Role Models? Depends on Where You Look!

Just when you think it’s safe to love a celebrity — even a Disney one — they go and break your heart with news they’re headed to jail or rehab. It’s no wonder parents in this town are a little nervous about naming a Tinseltown role model for their kids. My top choice right now […]

Last Updated: May 5, 2009 @ 3:48 PM

Just when you think it’s safe to love a celebrity — even a Disney one — they go and break your heart with news they’re headed to jail or rehab. It’s no wonder parents in this town are a little nervous about naming a Tinseltown role model for their kids.

My top choice right now is Dora the Explorer. Sure she’s animated, but she’s also curious, bilingual — and you won’t find her at Promises or on TMZ anytime soon.
 
Talking to another Hollywood mom the other day, I asked if she had any hometown heroes for her tykes.
 
Silence.
 
Deadly. Silence.
 
After eventually throwing out the obligatory reference to the charity- and child-loving Brangelina, mom Yvonne Condes finally hit on something that struck a chord. Literally.
 
"This season we’ve been watching ‘American Idol,’" she said, explaining that only her 5-year-old son gets to stay up that late. (Her 3-year-old son presumably will have to wait a couple of years to experience the wrath of Cowell.)
 
I was intrigued.
 
"Right now, there’s one woman left," she told me. "All the rest are guy singers, which is so cool for him to see. And they’re all so different."
 
She added: "I want my kids to know you can be any man you want to be."
 
There were a couple of things that struck me about that comment.

First, it was great to hear a mom so open to her son growing into an unconventional young man, whatever that may mean. Secondly, in an effort to name a role model in the city, she picked a group of guys who hail from places like Conway, Ark., and Milwaukee, Wis.

Granted, one is from L.A., and all of them are in town for at least their 15 minutes, but, really, this mom is looking outside the usual Hollywood circles to find someone for her sons to admire. Take that, Jonas Brothers!
 
Honestly, do we always have to travel beyond the Hollywood sign to find real examples for our kids?
 
Sure, there are women like thirtysomething girl-power mascot Reese Witherspoon who deliver in terms of reputation and star wattage, but somehow even their spotlight is overshadowed by the teen and twentysomething scandalmongers stealing more of the glow.

Not only that, but moms are also somewhat gun-shy when it comes to giving the ultimate seal of approval. Look what happened with squeaky-clean Chris Brown. You never know when you’re going to have to explain a topic like domestic violence to your little pride and joy.
 
As the mother of a 2-year-old girl who can’t yet tell the difference between Britney and Barney, I have some time before the worry sets in. (Pre-worrying is a different story altogether.) Right now, Mom and Dad are her only real role models.
 
But when I think of potential Hollywood go-to examples for my child — someone in her hometown, working in the biggest industry in that town — I start to hear the sound of crickets chirping. And when one does come to mind, I end up crossing my fingers and hoping they won’t blow it.
 
Right now, for my daughter, Dora ranks just below sainthood. But when she gets older and becomes, God help us, a Hollywood teen, I hope there will be young women in the industry she can admire and emulate. Unfortunately, what’s hard is finding them. Not impossible, just hard.
 
But maybe Yvonne has it right. Perhaps we haven’t been looking in the right places. Maybe it’s time to look at the ones who are fighting to stay here rather than the ones who’ve already arrived. At least with them, we get to see their struggles on the way up rather than their battles on the way down.
 
No matter what, though, when my child is old enough to understand all the implications, I look forward to telling her, "I want you to know you can be any woman you want to be."
 
Except for (insert scandal vixen name here).

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