In the past few weeks, the American media has been alternately convulsing and salivating over the “Botox Mom” story. In case you’re one of the few lucky people who missed this news, here’s a recap:
Earlier this month, a woman from San Francisco named Kerry Campbell appeared on the TV program Good Morning America, and claimed that she was preparing her daughter for beauty pageants by injecting her daughter with Botox (a facial filler made from the botulinum toxin that freezes wrinkles). She also said she was waxing her daughter’s legs and pubic area in order to prevent hair from ever growing in those places. The girl in question was also featured on the program and seemed to take this all in stride, explaining that she had requested Botox and waxing because she wanted to be more “ladylike.” Campbell claimed that she obtained Botox from a secret source and administered it herself.
A few days, the San Francisco Human Services Agency began investigating Campbell and ultimately took custody of her daughter. Then finally, Campbell decided to tell the truth: she was really Sheena Upton, a woman who was paid by the British newspaper The Sun to lie about injecting Botox into her daughter (The Sun referred to the woman as "Kerry" in the article text, but "Kelly" in the photo captions). When Good Morning America heard about this article, they offered $10,000 for her story, so Upton took her daughter on television and played this story out.
There are so many levels of wrong in this story, I don’t know which is worse: that the media is willing to pay for freak-show stories? That a mother would distort her daughter’s life for cash? That a woman who gives Botox to a girl was a believable character?
This isn’t the first time a parent has staged an elaborate hoax to get on television – let’s not forget 2009’s “Balloon Boy” incident. But the “Botox Mom” story seems even worse because it centers on the insecurity too many girls have about their looks. In times when girls wonder if they’re fat and have makeup marketed to them, it may just be plausible that an 8-year-old would ask for Botox. No amount of hand-wringing over the state of the news media is going to fix that. Only the self-confidence we instill in girls can mitigate the pressures of a world that tells even very young women that looks are everything.
Girl Museum Inc.