(SD) 1. It is so great to speak with you! Congrats on the success of your brand new show “Kim of Queens” currently airing on Lifetime. What has this whole experience been like so far for you?
Oh it has been amazing, it’s been one of those things where it’s a dream come true. I’ve worked in TV a long time and also working with teenage girls it has been a call for me. I’ve done it for over ten years and I never thought that those two worlds could merge together like this. For me, this is a dream come true. I’m proud of the show because it’s a bigger message, I hate to be cliché and so cornball but it’s the truth. I completely love the message of this show and I think it transcends a lot of demographics and a lot of boundaries. It’s just that message that we all are created beautiful and we just don’t get it, we don’t see it in ourselves. It’s a message that can really connect with women and everybody really.
(SD) 2. For those not familiar with the show, can you explain the concept behind it and how the opportunity initially came about?
The premise of the show is I am a pageant /life coach and I work with teenage girls and their moms by default and we travel this journey of pageantry, so the backdrop is pageants but the message is I’m trying to mentor future leaders here. I am trying to build girls self-esteem from the outside in because if girls don’t get it, and see it on the outside, they’ll never experience what true beauty is on the inside. Everybody says that beauty is on the inside and that’s the truth, but women don’t really see that or feel that unless they see it on the outside first.
Our message is a little bit unorthodox and we’re coming at it from a different way but it’s really ringing true with teenagers. I’ve gone on to train a lot of girls that have gone on very well in pageantry and in life for that matter, so turning that into a business was challenging because we’ve done it so many years voluntarily. When we turned it into the business that’s when the TV opportunity came calling. I had a producer call me, actually he was a teenager himself, just seventeen years old and he really loved what we were doing with young girls. He went and sold this concept, he’s only twenty now but it was a few years in the making.
This message, it really resonates with everybody. I was very fortunate to have parents who really instilled, more importantly a father who really instilled in me and my younger sister that you are beautiful, and you are created for a purpose. So I got that really young and I didn’t realize how many people don’t get that, I didn’t realize that until I started working with young people.
(SD) 3. Being a seasoned pageant coach, what has been most challenging about working with the various personalities and attitudes of the young women and more so their sometimes overbearing mothers?
Well most of the girls that I deal with are very entitled and very spoiled. A lot is given to our young people today; everything is instantaneous and we live in a drive-thru world. These kids are used to getting everything right now or at least in a couple hours, but life doesn’t work that way. When I train them it’s a process, you can’t just come for one week and the next week you’re winning.
For the TV show, we amp it up so our training is triple in a week. Me, mom and Allisyn take a girl in a week and turn her into a beauty queen, sometimes they win, and sometimes they lose. It depends on how willing and how hard working the young girl is. For example, Alexis is a newbie and she has never done a pageant, the girl didn’t know how to walk, she didn’t know how to do anything but she worked her tail off and she won! That is what people don’t realize, just training for anything, whether it’s for sports or as I say, pageants are sports for chicks; it’s such a hard process to go through but what is even harder is when we’re digging out some of these and then we get there as the season continues.
We have to deal with a lot of tough issues; a lot of people have been through abuse, neglect and bullying. You’d be surprised how much these kids have gone through at such a young age. They don’t have the life skills to cope and understand that, “listen this is what’s happening to me, this is not me.” Not only do we pick out just the beauty aspect and the self esteem issues, we’re also addressing some deeper life skills and some life things that happen to these girls that they don’t even know how to deal with.
Let me just add this, there are moms too, the moms are broken just as much as the young girls are, but we all are I guess, we’ve all got our baggage. It’s how you handle that baggage and that’s the deeper thing we’re talking about to these girls; how to cope, how to handle your life instead of letting your life handle you.
(SD) 4. Having made history by being crowned Miss Georgia at just 19 years old, what did that victorious achievement teach you about the world of pageantry?
I had worked so hard for that to be one of the youngest Miss Georgia because then you could compete up until you were twenty six or twenty seven years old. I was a nineteen year old competing against twenty six year old professional doctors already in their profession. For me it taught me a lot of hard work, determination, goal setting and being able to set a goal and achieve it. Why I did pageantry was to get exposure and win scholarship money to go to school. I just kept the main thing instead of trying to be the most beautiful or win the crown the earliest. I just wanted to win for a purpose, for a reason.
Looking back, I kind of wish I would have waited until I was a little bit more mature and world savvy to be able to compete at Miss America. It taught me how to lose; because I learned more from losing Miss America than I did from winning Miss Georgia. It taught me how to navigate life’s failures because you just cannot get through life without failing. Winning Miss Georgia was great but losing Miss America and the years after that taught me more. You know a lot of things come easy to me, I’ll be honest with you at first when I was young I had a good personality, and I was very talented, I knew how to work it. For me losing Miss America and being able to go through those failures really made me the person I am.
(SD) 5. I find it fascinating to read that you mention losing the Miss America title made you who you are today. Explain how that loss has defined you both personally and professionally.
As you know, the Miss America system, pageants and anything in life is very political and its very people oriented. Anytime you’re dealing with people, it’s a slippery slope. It’s one of those things that you have to be able to deal with people, accept people and love people to be able to communicate with them. At nineteen, I was green to all that, I mean I still thought the world revolved around me like every teenager does (laughs). I didn’t have any world experience. I didn’t understand how this thing called life works.
So when I lost Miss America, I was slapped around a little bit about, “Hey the real world is not about you, it’s not about small town Georgia USA, there are a lot of different types of people from a lot of different backgrounds and you can learn something from it.” From the Miss America program, I was chosen to go overseas to work and live in Japan and represent the United States as a Goodwill Ambassador. It just opened my eyes to so many things. It made me so worldly for lack of a better word and I thought, “Hey this is a big world out there.” What I realized is we’re all the same, just in different ways. It’s the truth, I don’t care; black, white, gay, straight, if you’re from Japan, if you’re from Georgia, it doesn’t matter, we’re all the same.
(SD) We’re all God’s children.
(KG) Come on now don’t make me start preachin’. I mean that taught me more than goin’ to church my whole life. (Laughs) And that’s what I want these girls to experience. Now you’re going to get me really excited. I want these girls to experience different types of people, different ways of learning things. I’m a very nontraditional trainer; there are things that I do with these girls that they won’t let me do on the show. (Laughs) I want these girls to understand that there is a world out there. I don’t think exposure is bad; exposure at the appropriate times in your life is good. Leaving my home and traveling the year I was Miss Georgia and the year afterwards representing the Miss America organization in Japan without my parents, without a chaperone, as a young adult woman, honey I wouldn’t take that experience for nothin’!!! You couldn’t give me a million dollars to go through it again, but you couldn’t give me a million dollars to not go through it again. Does that make sense? (Laughs) I wouldn’t do it again but I cherish those times. I want these young girls to understand. Teens they are so sheltered, they’re so sheltered but yet they’re exposed to so many adult things they’re not that capable of handling.
As long as I’m diggin’ holes and droppin’ seeds I’m good! Because when you’re plantin’ it’s tough because you’ve got to dig holes and sometimes the ground is hard, but I’m a digger and a planter. I don’t have to be praised for it and I don’t care about fame. I do want to make good money but I don’t care about fame, I care about makin’ a difference. I’m forty two and I think you get that way the older you get. You realize it’s not about you or what you can get and accumulate; it’s about what you can give out. As long as I can just keep being me and get my message out I’m fine. The day I have to start cussin’ people out and doing all that, I ain’t doing it. (Laughs) Unless you really deserve it, unless I’m really getting heated! (Laughs)
(SD) 6. Getting back to Kim of Queens, your mother Jo and sister Allisyn are also featured on the show. Thinking about creative differences, how do the three of you manage to find common ground working together on screen?
We are very close and we’re very much a raw, real, very exposed family meaning we don’t take each other seriously. We are a fighter family. They don’t show a lot of our conflicts that really happens because we’re three very strong individual women. That is a pain in the rear to get navigated and everybody has their own opinions because everybody thinks they’re a leader. My mom is a leader, so that's tough. We butt heads. And my sister thinks she's a leader but is not. Together as a team it’s a powerhouse because we actually care about what we’re doing; the bottom line is the kids are the important thing. The goals we’re trying to reach with them are secondary; all of our bickering, fussing and differences can be set aside until we get home.
Enjoy PART II of the interview below:
(SD) 7. What would you say has been the craziest mishap/moment or most memorable highlight of the season so far?!?
The highlight for me is in one of the episodes we had a girl named Alexis who was an African-American girl, she was the toughest kid to train but I love that child with everything I have. It’s like I birthed her myself. Connecting with her was a highlight for me because she is so hungry to be better and do better and she’s so passionate. She’s a little bit older too. She’s almost eighteen so she’s at a place where she really is ready to launch out into the world. Being able to foster her during the series and beyond because I’m with her every day even while we’re not taping, is the highlight. That kid is going to be somebody and go somewhere, watch and see what I tell you.
I’d like to tell you a little bit about her if you don’t mind; her back story. She has been through so much as a young child, I mean she has scars all over her legs where she just picked herself and had anxiety. If you would have heard her story, you would break down and bawl. I broke her down. I just talked to her real. Her mom is a doll too. They’ve just been through so much in their life that you would root for them. We get into the story a little bit as we go with the show. Honestly, just seeing her become this young woman, a leader, a peer coach and everything else she’s become for a younger girl, I’m so proud of her!
(SD) 8. What advice and important tips do you give to young women looking to break into the business?
I think the main thing is I’m so thankful to God that this is coming at a time in my life where I’m so grounded and I get it. I think in my twenties I would have totally squandered this opportunity. I would tell a young person to check your motive. I do this with my girls, I make them sit down and ask them what they want to be when they grow up and what their goals are. I make them list them all down and then I talk to them about motives.
Let me give you an example, let’s take me and let’s take you for instance, say we both want the same thing out of life, say we’re both talented at the same thing, and say we get the same thing, we reach our goals, and it’s the motive that gets you there that will sustain you. To me, that’s what’s missing in some of these reality stars and this is where I really check myself on a daily basis. Why am I talking to Christian on this interview? What is my motive? Is it to get my name out there more?
I really check my motives and that’s what I would tell any young person trying to break into this business. As you know this is a beast of a business. (Laughs) It will chew you up and spit you out and not even think twice about it. If you know why you’re doing something, and you have purpose behind why you’re doing it, you will be successful. I don’t give a crap what it is. If it’s digging ditches, if you have a reason for digging a ditch and you’re passionate about it, you’ll make it.
(SD) So what’s your motive for today? (Laughs)
Mine? Can I be honest with you? I absolutely think you are adorable!! Your picture on Twitter is adorable, you’re like Bradley Cooper. You are adorable!!! (Laughs) And what you’re doing is so great; you’ve dug all this out yourself, that’s fantastic! I mean who does that?!? You’ve interviewed a lot of great people. It’s going to happen for you. I have a ten year rule too; you have to do something really like for ten good years to see the fruits of it. I’m serious. You’ll see, it will pay big time, plus you’re so cute! You’re a cutie, you really are!! (Laughs)
I’m telling you, I’m trying to get this message out Christian because it’s not a popular message, especially for reality TV. I don’t give a rip because people need it, they need hope, and they need something to hang their hat on for just thirty minutes or an hour every evening. They need something to say you know what, if she can do it, I can do it!
Also I have something to say, I think of value. I have something to say and not everyone is going to like it and not everyone is going to connect with it, but I believe I’m called for such a time to speak this message. Especially to young people that are getting such trash everywhere they go. Everything is trash, everything is just trash yourself out and you’ll be famous. I’d like to give somebody another viable option.
(SD) 9. Where do you manage to find the time to maintain your own business The Pageant Place, cosmetic line (Hardee Girl), being a Life Coach and a Christian/Gospel singer?!?
The music thing is on the backburner right now because we’re writing music for other people. I’m also trying to help all my kids on my show get their careers launched too. It’s tough man, especially with the show. It’s really tough but I have a great business partner and we’ve been working together for over ten years. I have a very supportive husband who still has his own career and he won’t quit that; I need him to quit it but he won’t do that. I also have interns that help me and the company is growing exponentially. It’s getting really big, really fast because of the TV show which is great but you know what, you do what you gotta do. I have two small children too so I am juggling a lot. (Laughs) I love it so I find the time and the energy to do it! This opportunity comes once in a lifetime so you’ve got to take it!
(SD) 10. Let’s talk music! Who are some of your favorite music artists?
Chaka Khan and Annie Lennox are two of my favorite all-time female vocalists. They are both just soul singers, they are great business woman and they are the real deal. I love what they stand for. I love Celine Dion too but Chaka Khan, Annie Lennox and Tina Turner to me are my top three.
I’ve seen Tina Turner a million times in concert. I saw her on her last tour and she’s seventy but she was running around like she was thirty, you would have died. She was amazing, she’s just raw, and she doesn’t need monitors. You give her a mic and a band and it’s done!
(SD) 11. Imagine putting the ultimate southern beauty pageant by having your girls dressed up to the era of 1960’s country music with Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn serving as the judges…. What would you do and how would it be themed?!?
Oh Lord Honey, I would have them comin’ out walkin’ out to 9 to 5, this is the ultimate drag pageant here by the way, (laughs) somebody would have Crystal Gayle’s hair, somebody would of course have the big well endowed breasts which could be my sister because her boobs are humungous. I would play up the individual looks of that era but not just 1960’s country but just that look. Remember the bell bottoms pants, remember the jumpsuits? I would totally bring jumpsuits back for outfit of choice. I would totally bring back full train dresses with capes, and I would bring back class and elegance from that era. Just have lady-like behavior and all that back. Then I would probably have one drag queen in there just for fun because I know Dolly would love that! Oh my God, I mean she is a drag queen, (laughs). People call me a drag queen too and I take it as a compliment! Everybody asks me, “Are you a drag queen,” and I say yes I am (laughs).
(SD) 12. Touching on the topic of motivation and inspiration… how does one prepare or aspire to be a Life Coach? What led you to that title?
Good question. I have been a lot of things in my life. I’ve pursued music, I’ve pursued the beauty industry, I’ve pursued acting and I’ve modeled. I have been a jack of all trades. The only thing that has been consistent in all those pursuits has been people. I think my connection to people is what has always driven me. I always thought my career would be singing or songwriting but it never happened for me. I write and wrote for five albums worth of material but it never happened for me in a big way.
With the beauty business, I’ve always been originally successful at that but I sat down and I really thought, “What is the common denominator here in what I do?” and its people. I’m good at bringing out the best in people, period. I can do it through music; I would just sing the songs to get to talk to the people afterwards. I would put on their makeup just to talk to them about their life. I enjoy talking to people about themselves. I had a community based talk show in
To be a Life Coach, there are people who are Life Coaching for money and it’s their career but I’ve been Life Coaching all my life. I was Life Coaching when I was a teenager. I’ve had people at the network calling me asking for advice and direction, and I don’t have any advice. Personally, what the heck do I know? I’m not a counselor! All I know is to ask the right questions to get you to realize what you should do, that’s all. A Life Coach is nothing more than just sitting down having a conversation and basically asking questions and the person comes up with answers.
It’s what I’m made to do. If it’s on a TV show great, at the grocery store great, if it’s at my kid’s school that’s great. You know when I started moving in that, that’s when the TV opportunity came; the big one. It was only when I really started operating because you can’t do what you love for money. If you’re chasing money you’ll be miserable. You have to do it because you love it. The money will come, and the fame or whatever is attached to that will come.
It’s just like you would never want to go to a doctor if he was just doing it for money. You don’t want to go get your heart surgery done because he just went to school for money. That scares you a little bit when you hear stuff like that. So that’s the same thing. God knows I don’t do reality TV for money. I do it because I love people, I love seeing people rise. I do it for a reason. I don’t do it just because I want to be on TV.