SOMETIMES real life can surprise you.
Take the three young girls I met recently in the restaurant of a posh London hotel.
All were a few hundred miles from home in Manchester…and light years away from their usual surroundings.
One is in the middle of a two-year anti-social behaviour order, better known as an Asbo.
Another had been involved in petty crime and a third had been in danger of getting into trouble by mixing with the wrong crowd.
And yet all three were good company – smiling, polite and full of hope for the future.
Asbo Teen To Beauty Queen, which begins on Five at 8pm this Wednesday, is another take on the Ladette To Lady school of television.
The six-part series took a total of nine girls from Greater Manchester and attempted to transform them, so that one would end up representing England at an international beauty pageant.
Of course, there’s more to it than just putting on some slap and a posh frock.
The project also aimed to change the way the girls viewed their own lives, which were going nowhere fast.
Did it reward “bad girls” when hard-working law-abiding youngsters have no such luck?
You’ll have to watch and make your own mind up about that.
Laura Wilde, 17, of Eccles – pictured “after” above and “before” on the right – is the girl on that Asbo.
As filming began, her mum Esme said: “She’s my daughter and we still love her, no matter what, even though we don’t approve of what she’s done and how she’s gone about things.
“When the police were knocking on the door and we were going to court, I was always thinking to myself, ‘I wish somebody would just take her away and give us a bit of space and a bit of peace.’”
Several months later, it was a delight to meet Laura, who – it must be remembered – is still just 17.
“I think it was when people said I’d changed that I realised I had,” she smiled.
“My mum and dad have supported me all the way. I’m surprised they didn’t chuck me out. They put up with a good 18 months of me drinking all the time, fighting, getting arrested.”
It’s easy to condemn youngsters who cause real misery for others in our streets and neighbourhoods.
But this TV series illustrates that threatening the Asbo generation with prison is no lasting answer.
They need to be educated and shown a better way forward – however difficult that process may be.
Today’s teen troublemakers are tomorrow’s parents. With many locked into a lifestyle of drink, drugs and crime, what hope do they – or their children – have for the future?
As their American mentor Michelle Fryatt (left) said: “I hope that the girls learned that you create your own opportunities in life.”
You can read more about the show in tomorrow’s MEN TV feature. The online version is here.
And here’s a link to the MEN Pg 3 news story which ran on Nov 2:
Asbo Beauty Queens Get Ultimate Makeover