WE TV plans a documentary on kiddie beauty pageants
WE TV is planning on filming a documentary on child beauty pageants entitled Little Miss Perfect. It's supposed to be a look into the Southern pageant circuit. Three other documentaries have already been made about these little beauty queens; Living Dolls, Painted Babies (as well as Painted Babies 2, a follow up several years later) and Little Beauties. But are beauty pageants beneficial to the little ones?
At this point in time –- post Jon Benet –- there are few left in the general public who will actively endorse kiddie beauty pageants. Those who will are the contestants, their stage moms, and the people who make the pageants happen. There's something overtly wrong about dressing up five year old girls to look like thirty year old women. But is the problem with pageants only skin deep?
There is something unnerving about the photo manipulated "pageant photos." Beauty is one thing, but when the pageant picture doesn't resemble the original girl but instead looks like a CGI image for a new Pixar film, things have obviously gotten out of hand. But let's face it. In real life the girls don't look like this. How can they? These photos were created via photo shop.
Even in their shows the girls look like the same bizarre mixture of innocence and misplaced sexuality. On the VH1 show Little Beauties the moms and those involved in the pageants talk about all of the things that the tiny beauty queens need in order to compete. Fake teeth. Fake tan. Pixie sticks. Tons of make-up. Enough hairspray to put a hole in the ozone layer. Incredibly expensive outfits. Pageant coaches. An overzealous stage mom. The list continues.
One of the pageant organizers in Little Beauties states "-It's about a child's inner beauty that shows through the face." So then it's about outer beauty, while trying to make it sound like it's not. There is nothing natural or child-like about these girls anymore. They are taught to prance down a runway, to smile like a lobotomized zombie and twirl while wearing a ruffled bathing suit. The contests are not about individuality. They're about producing the best show pony that you possibly can.
Mothers even admit that the judgments are completely subjective and based on whatever the judges are partial to or even how they're feeling that day. So their decisions about these little girls are made based on whims and the girls who lose, lose because they're not what the judge "likes". Isn't it a little creepy that the judges decide what kind of six year old girl they prefer?
Pageant producers and parents are still trying to fool themselves that the pageants will be positive experiences for their little ones, that they will make friends, gain self-confidence and have the opportunity to make money. Because nothing says healthy experience like walking away with money in your pocket.
Little Beauties' predecessor, Painted Babies, is even more disturbing than the former. Also both Painted Babies, Living Dolls and Little Beauties have the same overly-exuberant MC, even though the shows were years apart. Strange?
In the first part of the Ptainted Babies, the voiceover states that one girl has won almost $10,000 while participating in beauty pageants. The child's mother wants to enter the daughter into a pageant where one of the prizes is a car because her grandmother needs one. It's not only sad that parents would exploit their vulnerable children for cash, it's even worse that they are so blatant and casual about it.
The effect on the girls themselves might not be immediate. Most of them don't even understand what's going on. One of the children in Little Beauties wins a small consolation prize in the final pageant. She thinks that she has won the entire pageant and her mother is more than happy to let her think that. A girl in Living Dolls shows off her trophies and admits that she has no idea where she won them. But when these girls reach their teens and their physical appearance becomes paramount to their existent their beauty history isn't going to be innocent fun.
Then of course, there's the swim suit competition. Pageant websites claim that this part of the pageant is supposed to showcase the girl's athleticism and health. Why do you have to see a girl almost naked to decide if she's healthy or not?
But if nothing else, stage moms cling to the idea that their daughters love performing in pageants and wouldn't want to give it up for the world. Most children I know want to eat ice cream for every meal, but that doesn't mean that it's a good idea. Children are not supposed to make huge decisions on their own, that's why they have parents.
But when parents are too sucked into the pageant world themselves, they pretend that their daughter is the one responsible for their continued work in the pageant sector. Nothing like claiming that a six year old controls the lives of several adults that are supposed to be teaching and guiding her.
In the end, children love attention. They want to feel special and they want to please their parents. What little girl wouldn't want to be in front of a room of people who clap and cheer for them?
But just as some children can be crowned and take a triumphant strut down a catwalk, some girls walk away with nothing. In Painted Babies some girls start crying on stage because they didn't win. They know that they've let down their parents, that they're not as special/pretty/talented as another girl, that they haven't won any money. Putting a child under that kind of pressure can create serious self-worth issues.
But why do these beauty pageants still exist when most of the population disagrees with them (by the way, does anyone notice that the only people at these pageants are the parents and other contestants?)? One of the stage moms in Painted Babies states that beauty is incredibly important in society and it will open any door and help you achieve any goal. She seems to conveniently forget that no one becomes a doctor because they're pretty.
Canada has outlawed beauty pageants. In 1968 feminists protested the Miss America pageant. But these shows are still around and have categories in every age group, including children so small that their parents have to hold them up on stage because they can't even stand on their own. Why these pageants still exist? Why no one has put a stop to them on the grounds of child protection? Why doesn't everyone realize that little girls should not be sexualized and made to prance on command?
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