Jayne Harris, 31, of the UK is a failed model. So she would leave no stone unturned in her quest to make her daughter a supermodel. The girl too is game. She doesn't mind being dumb. Only she wants fame and money.
The daughter, turning 12 in a week, has a spray tan once a week and a new set of acrylic nails once a month. Her hair is bleached white-blonde and regularly boosted with a set of extensions. She plucks her eyebrows and carefully applies make-up every morning. Her parents shell out Ģ300 and more too, if necessary.
AdvertisementWhile most children her age have been desperately waiting for the arrival of the new Harry Potter, little Sasha has been hanging on for her heroine Jordan's latest book.
She says: "I'm obsessed with her. I want to be a model like her when I grow up. I want to be famous and get loads of money."
The Bennington family saga has left even the famously stiff upper-lipped Britons drop their jaws in horror.
But the parents shrug their shoulders. "Sasha has always been a pretty girl, and she loves getting attention," her father Martin Bennington said fondly of his daughter, who began modeling at age 2 or 3.
The family couldn't find enough beauty pageants for Sasha in their own land, so they traveled to US last year. And Sasha won first runner-up in her age division. Their joy knew no bounds. They are raring to go for more.
"Do you know if they have some that can make my eyes look blue?" Sasha was heard asking her parents later. "Pink is my favorite color, and blue eyes would look better with a pink dress."
You have to be out there, being noticed, even at a bus stop. What if Andrew Lloyd Webber walks past? they ask seriously.
The British media is tearing the pushy mother in particular to shreds. There were also newspaper reports that accused the family of loose values and lax parenting. Martin Bennington himself is seen to be trailing along, without much of a choice.
Jayne Harris angrily retorts that those who criticise her are just jealous.
She says: "They're just do-gooders who probably have fat kids that they can't do anything with.
"We're a good-looking family ? Sasha can't help being good-looking. I just want her to use it to achieve something."
Jayne talks breezily about how Sasha had her first set of false nails glued on at eight, and now enjoys the sort of rigorous beauty regime - hair extensions, fake tans, pedicures - that was once the preserve of porn stars, not of school children from Burnley in Lancashire.
Still, times have changed. 'All the kids are at it now,' insists Jayne.
'I don't understand why people get so upset about it. None of it is permanent. Tans wash off. Hair extensions come out. Why all the fuss?'
She also brushes off questions about unwelcome male attention.
'People go on about the paedophile thing, but they've got that one wrong. Paedophiles don't want girls who look 18. If anything, it's the fresh-faced younger ones they want.
'And so what if she poses in a bikini? There are plenty of 11-year-old girls on beaches in bikinis. If people have a problem with it, I'd say it is their problem, not mine.
Sky News Online said that paedophiles were already discussing the 11-year-old Sasha online.
There are reports that paedophiles have been uploading pictures of her daughter.
"Sasha is now at serious risk," said the Online Sex Offenders Community monitoring team.
A spokesman of the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP) said, "It's a sad fact that where children go, paedophiles will follow. Parents have to be vigilant."
"We feel that child pageants should be banned altogether and we feel that exploiting children in an adult sexualised environment is entirely unacceptable and parents should be made to stop if they can't see the serious risks," activists said.
Sara Payne, whose daughter Sarah was murdered by a paedophile in 2000, is furious: "This is entirely the fault of Sasha's mother's behaviour," she said.
But Jayne is not bothered one bit. She scoffs at "scaremongers," saying, "There are always sickos out there and it's a risk you take when you have a beautiful child that's in the media. It'll blow over in a few weeks," she said.
What does she see herself as in the future? A reporter of the Daily Mail asked Sasha.Pat came the reply - 'Blonde, pretty, dumb - I don't need brains.'
Her mum laughs her head off.