I know there's a special place in Mom hell for me, but I let my daughters watch America's Next Top Model. (There. I said it out loud.) Every Wednesday, without fail, they dutifully take their baths, get into their jammies, and line up on the carpet for their must-see TV an hour's worth of need-a-macaroni-and-cheese-I.V. stat!-thin model wanna-bes, climbing into fabulously impractical clothes, slathering their faces with more colors than a 64-pack of Crayolas, and striking poses that defy all realm of logic. My girls are all in from the re-cap/preview in the first minutes to the very last moment when Tyra sends the weakest mannequin packing they roll their eyes during the makeover melt-downs, crack up over the model mishaps, shake their heads and tsk-tsk when the contestants get catty, and pour over the elimination photos, making predictions about who had the best shot, and, naturally, who sucked (my word not theirs).

Of course, the model who takes their breath away every week is the queen of it all Tyra Banks. Tyra alternately clowns her subjects and plays mama, too shows them the tricks of the trade, and disses her model-wanna-bes hard when they fail to live up to her supermodel standards. And my girls cling to Tyra's every word talk about her slick dresses and her perfectly-coiffed hair and how pretty she looks when she smiles with her eyes.

They. Love. Them. Some. Tyra.

Total stans, I tell you.

So much so that one recent week, Mari asked me if I thought she looked like Tyra.

Now, please understand: I'm the president, CEO, and executive director of the Mari Is The Most Beautiful Girl In the World (Next To Her Little Sister) Fan Club. She's a delicious little girl got these thick, juicy lips, and high cheekbones, and these incredible chocolate-brown eyes, framed with sleight eyelids that make her look like she's got a little Japanese in her family. Nick and I recognize that when this kid hits her teens and gets the Beyonce booty and hips going, it's a wrap. Rifles. Threats. Intimidation. We plan on using the full arsenal to keep the boys at bay.

But my baby doesn't look like Tyra.

Nothing of the sort.

(I guess I should be happy that she didn’t say she wanted to look like Paulina Porizkova, or Heidi Klum–that she picked a black woman as her ideal beauty. I mean, at her age, I wanted to look like Farah Fawcett. That’s another post.)

But since I'm a stickler for keeping it real, I had to tell her: Um, no, baby. You don't look like Tyra.

No matter that I broke the news real gentle, no matter that she had no verbal response, the defeated look on Mari's face spoke a thousand words. It was the look I remember seeing in the mirror when, as a little girl, I'd examine my eyes and lips and skin and hair and wonder why I just couldn't measure up to the prettiest girls in my school the ones who seemed to get all the attention, all the boys. In my daughter's face, I saw vulnerability. In telling her she didn't measure up to the woman she idolizes, I had, in effect, delivered a southpaw uppercut to her self-esteem.

So I went into damage control mode told her the truth, but added a little sugar to make it go down better. Tyra is beautiful, but so are you, in your own special way. I told her how much I loved her twists, and adored her cheekbones, and the way her face was shaped like a perfect, juicy apple. You are lovely, sweetheart a beautiful, special little girl, I told her. But if you want to be like Tyra, be like her in the ways that mean something. Be smart. And independent. And fierce. And run your own business and call your own shots and be the one to tell everyone else what to do. Tyra is dope like that. And I know you've got the beauty to be as pretty as her, but I also know you have the smarts to be just as successful as her, too. That's what makes you special, and that’s how you can be like Tyra.

She was quiet.

Thought about what I said for a moment.

And then she smiled at me with her pretty eyes.

Crisis averted (for now).

And I'm still in the running to be the Next Top Mom.

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  1. Sheena @ Mommy Daddy Blog

    You couldn’t have said it any better! I never had hips or a Beyonce booty so I didn’t get as much attention in highscool either. Grey contacts made up for that, but when I wore glasses, it was a lost cause. I had my moments. I’m just so glad those days are over.

    OMG the ANTM commercial is on now, talk about perfect timing!

  2. lol! Funny post. I think there is an extra slot in hell for me as well since I let my kids watch the soaps and Desperate Housewives. I know bad mommy! At least I keep it real. Have a great day 🙂

  3. I must admit I am also guilty of letting my girls watch ANTM. Since their 8:30pm bedtime keeps them from seeing the end of the show, we also TiVo it. Although, the inclusion of Isis this season caused me to have some conversations that I wasn’t quite ready for, we still love the show. My oldest is obsessed with Tyra and was even more so when she discovered they shared the same middle name. Just think the time we spend watching and discussing ANTM is bonding time too! So, we’re actually great mommies!;)

  4. I am saved (for now at least) as I am the mommy to just boys. Finding it harder to find TV shows that teach boys (and men) how to treat women with respect, but that is a whole new post….

  5. Good for you. I just don’t buy this idea that pop culture is so bad for our kids. They have to live in the world eventually, right? And the messages in kids’ programming aren’t great, either.

    But you really hit a home run with your explanation. What I love about Tyra is that she’s transformed something many people consider exploitation into an empire. And sometimes she gains 15 pounds. I like that, too. When she had a doctor on her show to feel her breasts (to prove they’re real), that was it for me. True love.

  6. mama's got moxie

    oh, you handled that beautifully!
    being the mom of boys, i have sorta similar issues. i have a 13-year-old stepson who worries about have six pack abs, no body fat, and wants curly hair like the dude from gym class heroes, and a 3-year-old who wants to be as strong as samson. kinda hard to break it down to the teen that only a curly perm will give him curly locks and telling the little one that he’ll probably never be able to defeat a lion with his bare hands.

  7. let mari know that tyra is just ordinary without all that makeup. i’ve seen mari without makeup, and she IS beautiful!

  8. What a wonderful Mommy you are! You did a fantastic job in securing your daughter’s self-esteem. Lovely! I am taking pointers from you. My daughter is only 7 months now, but she will grow-up soon.

  9. Jewelry Rockstar

    Wow you did your mommy thing! That was beautiful. I love it when women are great with their daughters. I write “being great with my daughters” as one of my affirmations, so I can be as good as women like you.

    My baby daughter loves that Tyra show every since her pediatrician told her she looked like Tyra, partly because she is extra tall and partly because she has a big forehead. She doesn’t get to watch it much. I am kinda on the fence about it, but Daddy is in the no camp. That being the case, it is mostly no ANTM.

  10. We don’t watch ANTM but not for any deeply profound reason other than Tyra works my last good nerve! Oooh she drives my bus. That being said, I feel you on the Farrah Fawcett business and look forward to the post because I wanted to look like Molly Ringwald something AWFUL.

    I don’t hate on the media, we never had any agreement that they were part of the character building plan. The moments like this one you mention keep us on our toes even if it means we have to step on their bubbles with them…just a little. You know you worked it out!

  11. Damn, you’re quick on the uptake – smiles! Awesome recovery. Might have to borrow that one, ahem.

    And, I was Jacklyn Smith, the dark haired angel.

  12. You said all the right words! Mari will remember that conversation forever. Good Job :~)

  13. Great post! I’d love it if my daughter wanted to be like Tyra–an entrepreneur who calls her own shots. My fear is that she will want to grow up to be a Pussycat Doll (LOL!) Let’s just say it’s a daily battle to fight the media’s war on our girls.

  14. I wish I was hot like hers! I like her too, can’t blame ur daughters for it 🙂

  15. Gurl, she’ll be alright. I used to want to be the woman in the Charlie perfume ads, and I’m still here to talk about it. LOL!

  16. Awww ~ you handled that beautifully Denene. You are a top mommy! 🙂

  17. Amazing mom. I worry about this so much as my own beautiful daughter grows up. You hit it dead on, focused on what was important without lying to her at all. I’m inspired, as usual.

  18. hi! thanks for leaving a comment on my blog (from SITS). i thought this post was funny and so well written!

  19. You are definitely NO ALONE! I’m guilty of the whole America’s Next Top Model craze too… or at least I was until Tyra did something on her talk show that caused me to Boycott her for a while.

    I think you did a good job of giving Mari the run down =). Miss J use to tell me that she wanted to be America’s Next Top Model, and with her little much-too-thin-if-you-ask-me frame, and legs that go on for days, I could kinda see it… but then she told me that she’d rather be a photographer. I bought her a digital camera and she can’t get enough of capturing life’s moments.

  20. Good job, Mommie! Your are safe in the running for Next Top Mom! (smile)

  21. I love that show.

    Whoo hoo ‘next top mom’!

    Congrats on being Saucy Blog!

  22. Popped over here from SITS! Congrats on being a Saucy Blog – I love what your blog is all about!!

  23. Liberal I am. Bona fide I be.

    I couldn’t have said it better dear. Brava brava! However, I don’t know if I could have said it at all! I have a 7 mo. old girl and a 3 year old girl as well. I am sure my days will be coming with the next “Tyra” comes around. I face the reality too, I watch ANTM as well. Oops! 🙂

  24. Jennae @ Green Your Decor

    Way to break it to her easy 🙂 I used to be addicted to ANTM, until I got sick of the catfights and stick-thin model girls. But Tyra is one lady I wouldn’t mind mini me looking up to 🙂

  25. great post!

  26. Great response, I am sure those words will stick with her…probably because you’ll say them a hundred times more over the years too 🙂

  27. Days of Whine & Noses

    my oldest is 14 and she too loves that show. Once she did ask me if I thought she could be on American Idol (she was probably 8) and that was hard to answer!

  28. Days of Whine & Noses

    my oldest is 14 and she too loves that show. Once she did ask me if I thought she could be on American Idol (she was probably 8) and that was hard to answer!

  29. Days of Whine & Noses

    my oldest is 14 and she too loves that show. Once she did ask me if I thought she could be on American Idol (she was probably 8) and that was hard to answer!

  30. What a great post! 🙂 ANTM is a fabulous guilty pleasure and Tyra’s not a bad role model. She turned a career based on being pretty into multiple television shows that she owns and runs. Independence and business acumen – now that’s fierce!


  32. Congrats on being FB. What a fabulous blog you have. Super post and very well said.

  33. Tyra is da bomb, and we all watch too!

  34. Definitely in the running to be Next Top Mom.

    Great answer.

  35. DysFUNctional Mom

    Stopping by from SITS. Great answer! It’s so hard to strike a balance between giving them confidence and making them full of themselves. I so hope I’m helping my daughters to have higher self-esteem than I did!

  36. life as I know

    Great Job!!! I know its hard sometimes to have just the right words, but you had them, and at the right time no less. Mari, sounds like she’ll live up to all her potential, because she’s got you as a guide way to go Next Top Mom.
    Stopping by from SITS

  37. very good answer

  38. Nice save, Mom! And I LOVE that you “keep it real” with you kids.

  39. You handled that beautifully!

    Over from SITS to say hello!

  40. Creative Junkie

    Good for you! I always try to emphasize the inner beauty and qualities that make up a strong woman. I hope my daughters get my message.

  41. Amanda @ Serenity Now

    That was awesome! You handled that situation in a way I could only ever dream of handling it. 🙂 I have two little girls, so I hope I can encourage them the way you did yours. 🙂

  42. nicely put! 🙂

  43. Way to go on dodging that bullet!

  44. Jennifer Juniper

    Boys are so different from girls. I look at the pictures on TV and magazines and wonder how little girls are going to reconcile their own bodies and faces amid all the superficial and airbrushed out there.

    There is nothing wrong with trying to be like someone in spirit – strong, kind, successful…I just hope girls realize they are beautiful the way they are.

    I like how you told her she doesn’t look like Tyra, but she’s just as beautiful in her own way.

    You look like you and that is beautiful to me. What a great thing to be told. Lucky girl.

    Happy sits.

  45. A great message for all little girls!

    Happy SITS!


  46. Good job keeping it real for your kids while promoting their own unique beauty!!

  47. Thanks for the reminder…I will be telling my daughters that they are “Fierce” from now on. Because they are.

    Beautiful post!

  48. Beautiful post! I hadn’t read this one yet! Happy SITS day girl 🙂 I think I found SITS through you!

  49. Great post. I am Mommy to a baby boy — but if he is gay you better believe I’m gonna encourage every ounce of fierceness he’s got!

  50. Marshmallow Circus

    Ha ha, I watch TM but swear to the hubby its because it is “art” I just like the makeup and clothes-not! I love me some Tyra too and can’t wait till the girls are older to watch with me.

  51. Never watched ANTM, but I am guilty of all kinds of other things… dessert before dinner, for example *lol*. So, I guess we will all meet at that special place for us moms, who went against the main stream! Looking forward to meeting y’all there!

  52. Good damage control and good answer! I’m so not looking forward to those kinds of questions, I just hope that I’ll be able to think fast on my feet like you were able to! 🙂

  53. Little Miss Baker

    I’d pick you 🙂 Way to go Mama! I bet your daughters are gorgeous!

  54. Recognizing that we are all beautiful in our own special way is a gift. Glad to see you are giving that to your girls.

  55. Stopping by from SITS. Awesome way to handle it, Mamma! I love the description of your Mari. I can picture her beautiful face!
    P.S. I wanted to be Tyra when I saw her on Fresh Prince way back when!!

  56. How wonderful! Happy SITS day!

  57. Controlling My Chaos

    Way to go Mom! I have two little girls and I am determined to have them grow up knowing their value as strong women, not as just another pretty face.

  58. Spectacular. I wish I had had a mom who recognized my desperate yearning to be like Kate Moss (ugh!) was really me trying to identify with someone I idolized as successful and beautiful. My mom, although she adored me and thought I was the most gorgeous thing ever (except for my little sister, of course), couldn’t understand why I’d want to look like someone else and we missed a learning opportunity. I have a long Irish lip and thin lips – so NOT considered chic in my lifetime! I could NEVER look like Kate Moss hahah (God, this makes me cringe and laugh even thinking about it!).

    In any case, I agree with you on all counts about ANTM. There’s something awesome about Tyra and how she moves through that show (although, I think her talk show loses something in translation). *I* want to be like Tyra now and I’d be proud if my daughters wanted to be like her, too.

  59. Great Job Momma!!

    Teaching our kids to love themselves is so hard to do!! Especially when they are socially conditioned to believe that there are only certain types of beauty.

    🙂 Great work!

  60. The most beautiful thing Tyra has going on is her confidence and she’s real, she’s funny, she’s humble. It sounds like your daughter is just like Tyra!!

  61. Here from SITS. 🙂 Great post, I also LOVE ANTM and watch it every week! You handled that perfectly! I can’t wait till my little one asks those types of questions and I have to come up with something on the spot…

  62. What an awesome post! Way to save the day, Mama! Oh and I’m all for a little mindless TV watching for the kiddos. It may mean I’m taking the short bus to hell, but I’m ok with that!

  63. What a great post! You ARE still in the running to be Americas next top mom!

  64. You handled that beautifully! Nice.

  65. Great advice, mom! The other characteristics are much more important than how you look on a catwalk! And your daughter sounds absolutely beautiful!

  66. It is very difficult to teach our daughters to be happy with their bodies when we are in this kind of society that promotes adults to not happy with their bodies either. Damage control is sometimes the best defense!

  67. Oh I think you are definitely in the running for America’s Next Top Mom! I’m stopping by from SITS and I really enjoyed this post!

  68. Gotta love Damage Control! I am all about keepin’ it real, so I do lots of DC!


  69. I have 11 year old twin girls and we have been known to watch America’s next Top Model as well. I can so relate. Great post.

  70. doing a virtual backflip for your awesome advice – looks like we’ll be watching a little more ANTM in the future!

  71. Robbie S.Redmon, LPC

    Great post!

  72. I have not seen this show as I don’t have a TV in my goat house. It sound like you are a great mother!
    Happy SITS day!

  73. Such a great post. I don’t envy you having those beautiful girls to raise. I however have the handsome boys that will be after them. Either way we have our work cut out for us. 🙂

  74. eastsidemommy

    You came back from that very well! I’m glad you were honest with her instead of just telling her what she wanted to hear. It’s ggod for little girls to look up to someone without wanting to look just like them!

  75. How sweet. I love how you describe your daughter. I wish I could see her, it sounds like she is absolutely perfect! What wonderful advice you gave her. I hope when my children start asking questions like that I will have such wisdom.

  76. Great advice:)

  77. MicroBlogginMom

    Stopping by as part of SITS & must say I really enjoyed this post. There should be a reality show for America's Next Top Mom! You should run & know you'll have supporters!

  78. i love this post… (me and my girl watch it too ;o) but i tell them the same thing… be like her in the ways that it counts. ♥

  79. I love Top Model too!! Tyra is one beautiful, strong, independent woman and a great role model for young girls. I think what you told your daughter was perfect.

  80. I know that somewhere, many moons from now, your daughter will be posting about this life-shaping moment from her momma. Awwww…

  81. You rock as a mom…and I’m sure your daugther is WAY prettier than Tyra, too. 😉

  82. Legallyblondemel

    Hi there, stopping by via SITS.

    What a fabulous way to advise your daughter. Enabling your child to feel as though the world is hers to capture, while setting realistic and worthy expectations for the same, is the best gift a parent can give.

  83. Tyra is my daughters hero. I was disappointed at first but watched one of her shows and decided that Tyra really is a much better choice. I want my daughter to be strong and independent and not some dumb blonde floozy!

  84. There are women in the world much worse than Tyra to idolize, so I think you’re safe when it comes to TV land! And it really was an an exceptional “damage control.” I always seem to forget that as well and have to end up doing a little damage control for myself, but also telling myself, “Hey, if I had make-up artists, chefs, nutritionists, assistants, full-time nannies, and personal trainers at my beckoning call AND the money to keep them on my payroll on a constant basis, people would be lining up to look just like me too!”

    And you know what? It’s true. You said wonderful things to your daughter to show her that it’s more important to be confident and smart than be pretty. Sure, flawless skin and make-up is fun but intelligence isn’t something that you wipe off at the end of the day! It seems you already know that, and I’m glad that your daughters have someone to teach them those qualities as well.

  85. Tyra’s got beauty as well as a phenomenal business sense. If your daughter wants to emulate her (yet still be herself), bravo!

  86. What an amazing response. Tyra is a force to be reckoned with, so much beyond just a beautiful face and body.

  87. Good job avoiding the crisis!

  88. Love it! And I am saving your response so I can use it someday. Because I know I will need it.

  89. I think I would have taken the coward’s way and just shook my head, “yes dear, you look exactly like Ty-Ty…smiling eyes and all, would you like another cookie!?!”

    I love that show too though!! I just love how Tyra’s always like, “no you did it like this…what I want to see it THIS” and then she shows them herself doing it perfectly according to herself. 🙂 Oh Tyra.

  90. Adrian's Crazy Life

    Popping over from SITS. I enjoy that show too. I hear that you helped write that book Act Like a Lady and Think Like a Man. I love that book! It’s really helped me to understand and appreciate my husband a lot more. Great job!

  91. Roshni Mitra Chintalapati

    GREAT damage control!!

  92. I love this show too and one day I will hand down the DVD set of all seasons to my dear little Sofie. Since she is my spawn, I can already see that twinkle of Feeeeeeeerseness (purposely misspelt) in her. The last thing my 2 year old needs is to watch girls be torn apart based on their looks and the ability to strike a pose. But for mommy, I have gotten some fly hairstyles and rocked some interesting outfits due to watching this show. Tyra knows her stuff.

    My best, Lynn

  93. Oh yeah! You took top mom award that night!

  94. Great save! Congrats on being featured at SiTS!

  95. What a great thing to say! Something to remember when my daughter gets older. Happy SITS day!

  96. Awwww, good mom moment there! I love that they were tsking over the models’ foibles. And kudos to you for not lying and still giving her something to be proud of. Nicely done.

  97. Delectable Dining

    Love it. I could read your posts all day… you have such a gift for words. I’m already terrified to deal with all this with my own daughter. Thanks for sharing your experience. Your girl is lucky to have you.

  98. Good job, Mamma.

  99. Charmaine @ randalswife

    I love that. What a great example you are to your kids. I have boys and I really hope I am able to teach them to be confident and respectful. To love everyone and be strong. I am really impressed!

  100. That show is so skanky. I lose IQ points every time I watch it. (I’m recording it right now.)

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