wives. Gravano is currently penning a memoir about growing up the daughter of a mobster.  And then there's Chaz Bono, also much in the news, who has used the celebrity of his parents as a platform to promote transgender awareness (never mind that as a young girl Chasity was featured on her parents' television show in sequins and make-up, which made his personal struggles more public and in some ways more difficult).

Perhaps most interesting to me are the children of politicians.  Politicians regularly use their families, and their children, to promote a particular image to the public.  They also use their children to drive home particular issues. For example, the Obamas (especially Michelle) talk about childhood obesity in terms of their own children's "rising BMIs." These same children can become caught in the crossfire when things go awry. When the Arnold and Maria scandal broke, their teenage son's tweets were reported by the media. And then, of course, there are the Palin children. The Palin brood have been used in and across multiple reality television shows (for some of my thoughts on kids and reality TV in general you can read my USA Today op-ed here). When Sarah Palin took off on a summer tour recently her youngest daughter, Piper, was used in the video produced by SarahPAC.

It doesn't have to be this way, of course. Putin shows that there is another path-- although in this country we'd likely prefer something less extreme than essentially hiding family members.  But this raises larger questions: should access to children of celebrities be limited in particular ways? Is the media wrong to focus attention on some of them (like Lagat's son being miked and recorded)? Or is this solely a family/parental decision that we should leave up to the parent's discretion?

It's true that children of celebrities get various benefits from having celebrity parents, like access to other celebrities and real material rewards.  It is also easier for them to have a platform, if they so chose, as Chaz Bono shows. But, in general, they are thrust into the spotlight against their will and based on the skills and accomplishments of their parents, and not their own. In some ways, then, are these parents no better than Richard Heene, Balloon Boy's father?