A former pageant winner with a family of three,
only one who meets her expectations of femininity. An
eight-year old girl who just wants a Snickers and the
ability to see her friends on weekends. Two boys who
don't know they're being neglected. A harried hospice
nurse with a teenage mistress. A teenage girl all alone
in the world whose grandfather dies on her eighteenth
birthday. A devoted mother and grandmother whose talks to
Jesus may or may not be all in her mind. All these and
myriad pageant moms and girls meet in a novel which shows
the consequences of the world of child beauty pageants
and the obsessions which lead a family to be stuck in the
PRETTY UGLY is not an exposé of the pageant
world; rather, it is a critique on what we already know.
The world has a love-hate affair with child beauty
pageants, and with good reason. Miranda and her daughter
Bailey show us exactly what goes on behind the scenes. A
nine-year old is stuck on a regimented diet because her
seventy-five pounds is judged by her mother to be too
heavy. She sneaks candy bars under her trophies and eats
them when her mother thinks she's on the elliptical.
Miranda is no slacker herself. Though she is pregnant,
she refuses to rise above one hundred forty-seven pounds.
Her own preoccupation with her looks is the tip of the
iceberg for Bailey and for the unborn daughter, already
The details of the family life are truly
horrifying for the uninitiated. Even though she has two
boys, she does not deal with them at all. They have
racked up horrible debt in order to keep Bailey in
pageants. The husband's affair nearly costs him his
family just as his fourth child is being born. I am not
surprised to find these things in the pages of a book.
What I am surprised at is my ability to simultaneously
sympathize with every main character. Miranda is not
evil, nor is she a blind woman, she just has
preoccupations. Joan, the grandmother who makes coffee
for Jesus, is crazy but well-meaning. The girlfriend,
Courtney, is a spoiled brat who is just now coming into
adulthood while having no clue what to do with it. I
genuinely liked almost every character. While it's
arguable that Miranda and Courtney are the protagonists,
there is no clear antagonist. Everyone acts in their own
best interests, or acts for others, as dictated by their
tastes and means.
The dealings with the pageant moms and camera
crews are humorous enough to make a book on their own
strengths. Bailey's sabotage of her diet and exercise
routines is so grown-up you forget that she's nine until
someone says so. This is a really fun book, which I have
no problem believing is true to life. It was a quick read
and I think it's enjoyable for about anyone. Love child
pageants or hate them or somewhere in between, PRETTY
UGLY is a novel about people touched by the life whether
for good or ill.
From a writer/producer of Family Guy, a satirical look at
dysfunctional southern family complete with an overbearing
stage mom, a 9 year-old pageant queen, a cheating husband,
his teenage girlfriend, a crazy grandmother, and Jesus.
After eight-and-a-half years and three hundred twenty-
pageants, Miranda Miller has become the ultimate stage
mother. Her mission in life is to see that her nine-year-
daughter, Bailey, continues to be one of the most
child pageant contestants in the southern United States.
lately, that mission has become increasingly difficult.
Bailey wants to retire and has been secretly binge eating
make herself “unpageantable;” and the reality show Miranda
has spent years trying to set up just went to their
But Miranda has a plan. She’s seven months pregnant with
fourth child, a girl (thank God), and she is going to make
damn sure this one is even more successful than Bailey,
if the new girl is a little different.
Miranda’s husband, Ray, however, doesn’t have time for
pageants. A full-time nurse, Ray spends his days at the
hospital where he has developed a habit of taking whatever
pills happen to be lying around. His nights are spent
working hospice and dealing with Courtney, the
seventeen-year-old orphan granddaughter of one of his
hospice patients who he has, regrettably, knocked up. With
pregnant wife, a pregnant teenage mistress, two jobs, a
hobby, and a mountain of debt, Ray is starting to take
desperate measures to find some peace. Meanwhile, the
Millers’ two sons are being homeschooled by Miranda’s
mother, Joan (pronounced Jo-Ann), a God-fearing widow who
spends her free time playing cards and planning a murder
with Jesus. Yes, Jesus.
A bright new voice in satirical literature, Kirker Butler
pulls no punches as he dissects our culture’s current
of affairs. It’s really funny, but it’s also pretty ugly.