Little beauty queens
Marlon Abrahams reflects on the relevance of beauty pageants for kids.
Toddlers and Tiaras is a TV show about little kids aged between 2 and 9-ish who participate in beauty pageants in the US. I happened upon it recently during Maddi’s allotted hour of TV viewing. The girls get to choose something they like and we watch it together.
It’s a fascinating insight into the world of child beauty pageants. The parents of these kids spend vast amounts of money preparing their children for participation of the events which appear to have huge appeal and following in the States. Costumes (including wigs and covers for teeth) and fees apparently push the cost of entering just one event up to between $3000-$5000.
I sat there not exactly sure how I felt about seeing 3-year-old’s parading in swimsuits and made up to the nines. Why? Was the first question that sprung to mind. Some of the kids were cute, others were bratty, and one 7-year-old was quite proud of being in it for the rewards, demanding her cut of the prize money from her mom after one particular event.
Maddi sat through the entire hour long show without as much as a peep. She was clearly enthralled by what she saw. “So, what do you think Mad, could you do something like this, would you like to participate in a beauty pageant?” I tentatively asked. Eyes still glued to the screen, she very calmly and matter-of-factly said “yes daddy, it looks like fun.”
The reality of beauty pageants
I was publicity manager for M-Net for several years and during that time I oversaw the publicity for three Miss World pageants, several Miss South Africa Pageants and even a few Penthouse Pet of the Year Pageants. I can honestly say that for me the novelty of these pageants wore off very fast. The faces were a blur, one contestant was as “interesting” as the next, and the looks mattered very little.
Yet ultimately the contestants are judged on what they look like, what with all of them advocating world peace and poverty alleviation, the judges are hard-pressed to make a call on their characters.
The toddlers on the other hand are all innocence and cuteness, however, there is a distinct edge to their performances when they hit 6 or 7-years-old, you could even say that the “bitch” factor has already begun to manifest.
“She’s the princess I always wanted to be”
The other aspect of the episode that I saw which I found interesting is that the parents of these little girls were invariably either seriously aesthetically challenged or highly competitive individuals. I could not help wondering whether they were living out their personal unfulfilled fantasies via their kids.
I also found the spectacle where the parents, (both moms and dads), find it necessary to gyrate and mimic the moves which they want their kids to do, right next to the platform in full view of the audience, somewhat unnerving.
Once the results were announced there was no mistaking that this was a massive deal for the parents of the winners and losers. Most of the kids appeared exhausted or happy to have the ordeal behind them and promptly fell asleep.
Is there anything wrong with having these pageants? Should we be encouraging competition based on looks at such a young age?
Read more by Marlon Abrahams
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