We just spoke with Shanna Moakler, the 32-year-old actress and former Miss U.S.A. Earlier this week, we were pleasantly flabbergasted by her new fabulously bizarre CW reality show, Crowned: The Mother of All Pageants. Ms. Moakler—whose rocky-road relationship with her husband, the Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, was the subject of an MTV show called Meet the Barkers—called The Daily Transom from her bed, where she was “all cozied up.”
Crowned, the second episode of which aired on Wednesday night, features 11 mother-daughter teams competing for a joint pageant title and a $100,000 cash prize. Ms. Moakler judges these self-titled teams, ranging from “Blonde Bombshells” to “Tomboy Queens,” alongside Queer Eye’s Carson Kressley and “television personality” Cynthia Garrett.
To be sure, Mr. Kressley’s witty off-the-cuff remarks, an odd mix of Michael Kors on Project Runway and Miss J. Alexander on America’s Next Top Model, keep the show watchable—if not downright addicting. Another asset arguably comes from the sense one gets that the three judges are definitely in on the joke.
“Oh, my god! He’s so fun,” Ms. Moakler said of Mr. Kressley. “It was so much fun to go to work. We would literally just go in and laugh for hours. Carson is so witty and he’d have these great one-liners,” she continued, “The producers had to tell us to stop laughing and tell us to take it more seriously, because we were having such a great time.”
In the premiere episode, one mother-daughter team stinks up the joint when they reveal their team name, meant to embody their best qualities: “Silent But Deadly.”
And while its lowbrow antics, cringe-inducing performances and shocking contestant interviews put the show squarely in the TV programming basement, it has also managed to take on some unexpected heft these days.
After all, the real impact of the seemingly endless W.G.A. strike won’t be felt until 2008. As a recent unflattering Washington Post article, "CW’s ‘Crowned,’ Missing Congeniality," points out, the series may indicate what kind of TV shows viewers can expect to see a lot of in the coming year.
“The teams there are so different,” Ms. Moakler said. “We really tried to give each one their own bar. We really tried to listen to what they had to say, and watch their body language, and see if their mothers support their daughters. There are some teams there where they finish each other’s sentences and they get along great. And then there are some mother-daughter teams that don’t really like each other or know each other very well.”
Ms. Moakler calls herself a “huge advocate” of beauty pageants. For one thing, she said, being able to compete in them during her youth in Rhode Island allowed her to launch her career.
“[Pageants] give girls in small towns a lot of opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have,” she told us. “Yeah, they can only have one winner, but they’re fun. They’re not supposed to have pepper spray and things flying. They’re supposed to help young girls. Miss America put a lot of girls through college.”
But what about the horror stories one hears about brutal “stage moms” and all the pressure put on young girls to look like sexy, well, blonde bombshells?
“You hear a lot of bad stuff, like about JonBenét Ramsay—[our show] was something entirely different. When it comes to children’s pageants, like everything else with parents and their children—whether it’s in sports, or pageants, or education—everything can be taken overboard. If you take it with a grain of salt, it can be really enjoyable and you can learn a lot,” she said.
Ms. Moakler, who has two children with Mr. Barker and another with champion boxer Oscar De La Hoya, told us that working on Crowned was a lot more enjoyable than shooting Meet the Barkers. “That was a little more documentary style,” she said of the MTV series. “Even though it was a reality show, there were literally cameras following us around twenty-four-seven. Back then our show wasn’t as scripted as some of the reality shows are now. So it wasn’t really something we wanted. What you see is what you’re getting,” added Ms. Moakler, whose separation from her drummer husband has been peppered with occasional reunions, leading to much speculation in the gossip pages of a reconciliation. In the end, though, it seems the couple has separated for good, while apparently remaining good friends and coparents.
“This time the cameras aren’t in my home—there aren’t microphones in my bedroom!” she laughed. “So I can kind of just go and enjoy myself.”