Stage Parents
Dr. Phil talks with parents who are determined to have their children make it as beauty queens and actresses.
"At least once a week Regan wakes up and asks, 'Do I have a pageant today?'" Bonnie says about her 4-year-old daughter. "Regan has approximately 400 trophies and 100 banners and sashes and 100 crowns. Regan has a lot of facial beauty and we're proud of that." She has participated in 55 beauty pageants since she was 1 year old. "She loved being onstage. She won and we were just addicted."
When Regan was 18 months old she noticed that her front tooth was crooked. "She started badgering us to get braces," says Bonnie, who allowed her daughter to get them. "For three days, Regan didn't eat because her teeth were so tender. She would have big tears down her face, but she refused to take the braces off," Bonnie explains. "I think Regan understood that she would look better so she was willing to endure the pain."
Bonnie has spent over $15,000 on hair, makeup, clothing and photos, during the last three years getting Regan prepared to compete. "If you're going to spend $1,000 on a pageant, you better have a good pageant picture if you want to bring home a crown," says Bonnie, who encourages her daughter to take a good photo by promising her a white kitty when she gets home. The process can be difficult. "I hate this," says Regan, complaining that she is tired and her eyes burn.
"The most stressful part of the pageant is the crowning, when they start calling out the awards and your heart is just pounding and you can't even breathe," Bonnie explains. Another nerve-racking part of the pageants is what Bonnie says are the mean and nasty moms of the other girls. "I had a pageant mother come up to Regan one time and say, 'Do you think your f***ing blue eyes make you better than my daughter?'" Bonnie explains. "The intensity of the hatred and the jealousy that some mothers have
toward my daughter really makes me start to fear if they would actually harm her."
Regan's dad also worries for his daughter's safety. Regan sleeps in her own bed in their bedroom so that no one can come in and steal her in the middle of the night. "We say that she'll sleep with us
until she's 15 or 16," Bonnie admits. "If we continue being harassed because she's a winner then maybe we'll look for something else."
Bonnie adds, "If it were up to me and Regan had no desire to continue, I would quit in a moment. But as a pageantry mom, I'd love to see her be crowned Miss America!""Do you really believe what you just said: if she wasn't so focused on it, you would quit in a minute?" Dr. Phil questions Bonnie.
"I would quit in a heartbeat, yes," she replies. "It's a lot of stress and it's a lot of pressure and there's a lot of envy.
There's a lot of hate, there's a lot of jealousy."
"You're saying, 'If it was up to me, I would quit!' It is up to you — you're the mother!" Dr. Phil tells her, asking why she would put her daughter in harm's way since she's concerned for Regan's safety.
"I said if the threats continue. We haven't actually received threats," she defends herself.
"You had a dead cat on your porch with a crown on its head," Dr. Phil points out.
Bonnie acknowledges that that happened, but says, "But should I let them run her out?"
"Is she doing this because she has a passion for it? Are you running her agenda or yours?" Dr. Phil asks.
"We enjoy doing it together," Bonnie replies, denying that she pushes Regan. "There are weekends I don't even want to go to a pageant."
"Are you telling me that at 12 months old she said, 'Mommy I want to be in a pageant'?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Not until she was 18 months," Bonnie says. That's also when she says Regan asked for braces. "She began asking at 18 months, but she didn't get them until she was 2 1/2," Bonnie says, defending her decision. She also notes that Regan brushes her
teeth eight to 10 times a day and already flosses!
Dr. Phil wants to know why Regan likes being in pageants.
"I think she likes to be on the stage. She likes the attention, she likes the applause, she likes to perform," Bonnie says.
Dr. Phil acknowledges that Regan is a really cute little girl, but says, "I've got to tell you, dressing these kids up way older than they are kind of creeps me out."
Bonnie says that all kids enjoy playing dress up and she doesn't think there's anything unhealthy about it.
"What's the upside of being in pageantry?" Dr. Phil asks.
"For us, the upside is the family time we spend together. I think we've become closer as a family since we started pageants," she says. "But also I think her confidence level has increased."Dr. Phil shares his opinion about pageants. "I have to tell you from a psychological standpoint, the concept itself, if done in balance with a responsible approach in parents, can be a really good thing. It's kind of like sports for boys and girls," he explains. "I guess my problem is not with the pageants. It's with the parents." Bonnie agrees and Dr. Phil continues. "I understand that the infighting among the parents becomes very
toxic, hence the cat with crown on your [doorstep]." He points out that Bonnie has also been participating in nasty dialogue when she goes on the pageant message boards and calls the other mothers "sweat hogs."
Bonnie admits that it is brutal. "But only against the winners. If your daughter doesn't win, nobody cares who she is," she explains.
"Are you concerned that there's so much emphasis on beauty and hair and makeup and clothes, which I think everyone would agree is extremely superficial, that a child that is vulnerable at that age might define their self-worth as a function of that?" Dr. Phil asks.
"We have expressed to her and ingrained in her that it's not only your facial beauty, it's your answers to the questions, how you carry yourself onstage," she says. "I don't think that performing can hurt any child." She notes that Regan also participates in swimming, runway modeling, gymnastics, tap dance and ballet.
"You say she's not aware of whether she wins or loses?" Dr. Phil questions Bonnie.
"She doesn't have any idea," Bonnie replies.
"We just saw that picture where she's standing there grinning from
ear to ear and they're putting a sash around her and the little girl next to her is just crushed," Dr. Phil points out. "You're saying that your daughter, who was smart enough to ask for braces at 18 months, doesn't know that this little girl lost and she won?"
Bonnie explains that they give out a lot of prizes at the pageants and practically everyone gets one. "She doesn't know if she won 'grand supreme' or if she just won 'queen' of her group, and I think most parents don't understand," she says.
Pointing out that Regan has participated in 55 pageants in about three years, he says to Bonnie, "I'm wondering if it's really her passion or if it's yours."
"It's not mine," Bonnie adamantly says.
Dr. Phil is unconvinced. "I read those message boards top, side and bottom and it just seemed an awful lot like it was all about the parents and not about the kids," he says.
Dr. Phil reiterates that a girl becoming involved in pageants can be similar to a boy joining a little league team. "It's just all about balance, and it just seems like really extreme," he points out to Bonnie.
Bonnie disagrees and seizes the opportunity to mention that Regan does print modeling, commercials and a feature film.
"Is part of your reason for being here because you want to get her exposure on TV?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Sure, absolutely," Bonnie admits. "If you have a child in the public eye, absolutely."
"But this is you running your agenda!" Dr. Phil points out.
"Yes, but there's nothing wrong with that," Bonnie admits. "If we
don't come and sit in this chair, someone else will be here talking about pageants."

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil asks Bonnie if she will continue with pageants.
"I think hearing your perspective helps me a lot," she says. "I'll discuss it with my husband. Maybe not."