What Drives a Little Girl to Compete in Beauty Pageants?

Aired on 10/16/1991 | CC tv-pg
Cathy Wilensky started placing her daughter Mari in beauty pageants at the age of 4. Within three years, Mari had won an astonishing 250 trophies and had her eyes set on the grandest prize of all: Miss America. When concerned parent Debi Atkins looked at Mari, however, she didn't see a driven daughter—she saw a pushy stage mom.

"This poor little girl has no idea what is going on. I mean, she's just along for the ride," Debi said. She then pointed her finger at the mother: "She's living for her daughter."

"Excuse me," Cathy said. "I don't think I'm living for my daughter when my daughter really enjoys these pageants."

Watch the video above and decide for yourself what was really behind Mari's award-winning act.

Original airdate: October 16, 1991

Watch an update with Cathy and Mari on Oprah: Where Are They Now?