I find them fascinating, like a terrible auto accident you don’t want to look at but feel compelled to do anyway.. Toddlers & Tiaras and Little Miss Perfect are two of the reality shows of recent years centered around child beauty pageants. And when I say “child,” I mean right down to infants whose favorite hobby is listed as “drooling” and favorite food is “strained bananas.” I am waiting for them to add a new age group–preborns, with the mothers parading across the stage holding up their sonogram images.
As a child, I enjoyed playing dress-up, putting on my mom’s costume jewelry and high heels and using Mama’s lipstick sample tubes from Avon, which were the perfect size for little hands. But I emphasize it was for play, entering the wonderful world of make-believe.
I wasn’t being coached, coated in a spray tan, clad in outfits of questionable taste for a 24-year-old, much less a child of four. No one was telling me, overtly or covertly, that beauty was the most important attribute I could possess. Not intelligence, or creativity, or character traits such as kindness and generosity.
There are “natural” pageants out there where the use of makeup and elaborate hairstyles is minimal. But the glitz pageants–the same sort the late Jon Benet Ramsey participated in–seem to be growing ever more popular.
Perfectly lovely little girls, with freckles and missing baby teeth and their own fine, flyaway hair are transformed into creatures of such artifice they could quality as mini-mes for the Stepford Wives.
And all that fakery isn’t cheap. One of the frilly sequined cupcake dresses alone can set a parent back $1500. Then there’s the tanning sessions, manicures and pedicures, the hairstyle and makeup artists and coaches for the pageants, the other outfits required for competition, photos, entry fees. It is big business, without a doubt. As one pageant organizer said bluntly, “This isn’t a hobby for poor people. If you are poor, you need to find something else.”
Yet it is obvious some of the families aren’t well off, resorting to extra jobs and putting off purchases of houses in order to bankroll their kiddys’ pageant careers, hoping their little girl (and in some cases, little boy) will grow up to be a model or be crowned Miss America.
I don’t think a two-year-0ld child is mature enough to make decisions about entering beauty pageants. If you are a teenager and you want to do it, fine. But all too often, as the mothers themselves admit, it is their own dream they are living through their little beauty queens.
“I think I really enjoy it more than she does,” more than one mother will admit.
What bothers me most is hearing mothers badmouth other children at the pageants, making sly digs at their appearance and see them getting into a snit when their child doesn’t get the accolades they expected. What kind of example are you setting for your children when you behave this way?
Whatever happened to the concept of a gracious loser?
And whatever happened to little girls simply being little girls, scabbed knees, missing teeth, freckles and all? Adulthood swoops in all too soon.
I have played around with the idea of having my own blog for a while. So here it is: a very non-techie writer’s foray into the 21st century. I am starting this site after being inspired by the blogs I read regularly; blogs tied together by one thing. Or should I say by one man–Richard Armitage, the actor.
Richard was recently named “One to Watch” by MTV. For me, he earned that title when I saw him as Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s 2006 re-tooling of “Robin Hood.”
Frankly, I found their vision of Robin Hood for a new generation a smug, arrogant, self-glorifying, petulant creature who in no way impressed me as a hero. On the other hand, the smouldering henchman, the sheriff of Nottingham’s right-hand man, did make an impression on me.
Initially, it was the looks that got my attention–tall, broad-shouldered with long, long legs and everything encased in black leather. Dark hair that flopped fetchingly over his brow, amazing blue eyes fringed in thick lashes and lined with kohl, a distinctive aquiline nose and the best smirks I had ever witnessed.
Slinking through the castle corridors like a great black cat, snarling at the populace defying the sheriff’s orders, he was one big bad handsome man indeed.
Ah, but beneath all that masculine beauty was something else: talent.
Whilst the good looks first got my attention, it was the incredible talent of this actor that hooked me; his ability to express so much with a mere flicker of an eyelid, a raised brow, the curl of a lip. He was good, this one. I was definitely intrigued.
I began to seek out more of his work. I saw him in quick succession as John Thornton in North & South, Harry Kennedy in the Vicar of Dibley and John Standring in Sparkhouse. And I was completely and utterly blown away. How was the same actor who brought us the Sultan of Swagger, Sir Guy, able to also play so convincingly a shy and awkward Yorkshire farmhand, a proud Victorian mill owner and a sweetheart of an accountant who experiences love at first sight?
He wasn’t just good. He was great, a veritable chameleon onscreen. And that voice! Deep, earthy, warm. Aural chocolate. Yum.
I had discovered a detailed and nuanced character actor inhabiting a leading man’s face and body. I became a fan in a way I never have been for any other actor, buying every DVD I could obtain of his work, visiting sites devoted to RA, trying to learn as much as I could about this particular British actor.
I have been writing about RA for several years, posting occasional essays at my Live Journal blog. In December 2008, I posted my first piece of fan fiction inspired by Richard’s incredible performance as Lucas North in Spooks. That ficlet was well-received enough to encourage me to continue.
Now I have multiple multi-chapter fanfics under my belt. A few months ago, I stumbled–and I do mean stumbled–into making slideshow fanvids. Did I mention this behavior can become addictive?
Closing in on 120 fanvids, I can certify it can. And it all comes down to Richard Armitage, and the effect he has on me. An effect that has been experienced by lots of other fans. The Armitage Effect is powerful, even life-changing; it’s mysterious and amazing. Why Richard Armitage, why this one particular British actor over all others?
I am not completely sure. For me, he’s magic. Life-affirming. A creative muse. He’s led me to do things I probably would have never done otherwise.
Like starting this blog. Every entry won’t be about RA, but most will. Oddly enough, so many “roads” in my life of late seem to lead in one way or another to Richard Armitage. Am I obsessed? Yeah, I think so.
But in a good way.