Credit worthy

Role models are honored with Nickelodeon's Wannabe Awards

"Sliming is a high honor, so we don't just slime anybody," says Paula Kaplan, senior vp talent at Nickelodeon, in reference to the green goo dumped on unsuspecting celebrities at the Kids' Choice Awards. The same selectiveness is applied to the recipients of the ceremony's Wannabe Award.

While Nickelodeon's young viewers vote on which of their favorite celebrities will take home an orange Blimp Award in various categories -- both expected ones, like the favorite male movie star, and fittingly juvenile ones, like the Burp Award, the Wannabe Award is a discretionary salute selected by the network. And unlike the Celebrity Hidden Talent Award, given to actors and athletes who possess unusual talents (like Jessica Alba's flexible thumb or Jamie Foxx's ability to roll his eyes in opposite directions), the Wannabe Award is given to an admired individual who has had a substantial impact on Nickelodeon's viewers in the past year.

Prior to the inaugural Wannabe salute in 2001, the KCAs handed out the Hall of Fame Award -- gold Blimps that were given to recipients of more than one orange Blimp prize (including Michael Jordan and Will Smith). Nick executives noticed that the tribute failed to connect with the network's young audience, however, so it was retired and replaced with the Wannabe Award. The first platinum Blimp Award was handed to Tom Cruise, who was reveling, at the time, in the summer boxoffice success of 2000's "Mission: Impossible II." Subsequent honorees have included Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Will Smith.

The winning criteria is enough to take a sliming for. Says Kaplan, "We look for somebody that kids look up to, respect -- (someone) that kids get excited about."