Saturday, January 05, 2008

Meet the New President of "Club Libby Loser"
(or, Hannah Montana Made This Mom Go Bananas)

First of all, I'm embarrassed that this incident took place here in Garland, and right down the street at Firewheel, no less. But it's been making national news, so I figured I should comment on it.

Surely you've heard about this by now: A six-year-old Garland girl won tickets to a "Hannah Montana" concert (she's the alter ego of Miley Cyrus, daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus of "Achy Breaky Heart" fame) through a chain store called Club Libby Lu that caters to preteen girls. The winner was required to write an essay, and the winner was chosen on the strength of hers, which began, "My daddy died this year in Iraq." The only problem was, it was completely untrue:
A 6-year-old Garland girl won a Hannah Montana makeover and concert tickets Friday with an essay that started, "My daddy died this year in Iraq ..."

But the girl's mother now admits that the essay, along with information she supplied about the supposedly deceased soldier, is false, said Robyn Caulfield, a spokeswoman for Club Libby Lu.

Club Libby Lu, a store aimed at "tween" girls that sells pink and purple merchandise and gives princess makeovers, sponsored the Hannah Montana Rock Your Holidays Essay Contest. First prize was the trip to see Miley Cyrus in concert as Hannah Montana, the fictional rock star from the Disney television show of the same name.

Club Libby Lu still plans to honor the girl's prize – airfare for four to Albany, N.Y., and four tickets to the sold-out Jan. 9 Hannah Montana concert there.

[...]The girl's mother, Priscilla Ceballos, refused to answer questions Friday at the store. She did not return repeated phone messages left later in the day.

Company officials notified Ms. Ceballos that her daughter won the contest and arranged to surprise the girl Friday at the Club Libby Lu in Garland's Firewheel Town Center.

Store employees treated the girl to the makeover, complete with blond wig, and danced with her as television cameras recorded the scene.
I've ranted about irresponsible parents before, but this one takes the cake. What kind of lesson is Ceballos teaching her daughter? (Here's some video from WFAA-Channel 8 reporter Byron Harris in a story filed soon after the deception was discovered.)

The first big discussion I saw of this story in the blogosphere was last weekend at Althouse. I agree with the good Professor on more than a few things, but I was surprised when she equally blamed the store for handling it badly, saying that they should have fact-checked the essay and then discreetly resolved the matter with the family upon discovering the untruth. But quite a few of the commenters expressed the idea that a little public shaming is perfectly appropriate in this situation. (And have we really gotten to the point where even a six-year-old's essay needs to be vetted?)

Eventually, Ceballos was forced to return the tickets. The case also received the attention of DMN Metro columnist Jacquielynn Floyd, who wrote:
It's distasteful, but not especially shocking, that a person would resort to gross falsehood for personal gain. People do it every day. But Ms. Ceballos' subsequent, matter-of-fact explanation that "we wrote whatever we could to win" sets a new benchmark for pure hubris.

She comes across as slightly puzzled by all-this-fuss: Who can blame a parent for yearning to deliver something their child holds so dear?

That's the really astonishing part – that a parent would resort to such measures to deliver something as trivial as tickets to see a pop star. Yet there are hints that, while some condemn Ms. Ceballos' methods, they sympathize with her desire.

[...]Breathless reports quoted moms everywhere as they wrung their hands over how they would "explain" this to their grade-school children. I dunno. Maybe it would be a good time to talk about bad choices and good ones, about the difference between TV characters and real people.

Ms. Ceballos no doubt deserves the public scorn she has earned for being a liar and a cheat. It goes without saying that she has completely missed the point of this "role modeling" business.

It's more subtly disturbing, though, to see so many parents out there who seem to sincerely believe that gratifying a child's desires, no matter how trivial, is a sound foundation for good parenting.
Well said. And what is hopefully the final chapter in this story (for everyone except Ceballos, who seriously needs to learn some better parenting skills), a national TV audience was treated to an apology from the errant mom on the Today Show yesterday morning (video here):
“I meant no disrespect. I just made a bad decision which I sincerely regret,” Priscilla Ceballos told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer in a prepared statement she read from Friday. “I apologize to my daughter for getting her mixed up in his mess. I wanted to help my daughter realize her dream of seeing Hannah Montana. Instead, I brought so much negative attention to my family. Please accept my heartfelt apology, and please, do not punish my child for my mistake.
But watch the video; she says that she told her daughter that she "refused to accept the tickets." Today host Matt Lauer called her on that one (since the truth was that Club Libby Lu revoked them), but she stood by her earlier statement (thanks to talk show host Austin Hill, filling in for Ernie and Jay on KRLD yesterday, for pointing that out). It sounds like she still doesn't get it.

For those of you out there who are parents: How far would you go to help your kid get hold of a "hot item" like this?

I'll let an Althouse commenter named Jason have the last word:
Her mom was quoted as saying, basically, "we did what we had to to win."

The 6 year old is not disgraced. The parent is.

I think they should raffle off the prize and give the proceeds to a charity that benefits children of deceased servicemen.

The six year old will understand.

Mom never will.
These past three days have featured some long, quote-laden posts (and they've taken forever to finish). I'll go for some lighter fare tomorrow.

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