“I have to admit: I have no talent. I can’t sing, act or dance. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be on TV. It wasn’t even a desire,” says Pam. Below, Mary Jo’s mom talks about her feud with Gigi, her cross-dressing ex, the perils of tween-dom, and her confusion over why anyone would want to be a star in the first place.
How was your experience on the show?
The good outweighed the bad. Obviously, there were some not-so-good moments for me, but as far as what Mary Jo learned from the experience, it was definitely worth it.
What was Mary Jo’s biggest lesson?
She learned to be more open and listen, and not to be so, for lack of a better word, tween-ish. She’s taking criticism better, and even her agent has noticed.
Conversely, what was the most negative aspect of the show for you?
Honestly, Gigi. The constant drama thrown at me wore me down. Every time I turned around, she was in my face. The worst thing was when I had fear for Mary Jo, that Gigi might do something to her.
You started out as friends with Gigi. In your view, what was the turning point?
Definitely the voting thing after the soap-opera challenge. I think afterward when she said that she’d tried to talk to me, I was laying on the couch because I was exhausted from all of the drama. I just wanted to be left alone.
Her anger seemed to stem from your breaking of this alliance agreement. Was that just a strategic move on your part?
What actually happened is after deciding that we were going to vote for each other’s daughters, we got together with Sandy and Shannon in the bathroom. We all decided to vote strategically. Sandy was always supposed to vote for McKenzie, and I was always supposed to vote for Gian. When we went to the challenge, I found out that Gigi had gone behind my back and talked to Shannon. I confronted Shannon and she said, “Hey, don’t look at me. It’s your friend that changed the rules.” It was not me. Did I vote strategically? Yes. Did I back-stab Gigi? No. So, was this portrayed fairly on TV? I have to be honest with you: I didn’t care. In reality, today, tomorrow, any day, I would do it the way it was portrayed. That’s my daughter and I promise you that I’m going to put my daughter over my friend.
Did this mental warfare take a toll on you?
Yes. I have to admit: I have no talent. I can’t sing, act or dance. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d be on TV. It wasn’t even a desire. But I figured that if doing so would help Mary Jo, I was all for it. The other thing that took a toll on me was just interacting with Mary Jo. Raising a tween is hard without cameras. Add cameras and mom drama and there’s your toll. You can’t really explain to someone who hasn’t gone through raising a tween girl that their behavior is normal. You try your best to be a good mom and do what you have to do, but at the same time, I knew that if I let Mary Jo get away with bad behavior, she would only get worse. That’s the way they do. When Mary Jo had her tantrum, I didn’t want her to do that in front of cameras, and I certainly didn’t want to punish her on national TV. I would have liked to have taken her hand and walked out the door.
It seemed like what ultimately led to your dismissal was your flubbing of the branding challenge. What were your thoughts on that?
My thought on branding Mary Jo was if I did so, was that to say that she couldn’t play the exact opposite of whatever I picked out? I did not want to give her just one brand. I really wanted to give her a broader spectrum. So I was kind of iffy about the whole challenge. Granted, this was a great show for someone like me because it gives you insight on the thought process of the people you’re supposed to be working with. It gave me more knowledge to ask more questions when Mary Jo is sent to do something.
So, no hard feelings about Marki telling Mary Jo to fire you as her acting coach?
I couldn’t blame her for that. I don’t know how to act. But at the same time, it kind of offended me because throughout the competition, Marki and Danny were constantly saying, “This isn’t about the child. This is a team effort.” So how then can you tell a child to fire her mother, who’s also one half of her team? It sent mixed signals to Mary Jo. I don’t think that was fair to her.
Mary Jo seemed pretty upset after being eliminated. How did she cope?
She really wanted to win this and I think that she felt that at the time, “If I don’t win this, it’s over for me. I’m never going to be able to act again.” After we got home, she went back to life and went back to auditioning and realized that this is actually a stepping stone. The most valuable thing was that it allowed her to realize that when you don’t put forth effort, you don’t see the results. In the end, she wins either way because she learned from the experience.
Maybe the most savage point of the show was the radio interview. During that, Gigi revealed that you were once married to a man who dressed in women’s clothes. How did she even know that?
I don’t remember what I told her in confidence. I just want to make it clear that it wasn’t my husband, but my ex-husband. We’ve had some fun with that with Mary Jo’s dad, but it wasn’t him, either! In between my marriage to Mary Jo’s dad and the marriage I’m in now, I was married to someone for nine months. Without elaborating on some of his habits, I’m sure I’m not the first woman to marry someone who didn’t really know who they were. People are really good at hiding things.
You’ve been married three times?
No, actually it’s been four. For the first one, I was a kid. I was 17 and I was married nine months. I was having a baby, but that baby died. I went through a terrible emotional time. At that age, I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t stay with my husband. I went off to do my own thing and then I married Mary Jo’s father and was with him for 10 years. And then there was the third one, and now the fourth one, my current husband. I’ve been married to him for almost seven years now.
Did you take away any friends from the show?
I didn’t think I had when we left. Since the show, at one point Shari contacted us through MySpace to just say that she hoped we were doing well. And this is going to surprise you: the other person who turned out to be really nice to us is Rocky. She may not have displayed the best behavior on the show, but she really is nice. When the show came out and there was such hateful stuff about her, I wrote to her and basically just said that I couldn’t believe how horrible people were. She wrote me back, and since then, I’ll see her post stuff that says, “Rock on, Pam and Mary Jo.” She’s real supportive of us, and you wouldn’t get that based on our relationship on the show.
So you’ve forgiven her for the “Mary Kay” comments?
Oh no. We laughed about that. We thought it was funny. That was so random. I don’t think Rocky at any time said anything to me that was to the extent of Gigi. I thought Rocky was more like: throw this out, throw that out. Never did she threaten to hurt us. Although, come to think of it, I guess she did in the booth…
Do stage moms get a bum rap?
Some do, others don’t. Some really are living through their kids. As far as me, I could have walked away from the show the day it started. I didn’t care. The only reason I’ve gone as far as I have is that this is something Mary Jo loves to do. I have a very deep fear of flying, and so to get on a plane to fly out to the show was a huge thing. I could have turned around before it started and never faced the fear.
What’s up next for you and Mary Jo?
Mary Jo auditions a lot. She just got back from Canada, she had a catalog photo shoot there. She’s doing a photo shoot Friday for Universal.
Anything else to add that we didn’t go over?
If anybody needs a weight-loss plan, all they need to do is go on reality show like this. I got home and I was 16 lbs. lighter, from the stress alone. They need to trick people into doing one of these shows and turn around to say, “This was always about weight loss for you.” Also, I’m pretty computer illiterate, so I don’t post a lot on the boards and the blogs. I’ve never been into the Hollywood thing, and I’ve never been even the type to pick up a tabloid and read about someone. But the lessons that you learn from the Internet have been ridiculous. Some of the posts I’ve heard about through my husband have just been hateful toward children. In my entire life I have not and will not post anything negative about a kid.
The experience led me to ask Mary Jo, “Why would you want to put yourself out there? Why do you want to be under the microscope everyday?” I wouldn’t want it, even after being on a reality show. It makes you see stars like Miley Cyrus and Britney Spears in a new light. You have to really get used to tolerating criticism, and if you can’t handle it, I can see how easy it is to end up in rehab. I guess your love of performing can override the hassle, but to me, I have to wonder why anybody would want to subject themselves to that.
Read more I Know My Kid’s a Star wrap-up coverage below: