Although Toddlers and Tiaras is a big hit for TLC (which should, incidentally, be forced to rescind the title “The Learning Channel,” considering the amount of BS programming it offers), the issue of child pageants is still one that makes a large segment of society uncomfortable- probably not in a small way due to the gruesome and mysterious fate of pageant child star JonBenet Ramsey and the strange case that resulted from her death.
If you’re too young to have followed the stories when it was news, JonBenet Ramsey was a six-year-old pageant queen who was found dead in her family’s home after what initially was reported as a kidnapping on Christmas Day, 1996. If she had not died, JonBenet would be 21 this year- but she has been somewhat immortalized as a kindergartner in the collective consciousness, and the images of her dolled up in pageant regalia have lived on as a kind of macabre relic of the child’s strange life and sad death.
While the murder of JonBenet was initially scandalous and horrific, what happened next was a media circus and provided fodder for years of salacious news programming. A pall of suspicion was cast upon the family, and Ramsey’s pageant history fed into the idea that the child’s early entry into the competitive and cutthroat world of pageants was somehow a factor in her death. JonBenet’s mom Patsy passed away of cancer at the age of 49 in 2006, and it wasn’t until 2008 that newly developed DNA testing technology revealed that an “unexplained third party” was likely guilty in the murder. All the remaining years of Patsy Ramsay’s life were spent defending her family against allegations that someone who lived in the house was responsible for JonBenet’s death.
Now John Ramsey, widower of Patsy and the father for whom JonBenet was named, has spoken out about JonBenet’s death and his own regrets in a new book, The Other Side of Suffering. In the book, the elder Ramsey credits faith in God for surviving the compounding grief (Ramsey lost a daughter of his first marriage, Elizabeth, who died at 22 in a car crash and is buried next to JonBenet.) But Ramsey also recounts a tale that is chilling viewed through the lens of the girl’s murder, though he describes his family as “naive” as to the risk the controversial child pageant circuit may have posed to his daughter at the time.
In an interview with ABC, Ramsey says:
“Patsy had her sitting atop a friend’s convertible in the Christmas parade waving at the people lining the streets… Patsy’s mother later told me that a strange man approached the car during the parade and it made her uncomfortable. I think about these things now and it makes me cringe. We were so naïve. I now believe with all my heart that it’s not a good idea to put your child on public display.”
It seems Ramsey truly regrets allowing what he believed was an innocent pursuit for JonBenet and Patsy- he laments:
“Only because… that possibly might have drawn attention to us. I don’t know. But- I think for- for advice to a parent is just recognize that- regardless of where you live, there- there could be evil around you. And- and don’t be naive about it. And keep your kids protected.”
Do you think JonBenet’s death was connected to the pageant scene?