Isabella Barrett fell in love with the pageant world at 4 years old when her older sister, Victoria, entered a beauty contest.
A counselor suggested that Victoria enter the pageant to help regain her self-esteem. At the age of 17, Victoria was beaten last year by three girls during a bullying incident, and had to undergo plastic surgery on her face at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The counselor proposed that after she healed on the outside, what may help her heal on the inside was entering a pageant.
She did just that and won the title of "Novice Supreme." The healing had begun.
Victoria is no longer in the pageant world, but she stayed in the world of beauty and now attends Toni & Guy Hairdressing School.
Isabella, now 5, watched her sister during her pageant days and asked their mother and father, Susanna and Tony Barrett, if she could do it, too. Her father said yes and her mother, who owns Park Ave. Puppy’s in Cranston, also agreed. She had seen firsthand how the pageant world helped her oldest daughter, Victoria, who was ready to hand the spotlight to Isabella.
Isabella entered a pageant that would change the Johnston family’s lives forever.
Susanna says a German production company filming for “Beauty Queens” was captivated by Isabella. They called Susanna a few weeks later and asked if they could return for additional footage.
The company also produces “Toddlers and Tiaras International,” where Isabella has already made her mark.
“After carefully considering the message of the show, and my daughter’s safety, we decided to move forward with the filming,” said Susanna.
Now only in her eighth month as a pageant star, Isabella is filming her eighth episode of “Beauty Queens” this month.
After months in the pageant world, she was named the “it girl” to watch by Eden Woods, a child pageant superstar. The two have become friends and often perform on Toddlers & Tiaras. Woods is a celebrity in the pageant world and is set to have her own reality show.
Isabella entered the pageant world with no intentions of becoming famous, but production companies and the media sought her out. Now, Susanna said, Isabella is in development negotiations for her own reality show with the producers of “Survivor” and “The Apprentice.”
Despite her pageant success, and her appearances on CNN, “Showbiz Tonight,” “Anderson Cooper,” AOL ticker, the Huffington Post, the Johnston Sun Rise and many more newspapers and publications, Isabella attends kindergarten and likes to read and teach her stuffed animals like any other child. Her favorite toys are her Build-A-Bears.
Isabella will also be featured in OK Magazine, and with these media appearances, her mother has to shut down her business for a few days in order to travel with her daughter.
“Being on ‘Toddler & Tiaras’ was the next step for Isabella in becoming a pageant star,” said Susanna. “So much, so quick has affected my life in many ways, my business has had to be closed twice for travel and filming. It didn’t really hit me until ‘Showbiz Tonight’ asked me how you feel that now you will go places and people will recognize your daughter. It’s a fine line.”
Susanna estimates that she and her husband have spent approximately $40,000 since Isabella’s pageant debut.
To the Barretts, one of the best awards that has been won, was a trip to Disney where Isabella chimed in, “I got to see Mickey and Minnie.”
Isabella has also started her own jewelry line called “Glitzy Girl” that is made in Rhode Island at H&M Industries, located in North Providence. The line was developed two months ago in honor of her sister Victoria. A portion of the proceeds will go toward anti-bullying programs and projects.
Isabella made her own pageant candy that is manufactured by Sweet Indulgence in Warwick. Both of Isabella’s creations will be featured on “Toddlers & Tiaras” and are marketed by those in the industry and their fans.
Susanna is well aware of the negativity surrounding the child pageant industry, but she said she has only seen a few bad examples.
“If Isabella told me today that she did not want to do this anymore, then we will acknowledge that and we will move on,” she said.
For now, Isabella is having the time of her life with her mom by her side.
Only time will tell if this is Isabella’s 15 minutes of fame or her future. Her mom wants to make this a positive experience for her and to raise the bar in pageantry as well as getting the positives that come from such pageants, often citing Victoria’s traumatic experience as an example and how the industry had helped her.
In two weeks, Isabella has an important pageant coming up in Rhode Island that could solidify her as the next breakout star in the industry. The next pageant she will be in is the "Pretty Face Pageant" to be held at the Sheraton Airport Inn on Dec. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.
The season premiere of “Toddlers & Tiaras” on TLC is Dec. 7 and stars Isabella, Eden and others their age in the world of pageants. An airdate for Isabella’s appearance on the show was not ready at press time.