Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner for I Know My Kid’s a Star! Below, McKenzie’s mom talks victory, her history in pageantry and how God helped her cope in the tumultuous world of reality TV.
Thank you very much.
Tell me about what was going through your head when you and McKenzie were named winners.
It was such a surreal moment. To live in that house, you have to become a little numb, so, at that point, I didn’t feel very much. You’re happy, but you’re sad. You get so attached to the people on the set, that you know you’re going to miss them. So, it was mixed emotions.
Have you started working with Marki yet?
No. We’ve talked to her periodically, but we haven’t worked with her at all.
Are you going to?
We’ve had the opportunity, but I don’t know. From what I understand, Marki doesn’t even really work with kids. I would prefer McKenzie to be with someone who does.
What are your plans for the prize money?
If you leave it up to McKenzie, she’d give it all to charity. People think, “Oh, yeah right. What 10-year-old would do that?” My 10-year-old would! I say, “We could at least break even on some of this stuff we do!” ‘Cause she also sings and performs in other places, so we need to at least break even, thank you very much. We’ll be back in L.A. shortly.
Are you moving out there?
We’re going back and forth. McKenzie’s not ready to move out there. I’ve made it very clear that these are her dreams and what she wants out of life, so until she’s ready, you know…
You’ve been pretty active with your comments on this blog. How do you deal with the criticism you encounter?
Well, in the beginning, people were saying that me and McKenzie were fake and making fun of our accents and being cheesy or whatever, and I just ignore that. I do not respond to negative blogs. It just doesn’t really bother me. Not everyone’s going to like you, and I don’t have a problem with that. I defended myself one time over what I said about Mary Jo during the radio-show challenge, when Gigi and I both said that Mary Jo would be the first kid to enter rehab. I felt very guilty about that, so I post about why I said that. It had nothing to do with Mary Jo, but the area her mother told me that they live in, how they all do drugs at a young age. In retrospect, I felt like that really could have hurt that kids feelings. I felt like I had to defend myself, because of her lil’ heart.
Did the stress of the show take its toll on you?
I prayed a lot. That helped me stay sane, and I reminded myself everyday why I was there: for McKenzie. She loves it. Absolutely loves it. People ask me what was my favorite episode to film and I say the last, because it meant I was going to be home sooner.
McKenzie was sort of the dark-horse candidate even going into the finale.
Definitely. Look at the age difference between McKenzie and Cheyenne, two or three years, which is a lot when training is concerned. But the other factor was that McKenzie’s never had any real training. She’s had three professional voice lessons.
Your pageant background was touched on during the show. Were you doing pageants at McKenzie’s age?
No. I started when I was around 11 or 12, and I did just a few because I played a lot of ball. I stopped and then started back when I was older. But I only did the big pageants that would pay scholarship money and things like that. Pageants were a small piece of my life.
Why do you think that McKenzie chose acting instead of following your footsteps into pageantry?
McKenzie’s never really been exposed to pageants. They have really, really changed a lot from when I’ve competed. Even three-year-olds are wearing fake eyelashes, tanning cream, wigs, fake teeth. When you take that all away, it’s like, “What child did I choose to win, because I don’t see her in this room?” I’ve never even considered allowing her to do pageants. Another thing about pageants, for me, being pretty is OK, but if you’re a nice person, it goes a lot further. If you’re not a nice person, you’re not pretty, after all.
Do you think stage moms get a bum rap?
No. Not at all. But I don’t consider myself a stage mom. When I think of a stage mom, I think they get all of the criticism they deserve. To me, a true stage mom is someone who’s trying to live their life through their child. A true stage mom is constantly pushing, pushing, shoving, shoving while their kid is sitting back going, “Mom, can I just be a kid?” That’s why I don’t consider myself to be a stage mom, because I always tell McKenzie, “Baby Girl, if this ever feels like work to you, it’s time to quit.”
Did any of the moms in the house fit your definition of stage moms?
Do I have to answer that? (Laughs) I’ll say yes without naming names.
Was there any strategy in McKenzie choosing “Alone” as her final song?
Absolutely not. Before we even made it to the show’s final 10, McKenzie ended up learning two songs, only to find out that she couldn’t do either of them. We had to learn another song, and “Alone” was it. Because she already knew the words, we ended up going with that for the final performance. It had nothing to do with anybody else. I told her, “Push comes to shove, you will sing ‘The Hokey-Pokey,’ you just gotta put a lot of personality into it.” It blew my mind that it came down to Helene and me having to flip a coin, and I purposely let her call it because I did not want to hear anymore whining. I had heard enough whining in that house.
Has McKenzie been affected from appearing on the show at all?
No. She doesn’t view this as any big deal. We sit in McDonalds, people bring up napkins for her to sign. We cannot go anywhere without being recognized, but McKenzie doesn’t have a big head by any means after this. She thinks that her talent is a gift from God and she wants to use it to the best of her ability. The fame and fortune doesn’t matter. She just wants to entertain. As far as life itself, it has changed. Wal-Mart used to take me an hour, now it takes me three.
No matter how well-adjusted a kid is, no one’s immune to showbiz’s tendency to chew people up and spit them out. Do you worry about McKenzie’s future?
Well, if you love your kid, you always worry. I tell her all the time, “Just sit there and smile and be nice, you let Mama be the mean one.” That old saying, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? I say, hell hath no fury like a woman who’s children are in danger.
Shannon prepared a few additional words that she would like to share with the readers of this blog:
Thank you all so much for your support. As all of you know, the entire ordeal was extremely trying on me, but I survived. I can honestly say even if we hadn’t won, I’d do it all again for the experience. Plus, McKenzie had a blast, and we met lots of wonderful people – not just the cast, but the behind-the-scenes crew. McKenzie also acquired another brother named Gian, and I also found an adorable child who loves grits as much as I do (Alai).
Since McKenzie won, she’s been restricted on what she can do professionally. This show was to be her coming-out, so to speak. Whenever she was asked to do certain things, people did not know that she had won. She was asked to sing the national anthem at the College Liberty Bowl on ESPN. She was asked to be a featured entertainer at the St. Jude’s Gala in Memphis, Tennessee. But she was able to perform in a lot of local shows. I’ve been keeping her away from any acting around here, because in theater, everything is dramatic and over-the-top, and, as everyone knows, acting is reacting. She’s naturally very dramatic and over-the-top — let’s not add fuel to the fire.
Also, McKenzie’s been very busy in school. While we were in L.A., she missed the first month and had a lot of catching up to do. I must say her dad and I are so proud of her. She has worked really hard and maintained straight A’s. She has also had time to just enjoy being a kid, whether she’s playing basketball, softball, swimming or riding that crazy fusion stick, the kid is always outside doing something. And no matter what she is doing, she is always, always singing.
I’ve made it very clear that there’s not enough money in the world that could convince me to sacrifice my children or my marriage. Thankfully, Brian and I are so solid and strong. So, like I told Baby Girl, as long as you are enjoying what you are doing, we’ll keep doing it. But if you ever want to stop, just say the world. That said, whenever she makes a commitment she knows she has to stick it out, but after that, it’s over.
As far as Brody, my little boy, is concerned, he is McKenzie’s biggest fan. When she is on stage singing, it’s so cute to watch him hollering her name. Plus, he has his own time to shine on the ball field, and he’ll probably be doing some print work and commercials. Yes, he’s mine, but he’s so darn cute.
To all: we have lots of decisions to make. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
Lots of love to you all,
Shannon and McKenzie
Read more I Know My Kid’s a Star wrap-up coverage below: