“I’ve never wanted for something and not received it,” announces Ashley. “I don’t see why the future should be any different.” The young woman reveals more than a disregard for grammar on the premier of Princess, Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s new Slice network show. Ashley doesn’t appear to care about much of anything besides her next shopping spree. And she’s got the credit rating to prove it.
Princess is a show about young women who believe the rules of personal finance don’t apply to them. Vaz-Oxlade and I spoke on Monday about her new project and where on earth she finds these kids.
What do you want people to take away from Princess?
There are two messages. The first is that you can have anything you want, but you have to figure out what that is first. The second is that I don’t understand why you’d let your child bully you into helping them be morons. If you have a kid living at home working full-time and they’re not paying rent, what are you thinking?
What does the princess phenomenon say about how we teach our kids about money?
We don’t teach our kids about money. In fact, right now what we’re trying to do is offload responsibility for financial education onto the school system. You can do some of it in school, but you can’t teach responsibility for money in school. School doesn’t give kids money, so school can’t hold them accountable for it. I’m not sure what it is about parents that they’re so hesitant to talk about this with their kids. I would’ve thought that by now we would have gotten over it. But we still seem to be holding tight to the idea that we need to protect our children from growing up so quickly. If you take your child to a store, say we have a dollar and you have to choose what it is you want to buy. Immediately we’re starting to teach the fact that money runs out; it’s a resource that comes to an end and you actually have to make a choice. It’s these small steps, these small discussions.
Where do you find these women?
They apply to be on the show.
So they understand they need help.
Sometimes they don’t understand. Sometimes they’re doing it for their 15 minutes of fame. They see their peer group – they consider their peer group to include Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan – on television behaving badly so they don’t see anything wrong with it.
There’s this question of self-awareness that comes up watching Princess. How can people not know their spending is out of control?
People are often not aware. They are astounded that their debt is growing, because they never ever account for the money that they’re putting on their credit cards. Truly, they’re actually clueless in that regard. How could you have a person make every single mortgage payment from their line of credit and not think there was something wrong with that? But I had one. Nobody wants to stop what they’re doing. Everybody is very happy living in denial, sticking their head in the sand, pretending that nothing bad is going to come of this.
What’s your advice for someone who has a princess in his or her life?
The only way you’re ever going to stop them from being the way they are, is to put your foot down and say that the behaviour has to stop. If you have a kid that is constantly hitting you up for money and guilt-tripping you into giving you money, you need to decide that’s something you’re not going to feel guilty about anymore. I am amazed at the number of people who will not hold their children accountable for even the simplest things: like giving them back their change when they go buy something. The kids just pocket the change as if that’s their due. It’s this whole idea that kids can weasel their way out of responsibility, just by telling you that they love you. Mommy I love you, buy me a new pair shoes. Really? Love me with those other shoes.
What’s it like to work with the princesses?
It’s hard, it’s really hard. I should be getting danger pay. Some of them are so vicious sometimes and you’ll never see that on television because there’s no way to wrap it into the story. Really, the level of bile that sometimes gets thrown at me. When I challenge people to look at what they’re doing wrong. My job is to wake them up. So I say some pretty strong things about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. I tell one mother who is ditching her daughter so that she can go shopping and partying just how bad a mother she is. If you’re ditching your kid, you’re a crappy mother and that’s all there is to it. So sometimes the truth can be so hard for them that they come back at me with a hiss. But those aren’t the ones that I really have a problem with. The ones that I really have a problem with are the ones who no matter what I say to them, or whatever exercise I put them through, they continue to be big dummies. They have been so coddled by their parents and reassured by their parents that what they’re doing is not wrong that they will not listen to what I say.
Obviously these traits aren’t unique to women.
I want to do a male princess. I just want one to show up. As soon as I get a male princess at my door, I’m all over him.
Princess airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Eastern, 6 p.m. Pacific and a whole bunch of other times on Slice. Check your local listings.
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