Mothers, daughters of Dallas star in reality show

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DALLAS - Pamela Martin-Duarte hopes the new reality show "Dallas Divas and Daughters" dispels some myths about Texas — starting with the hair.

"There's a lot of blondes in Dallas, but everybody doesn't have big hair," said Martin-Duarte, who with her smooth blonde tresses is one of five mothers starring alongside their daughters in the series. "That went out with shoulder pads."

Of course, there were a few scenes in the "Divas" Sunday premiere on The Style Network that didn't do much to dispel some of those Texas-sized stereotypes: One teen drives a Hummer, another mother fires off some rounds at a gun range and in a state that often brags about doing "everything bigger," there's quite a bit of money being spent.

The premiere of the eight-episode series also featured the group attending a polo match and one teen's impending meltdown if she doesn't get a Range Rover.

At the core of the show though, is the mother-daughter relationship, said Sarah Weidman, an executive producer of the show. Weidman said the wealth varies among the families and notes that each mother-daughter relationship has a different dynamic.

"It's just about mothers and daughters and the money is sort of the fantasy element of the show," said Weidman, who added they were drawn to Texas as it seemed to be an untapped region reality show-wise and provided a peek at social traditions like debutante balls.

"I think the circle that these mothers and daughters run in is full of traditions. There are southern ways of doing things and that is fun to explore," she said.

"Divas" mirrors other reality shows focusing on "lavish lifestyles and crazy antics," said Anna Otieno, a Chicago-based consumer strategist in media, entertainment and technology for Minneapolis-based consumer research company Iconoculture.

She said that it's a popular formula that can offer escapism to those pinching pennies.

"It's outrageous, hilarious, dramatic and really one of life's guilty pleasures," she said. "Some may get tired of this kind of show, but right now it's really delicious for these consumers. It's their escape."

Another appeal is that while some cast members might live in stunning homes and drive fancy cars, they are still doing the same sort of daily activities as everyone else, so they are relatable.

"I think that lavish lifestyle is not necessarily something everybody wants, but they kind of want to watch," Otieno said.

Pamela Martin-Duarte, for one, provided an early eye-popper in a promotion for the show when she tells the camera in her sweet southern accent that she's a "nice" word that rhymes with witch.

Sitting in her beautifully decorated living room not long before the premiere, she explained that she is firm when doing business, parenting or holding an event, so some might use an expletive to describe that.

"I have standards and I demand a certain excellence in things," she said, repeating the choice phrase.

The Maserati-driving mother said that going to events like the polo match or attending the symphony or ballet is a big part of how her family socializes, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't also gather in a friend's backyard for a barbecue.

"They're going to be pleasantly surprised that we are down to earth," she said.

And her daughter, 17-year-old high school senior Hannah Gelbart-Martin, points out that being a debutante is just as much about volunteering and learning skills like how to change a tire as it is about learning to waltz.

For a glimpse into the lives of the socially active and wealthy, Dallas seems to be a good pick.

Brooke Hortenstine, co-editor of PaperCity, a magazine that covers society events, said that there can be up to five parties a night benefiting charities — ranging from black-tie galas to art gallery receptions.

"There are parties you can go to on a Thursday where an item can go for $50,000," Hortenstine said.

She said that accessibility can depend on the event, but there are enough events that even the non-millionaires can find a niche.

"If you want to make your mark in Dallas in the sociable scene, pay your money and dress the part," Hortenstine said.

Another mother-daughter pair, Cindy Legeza and her 17-year-old daughter Courtney Michalek, moved to Dallas only two years ago from Cincinnati. The two say they aren't too concerned with society events or trappings like debutante balls and have found Dallas quite welcoming.

They too hope to show that stereotypes about the city aren't always right on target.

"We're not oil billionaires," said Legeza, while conceding, "You might see a more flamboyant personality."

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