Latest Game Show Entry: Moms Vying for 'Hottest'

By Lisa Keys

Published October 20, 2006, issue of October 20, 2006.

They’re sexy, and they know it. They wear tight jeans and high heels, and they’re more than happy to shake their booties for the camera. Meet the moms of America!

On the morning of October 14, nearly 1,000 women turned up at a midtown Manhattan studio, each hoping to land a spot on “Hottest Mom in America,” a prospective reality-TV show. The line snaked around the block — and with dozens of onlookers and journalists jockeying to glimpse these babes with babes, the atmosphere was as chaotic as a carnival. (Indeed, a street fair was simultaneously occurring on the block.) The planned TV show is going all out to find that “hottest” mom. In addition to New York, tryouts have been held in Dallas, Atlanta and Chicago. A special audition last month in Miami was aimed specifically at Jewish mothers, and began after sundown to avoid conflicting with the Rosh Hashanah holiday. “Twenty-five to 30 people showed up,” said Jeff Greenfield, a marketing executive who’s organizing the auditions.

Greenfield says that if and when the show runs its course, it’s entirely possible that a Jewish woman could be crowned America’s “Hottest Mom.”

“Jewish women have a cultured look to them,” he said. “Some men find their intelligence, their talk, their chatter appealing, and some men find it annoying — Jewish men in particular.”

Greenfield, executive vice president and principal of the marketing firm Buzznation, seems to view the contest as something of a cultural landmark. “Some people say this is a sexist and demeaning competition,” he said. “But women say it’s an empowering process. They’re loving it.”

The contest is just the latest manifestation of a burgeoning hot-mama movement. Celebrity magazines applaud A-list moms who reclaim their pre-baby bodies in record time. On television, we have sultry, size-zero moms on “The O.C.” and “Desperate Housewives.” Trendy clothing labels are increasingly catering to moms and moms-to-be, while such books as “The Hot Mom’s Handbook” and “I’m Too Sexy for My Volvo” are turning the whole idea of “Mom” — the sexless, selfless caregiver — on its head. Today, “having it all” isn’t just about having a family and a career — it means women should look fabulous while they’re doing it all, too.

“Hotness has changed a lot,” Greenfield said. “Now, it’s acceptable to be 40 and look good. With all the advances in plastic surgery and exercise, 50 is not so over the hill anymore.”

Though Greenfield says his contest is “empowering” women, it’s clear that the definition of “empowerment” has changed a lot over the years, too. In an effort to stand out from the crowd on the sidewalk, one mother, wearing a tight red shrug, pole danced along an awning. A duo of girlfriends sang an a cappella version of Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” (neither is an “American Idol”). Another woman, with Marilyn Monroe-esque blond curls, proudly told a television journalist that she frequently hears the term “MILF,” an acronym popularized by a teen sex comedy, meant to denote in graphically vulgar terms how the speaker would like to approach a particular mom.

“I think it’s beautiful that there’s recognition for moms,” said Cynthia Snowden, an attractive 25-year-old mom who traveled two hours from Harleysville, Pa., for the audition. “A hot mom is someone who can balance family and time for herself. And then, of course, there’s beauty — and hygiene is always important.”

But other moms aren’t convinced. “I think it’s good that moms take care of themselves, that they want to be fit and look attractive,” said Meredith Jacobs, founder of modernjewishmom.com. “But I’m uncomfortable with the words ‘hot’ and ‘mom’ being put together. The implication of ‘hot’ is different than ‘beautiful’: ‘Beautiful’ can denote an inner beauty; ‘hot’ is somewhat tawdry.”

“If someone said to me, ‘You should enter,’ I’d be flattered,” she admitted. “But at the same time, I wouldn’t do it.”

The auditions wrap up this Sunday with a final casting call at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles. An additional contestant will be chosen from what the Buzznation folks are calling the “wild-card round,” in which a hot mama will be selected based on videos she’s uploaded to the firm’s Web site, hottestmominamerica.com. One contestant from each city — plus the wild card — then will come to Los Angeles for what Greenfield dubs “super-hot mom boot camp,” in which the ladies prove that they’re the masters of both tight abs and tight schedules.

The response to the contest has been overwhelming — especially because the “Hottest Mom in America” hasn’t been picked up by a network yet. The contest is sponsored by a Buzznation client, Restylane — “the sister product to Botox,” according to Greenfield. The winner will receive one year of free treatment, plus $25,000 cash, a $25,000 scholarship for her child and an interview with a “top” modeling agency.

Just how does such a contest come about? Greenfield said that his 42-year-old wife, Cheryl, an aerobics instructor, inspired him.

“She gets personally involved with the students in her class. If you don’t show up, she gets pissed off,” he said. “She’s always saying that these women don’t take time for themselves.”

Still, when the focus shifts from his wife (who is mother to his 13-year-old daughter) to his mother, Greenfield blushes. Is his mom a hot mom? “You could say so, yeah…. My mom is not gorgeous and all like my wife is,” he said. (And, when pressed: “My grandma is a hot grandma. She was an amazing, amazing cook, like all Jewish grandmas should be, and she volunteered at an assisted living center.”)

Greenfield has high hopes for the show, and says that two networks have expressed interest already. He also aims to “redefine what hot is.” (Case in point: The logo for the contest currently is a Donna Reed-ish silhouette, though there are plans for an animation that features a woman “cooking and patting a child, and then she takes off her apron and she’s wearing sexy jeans,” he said. “Because that’s hot.”)

Ultimately, the women selected for the competition will have that how-does-she-do-it combination of good looks, personal interests and top-notch parenting skills. But they also must have compelling stories, Greenfield said, some sort of triumph-over-adversity tale that provides “inspiration for women” and compels viewers to tune in.

“You can always find someone worse off than you,” he said.

Looking around at the room filled with real-life desperate housewives, this reporter agreed.



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