Today, both are Mrs. Mississippis in different pageant circuits. Campbell is the reining Mrs. Mississippi United States of America 2012, and Cole won the Mrs. Mississippi America title in 2011.
On Wednesday at 9 p.m., you can watch their daughters compete on the TLC documentary series Toddlers & Tiaras.
“It’s not new for us,” Cole said. “McKenzie has been in a lot of pageants, and I used to own a pageant store in Vicksburg. My little girl just loved to perform for all the girls coming in and out of the store.”
Cole submitted a video of McKenzie, 5, and TLC contacted her a few weeks later. They came to her home Feb. 15 and filmed a segment for Toddlers & Tiaras, a show not without controversy, that sometimes features stage moms intent on making their child a star, and children who seem less interested in winning a crown than their parents.
“We were a little nervous about the show,” Cole said. “My family tried to keep it as positive as possible, but you never know how they are going to copy and paste you, whether they are going to show you in a positive way or not. Hopefully, we will represent Mississippi well.”
But she’s pretty sure the glitter incident will not be edited out.
“She sprayed glitter in her eyes, and yes, I know they are going to blow that up,” she said. “Of course anyone is going to cry if you spray glitter in your eyes.”
It remains to be seen whether these Mississippi girls have what it takes to become the next “Honey Boo Boo Child,” a name that Georgia native, Alana Thompson is now known by after she was featured on the show’s season five premiere comically talking about pageants and the caffeinated Red Bull/Mountain Dew mix of “Go-Go Juice” that she drinks to stay energetic during competitions.
Cole said she’s not a crazy pageant mom, but she has to give Thompson credit for her appearance on the show.
“She has actually gotten somewhere with it,” she said. “People know her. That was just her little saying.”
Campbell, whose daughter, Emma Addison, 3, will be featured on the show, said she finds the show’s stage moms entertaining.
“You never know what some of the overly passionate pageant moms will do,” she said. “Some episodes are calm and normal, while others can be way out in left field.”
When she found out the show would be filming at a local pageant, she submitted an application for Emma.
“At first, we were rejected,” she said. “I would have rejected us too, because we were as entertaining as watching paint dry. Then a family decided to drop out, and we were called about a week before they were set to film and offered the spot.”
Campbell said she thinks it went well, but she will see it for the first time Wednesday.
“I had reservations about doing the show, but I didn’t want her to look at me when she was older, knowing she had this opportunity, and be upset with me that I didn’t let her do it.”
Participating in the show was an eye-opening experience, Campbell said.
“I don’t judge people on the show as easily as I did before we filmed,” she said. “They follow you for 2-3 days. Some interviews are three hours in length, straight. I feel the intentions are to break you and make you say something you normally would not.”
There was also some “coaxing of what they would like for you to say,” she said, and a couple of moments she regrets.
“I yelled at her during her swimsuit (competition),” she said. “It wasn’t meant to be mean, just to get her attention. I also said at one point that I was perfect. It was in a very sarcastic tone, and I hope the audience picks up on that. Overall, I hope that people focus on Emma, not me. That’s what the show is for, the little girls.”
Toddlers & Tiaras, while showcasing the pageant world, also subtly asks whether or not beauty pageants are healthy for little girls.
Campbell, who is studying to become a marriage and family therapist at Mississippi College, said:
“Whether or not it is healthy for a child is determined by how the parents handle the competition. If they let the child have fun and teach them about poise, personality, sportsmanship, etc., then yes, it is very healthy. If parents put too much emphasis on winning and stop at nothing to win just to fulfill their own regrets or insecurities, then it is extremely unhealthy for the child.”
She views pageants as a self-esteem builder.
“You have to see it as if you are competing with yourself, not the other girls,” she said. “As long as you improve each time on a personal level, then you’ve won. Emma loves the stage and performing. I never make her do it. I also tell her just before she goes on stage to ‘have fun.’
“I don’t think being in pageants will ever make her rich and famous, but it will help her with self-confidence, which she will need in order to fully achieve her goals as an adult.”
–LaReeca Rucker, The Clarion-Ledger