“I wasn’t your typical pageant girl, let me say that …” said Kim Gravel, a former pageant queen and star coach of Lifetime’s new hit reality series “Kim of Queens.”
Now that beauty pageants have become synonymous with such controversial reality shows as TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” Gravel, who was named Miss Georgia 1991 and is a self-described "former ugly duckling," is transforming the public’s view of pageantry and what it means to be a beauty queen. Hot on the heels of the series' Season one finale (which airs on Tuesday, April 1, at 10 p.m. EDT on Lifetime), Gravel chatted exclusively with International Business Times about the upcoming second season, the power of positive TV, and why the Georgia-based coach just might be TV’s next big thing.
She made positive TV a reality
When first approached by a Hollywood, Calif.-based teen about the possibility of doing a reality series, Gravel said she wasn't interested. “I was like, look, nah, uh, I’m not going to act a fool, although I can," she said. "I’m not going to slap somebody, although I have. I’m not going to do any of that on TV. I [said] I’m not going to do it unless it's positivity. I’m not interested in doing fiddled, fake TV.”
But with the help of producer Oliver Bogner, Gravel partnered with Lifetime and Relativity Media to create the uplifting series “Kim of Queens.”
“I’m proud of the show,” said Gravel, who has hopes of creating a possible life-coaching/dating show spin-off series. She confirmed the cast is currently prepping to begin shooting the series' second season. “I think Lifetime really has taken a chance on our show because it is a positive show and it’s really had to do something that is positive.”
She’s proving it really is what is on the inside that counts
Sure, a mean, smoky eye and glitzy attire might make you stand out in life and in pageants, but Gravel says that being a beauty queen is more than just looking good. “Listen, I was not the prettiest thing on the block ... in fact, I was, I’d say, even unattractive,” Gravel told IBTimes about her teenage years in the pageant world.
According to the longtime coach, traditional "beauty" isn't essential for beauty queens. “I look for individuality” Gravel said. “Everybody is unique, but not everybody embraces that … [In school] everybody has to fit the mold, I am totally against the mold.”
She’s hasn’t let fame get to her head, honey
While some reality stars' egos seem to grow to match the size of their ratings, Gravel has stayed humble.
“I’m walking in my destiny, I’m walking in my purpose, and I love it,” said Gravel, who added that despite her jam-packed schedule that includes taking care of her two sons, filming, running her Pageant Place business in Suwanee, Ga., and her own makeup line, among other entrepreneurial activities, she welcomes the insanity. “I’m so busy now with the show, which is such a blessing, but girl, I’m working my butt off. My dad always used to say, ‘Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,’ so that’s what I’m doing.”
She’s teaching her girls to be role models
While Gravel’s feet might have remained firmly planted on Georgia soil as her fame grew, some of the show's youngest stars had some trouble adjusting to the limelight.
“Some of them are better than others,” said Gravel, who admitted that Season one, episode one reality TV star Addison Wingate (who now has 21,000 Instagram followers and counting) let the fame “go to her head a bit,” an issue the coach said she has since remedied.
“We brought her back down to earth,” Gravel said. “The girls and the moms have never experienced exposure like this … I’m trying to teach the girls that it’s a blessing but it’s also a job. They’re adjusting and they’re doing pretty good, and I’m proud of them,” she said.
She hopes to teach traditional values
Following the premiere of the series, the show's main star said she made it her life’s work not only to make her fans laugh, but to also to teach traditional values to her teenage students and large TV audience.
“I hope they take away a little nugget of something you can apply to your life,” said Gravel, whose teaching philosophy consists of instilling in-your-face self-awareness -- not just how to perfect a pageant walk. “I’m not trying to be this guru life coach, because I don’t know my butt from a hole in the ground half the time, either, but I think what people are learning is old fashioned, common sense values that we are lacking today.”
She’s transforming the public's idea of pageantry
While most identify pageants as purely a beauty contest, Gravel is working one episode at a time to make sure the world knows that the competitions are about much more than just physical beauty. “It’s really not about pageants,” Gravel said when discussing her Pageant Place coaching center, which was made famous by the series. “We see a lot of girls that would never even think about doing pageants, but it’s helping them in so many ways. They’re learning how to speak, how to develop a confidence, their purpose how to communicate, how to articulate their point of view. It’s really something I didn’t expect, doing the pageants, because it’s so much more.”
The season finale of "Kim of Queens" airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. EDT on Lifetime.