With "Toddlers and Tiaras" in its fourth season -- and a spinoff show in full swing -- it's pageant moms who tend to be painted as overbearing, unbalanced and a little scary. Tonight, however, "Our America with Lisa Ling" takes a deeper look into our country's obsession with pageants and reveals another group of parents who are sometimes just as involved in the competition. Enter pageant dads.
"The kids need to be pushed," Leo, an Arkansas father of a pageant star says in the above clip from the season premiere. "Anybody really needs to be pushed."
Leo is only one of the men Ling met who, she says,"are cheering just as loudly for their tiny beauty queens." He is part of a group of fathers who have become friends on the circuit and are a big part of the sparkle and glitz. In the segment, they're on stage; they've got their jeans hiked for a hokey "sexy legs" competition -- and their little girls clap and hoot in the audience.
When he's not fighting for the title of "dad with the sexiest calf," Steve, a father of two, ensures his daughters' hair is perfect before they go on stage, and as his buddy Leo reveals, he even steams their dresses.
There might be more to these men wanting to compete in such a typically feminine world. Ling points out that "the dads just want to be present in their daughters' lives." Steve says he is motivated by a desire to have strong bonds with his children. "I definitely want to be a part of their lives so as they get older they have memories of things we've done together as opposed to 'where was dad when I was young?'" he says.
Of course, when the girls are asked, both Steve and Leo's pageant queens say their father is the best pageant dad.
"Our America with Lisa Ling" premieres Sunday, June 10th at 10/9c. Watch the first five minutes below.