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.