So, I was working this morning with the TV on, as usual, and I happened upon this show, "Toddlers and Tiaras," on TLC. The show follows child beauty pageant competitors, their moms, and sometimes dads, as they prepare for competition. In the process, they practice little hip shaking dances, get spray tans, makeup and nails, sometimes fake teeth, often big old fake hair, and lots and lots of rather high pressured encouragement. Once I started watching, it was difficult to turn it off.
Sometimes, the kids seem to enjoy it. Sometimes, you can tell that they're trying to make Mama happy. The focus on the worth of physical beauty, plus the fact that many of these five year olds end up looking like cocktail waitresses in Atlantic City, is fairly upsetting. Very often, the moms use words like "disappointed" and "could have done better." That upsets me more than dressing these girls up like kind of skanky adults.
Girls have their whole lives to worry about whether or not they need makeup to go out, whether or not they measure up physically to other girls. Do we really need to start this kind of competition at six months of age? By the time girls are twelve, they're already highly aware of the importance of how they look, if they have the right clothes, the right hair, the right bodies, etc. To see such small children, well aware of the money invested, the time invested in this process, not to mention how much Mama wants us to win, having mini-breakdowns during pageants makes me a little sick to my stomach. Not to mention babies in bikinis dancing like Go Go girls in cages.
Pageants are an American institution, especially in the South. And, yes, some kids are born performers, and they can win scholarships and such. However, there has to be a better way to encourage those stars to be. To take these adorable little people and mutate them cosmetically into something entirely different and fairly tawdry just seems so wrong to me. Will they even remember how to be what they really are inside?
This is coming from a person who does put on mascara and perfume just to go get gas. I don't object to making up and dressing up, or even going over the top for fun. But it's one thing for these children to play Dress Up Pretty Princess in their playroom. It's another thing entirely for their mothers' self-esteem to hang on whether or not they win the biggest crown, and for these children to know that.
Direct quote: "As a mother, you know your child is beautiful. But when someone else says that, it makes you feel REAL good."