Tonight TLC debuts its reality series King of the Crown at 9 p.m., starring beauty pageant expert Cy Frakes. The 12-episode series follows Frakes and his team at the Columbia, S.C.-based Gowns and Crowns as they work their pageant magic on various young women. One of their clients is Caitlin Upton, the 2007 Miss Teen USA contestant whose geography answer became a YouTube sensation, who shows up in tonight’s premiere. The fabulous and funny Frakes stopped by EW’s offices for a chat about business, beauty, and butt glue..yes, butt glue.
EW: How did you become an expert in beauty pageants?
FRAKES: I’ve been in the pageant business for 23 years. I think it’s just been kind of a metamorphosis over time. I directed pageants and then I produced them and then I was an emcee. And for a long time I was a judge. Over the years, I saw the girls changed but the mistakes they were making didn’t. I decided I could help these girls be better and stronger contestants.
EW: What is it that you love about pageants?
FRAKES: Pageants are like theater. They’re like sports. Pageants are like the Olympics of beauty in our society. It’s where you’re setting yourself up to be judged by your inside and outward appearance.
EW: I had no idea there was such a thing as butt glue [adhesive spray that keeps contestants bathing suits from riding up]!
FRAKES: It’s the stuff that l baseball players will spray on their hands to keep their gloves stuck to their hands. You can get it in liquid. You can get it in aerosol. Then people figured out you could take the same stuff, package it in a pink bottle and sell it in a pageant store for like $85; it’s really like a $10 can of hairspray.
EW: How did it feel watching Caitlin Upton go through that whole controversy at Miss Teen USA?
FRAKES: That’s really a hard call because when you work with a girl from 14 to 17 you really get to know them. I look at lot of these teenagers, they’re like your kids. Obviously you want them to succeed and go that far. It’s like a football player: You don’t wanna fumble a ball in the superbowl and that’s what she did. I think the best way to answer that is I didn’t view that as a coach—I viewed it as a parent and you don’t want any thing like that to happen to your child.
EW: Has the economy affected your business at all?
FRAKES: It really hasn’t. Pageants are like dance and piano. I think in some families they’ve weighed out which you wanna do more. Luckily I’ve won out.