What Kid Nation Was Really Like with Kennedy Womack
Hey Misfits, this week we have a very special guest blog about what life was actually like in Kid Nations Bonanza City written by Kennedy Womack a "survivor" of Kid Nation.
Hello, Misfits and Mysteries blog readers! My name is Kennedy Womack, and I was a participant on CBS’s 2007 reality show, Kid Nation. Although some of you may remember the show and may recognize my name from it, here is some background on the show and me.
Kid Nation was a reality tv show set in Bonanza City, New Mexico (not too far from Santa Fe) in which children between the ages of 8 and 15 tried to create a functioning society in the town, including setting up a governmental system with minimal adult help and supervision. We were supposed to live like “pioneers” of this old abandoned ghost town, which meant pioneer-style appliances, such as an old 1800’s-style stove to cook on, a washboard to wash clothes by hand, no running water (just water from a well), and outhouses. The show stresses the difficulties of creating a society and also focuses on social issues in society, such as religion, politics, and class division. There were 40 children total on the show (myself being one of those), and we were divided up into four “districts” with a town council leader at the head of each district. We had a showdown challenge every episode, and each district would compete for spots in the four “classes”: Upper Class, Merchants, Cooks, and Laborers. The showdown also had a whole town reward element, in which if each district completed the showdown within a time limit, the town gets a reward that benefits all of the children. Interestingly, the rewards were split into two categories and the council would decide whether to choose a “want” reward or a “need” reward. To illustrate this, in one episode, the council chose between us having toothbrushes or a barbecue (they chose the toothbrushes, thankfully). Finally, a major part of Kid Nation was the gold star, which was awarded to one child every episode by the town council at a town hall meeting. The gold star was “worth its weight in gold” which equaled $20,000. Another important feature of being a gold star winner was that the child would get to call home to their parents if they won the award, which was arguably the more coveted feature of winning the star than the money.
I was 12 when I appeared on Kid Nation. While on the show, many viewers observed I was not a “star” of the show by any means. I was pretty much just an unproblematic side character, although I did have my big tv moment when I won the gold star in episode 8. I was on the green district, which was dubbed the “gold star district” because many of our members did win a gold star, and two of the members won two gold stars (one $20,000 one and one $50,000 special one, awarded in the show finale). As a Bonanza City town member, I was best known for my weird and quirky personality, the ability to make others laugh, and my rap/comedy dance routine I performed in the episode 8 talent show, which kept fellow Kentuckian Savannah (a younger member of the green district) from choosing to go home. While I was best friends with many of the well-known members of the show, I was not often shown in other episodes, because I kept to myself and kept my head down. I also should note that I am not in any way an actress or someone who had any experience in show business prior to being on Kid Nation. This was my one and only slot on television, and I did not aspire to be in show business, which is probably why I often did not seek out cameras and just kept to myself. I grew up as a regular Kentucky girl and played tennis in my free time, travelling around the country to various tournaments. I eventually went to college for my Bachelor of Arts in Government and Philosophy and graduated summa cum laude from Morehead State University, and then graduated with my Juris Doctor from University of Cincinnati College of Law. I made the choice to be on the show because it was an experience I felt would be really life-changing and a way to grow, which I can confirm, it was. I learned a lot about myself and I feel that it molded the way I view the world and a lot of social issues. I can say I am very glad I made the choice to join the cast and I am still friends with many cast members today, which shows how Kid Nation really was more than just a show – we were a family.
Now, I would like to answer some frequently asked questions that I get a lot and that you may also be curious about.
1. How did you get on the show if you were not involved in show business?
While many children who were in the business went to open casting calls for the show when it was first advertised, my path was a bit different. I actually received a phone call from CBS asking if I was interested in interviewing for the show. They found me because they were searching for a student-athlete and I had won a Duke University writing contest, and they also discovered I was a national tennis player, so I fit the profile for the student-athlete they were searching for. I did a phone interview with CBS and then was invited to a regional interview in Kentucky, which I accepted, not thinking I would ever actually get further in the interview process. I then was invited to Los Angeles for final interviews, which once again I never thought would go anywhere. And then, I got that call from CBS saying they wanted me on the show, and the rest was history.
2. Was there really “no adult supervision?”
Of course there was adult supervision. Not only were there various camera crews and producers there all the time, but we had a chef overseeing any cooking we did, a doctor on set to make sure we were all healthy, and a psychologist we could call on anytime if we needed. We were very well-supervised. We did make our own choices and had a lot of autonomy in how we ran Bonanza, but we did so with a lot of oversight.
3. So, you guys killed chickens?
Yes. Twice. And, I know, it’s crazy, and maybe it’s why I am a vegetarian now, who knows? But we wanted to eat chicken and it was what we felt we had to do. I think it was a very smart decision for us to do it and I don’t regret it.
4. What was the worst showdown?
I think the bubble gum showdown was pretty gross, so probably that one (which also *lucky me* is from the episode I won the gold star in). ABC gum is always nasty, and now after COVID is doubly gross to me.
5. What was Taylor really like?
Taylor was definitely not like how she was portrayed on the show. She was truly a sweet girl and still is a friend today. Yes, she had her moments, but we all did, and it was unfair that she was held to that for so long after the show aired. She was an 11-year-old girl and what child of that age doesn’t occasionally get upset/melt down? Give her a break.
6. What is the biggest lesson you learned on the show?
I learned so many things, and I could write a blog just on those alone, but the biggest thing I learned was probably the effect of social class on individuals in society. As I mentioned, every week, a showdown challenge dictated what class the district would be in for the week – Upper Class, Merchants, Cooks, or Laborers. And as the classes descended, the work got harder, and the pay became less. So, at age 12, I learned that the hardest workers are usually the ones who are paid the least, and the ones who rule the town and do essentially nothing get paid the most to do nothing. Basically, I learned how capitalism works and that really stuck with me and influenced how I feel about it now in American society.
7. What was your favorite memory?
While it actually never got aired, my favorite memory had to be when we climbed a mountain. Yes, that happened. We took a Kid Nation flag to the top of a mountain nearby and we stuck it in, showing that this was Kid Nation. It was a beautiful moment because we all literally joined hands and helped each other up. The older/more athletic kids lifted the younger kids up and got them all to the top. It was a moment of unity and every piece of drama that we had in the time we were in Bonanza disappeared. Fun fact: the image that is used for the Kid Nation logo was actually taken from this moment.
8. Would you support a second season?
Absolutely! If anyone wants to make a second season, not only do I support it, I would love to provide any guidance in production or casting. I know how much Kid Nation impacted my life and changed me for the better, and I would love to see that for other children.