The Child Beauty Pageant
A Sugar-Addiction...The Pre-teen Scene
They look like condensed coquettes...prancing, primping and dancing their way across the stage in a blaze of glitz that would rival the campest Mardi Gras. This is the pre-teen beauty pageant scene where the rule is keep smiling ...literally.
As readers who haven't been cryogenically frozen for the last few years will already know, pre-teen pageants first came under the critical spotlight with the highly publicised murder of six year old JonBenet Ramsay, a successful contestant on the circuit. I first stumbled upon the phenomena watching Jean Treay's 1995 documentary Painted Babies. I couldn't believe my eyes. I know there's other articles about this at the hub and it's been a well-covered topic in general but I still wanted to write about it because I confess to a small fascination with the subject.
What's it all about? What is the motivation for mothers to dress their daughters up like the most diabetes-inducing sugar dessert on the menu, thereby obscuring almost every vestige of their natural infant charm. The parades themselves, which require more personal preparation than might be expected from a bus load of professional drag-queens, are only exceeded in excess by the heavily plasticised publicity shots contestants may commission for a healthy-fee, in order to 'increase their chances of success'......and which successfully suck out any last remaining indicators that these children might really belong to the human species. Imperfection it seems, is to be eradicated at all costs.
Though cosmetic surgeons and the beauty industry may not agree, it doesn't seem like a very good message for the still developing brains of five and six year-olds to be absorbing.God knows we get enough of that pressure later. Or is it just, as some claim, in fun ...
In Little Miss Perfect , yet another doco on the subject, one of the mothers likens pre-teen pageantry to any other sport and adds "I guess you would think we're doing something wrong if you had an ugly child." Except I can't think of a single sport where unattractiveness levels are an excluding factor.
It may just be fun, yet the whole thing appears to be taken very seriously by those concerned. It doesn't seem to be all about money, at least not for the contestants...[for the organizers and the side industry of hair-stylists, make-up artists, photographers, dress-makers, fake tanning experts etc, it might be another story]. The prizes aren't that crash hot, considering the expenses involved and of course you only receive them if you win.
Best in Show
I don't even think it's about beauty...it's so artificial it's difficult to discern the child's real looks behind the costume and heavy make-up. It's more about conformity to a standard set by the organisation; a standard that requires money and hired expertise.
In some ways it reminds me of those fanatical dog shows where *most absurd looking genetically engineered dog* seems always to win. Like the dogs, do these primped children, by extension, provide an elevation of status for the "owners"? Are they some kind of mini-alter ego device, enabled by their innocence?
I find serious dog shows disturbing too and the breeding habits that have caused immeasurable suffering to many of the animals merely so they can conform to some ridiculous standard of aesthetics dreamt up by a panel of fanatics. Now I'm not suggesting pageant parents would stoop to genetic engineering or that the similarity stretches to anything beyond a parade of absurdity, but it is interesting that in both cases an external standard of aesthetics is applied by an organisation that demands total conformity to an extreme and completely manufactured ideal...and that there are so many willing to bend over backwards to fit it.
Just Curious - Pageant Poll
How do you feel about these kind of pre-teen beauty contests?
Cutie1903', a youtuber who's daughter is apparently a high achiever in the pageants, had this to say in response to my question about whether or not it's really about looks or talent, or rather how much you can afford in order to meet the exacting standards of the judges:
I am sorry to say but yes that is true, is you do not have the right clothes, routines, make up, hair or coaches etc you probably will not do too well in a pageant and definitely will not win the big prize 'grand'.... you usually can guess who is going to win by seeing who has entered in the pageant (you get to know the girls and their record) my little ones name is known around the US as a pageant winner and usually it is common knowledge that Ebs will place high and win.
All this makes me wonder if there's any point in entering if you're not in the top bunch or don't have $2000 dollars to spend on a bunch on frothy clothes, since the placements seem to be a done deal...more or less.
To this writer the whole scene seems like a terrible exploitation and a bizarre parody of the worst aspects of vapid cultural girlie-ization yet as far as I know, and despite the opinions of many psychologists, there isn't any conclusive evidence that participating in these pageants causes significant damage [correct me if I'm wrong] Some former participants who have now grown into young women claim they really enjoyed the pageant scene and benefited from the experience...gaining in poise and confidence. Still, I can't help wondering if all those who continually lost out to the pinkest dress/whitest caps/bouffiest hair would feel the same way. Nor has it been a completely trouble-free experience for every winner:
In a 2009 interview on Good Morning America, pageant queen[at 5], Brooke Breedwell, now 20, explained there was a price to pay : "Pageants have put a lot of stress and anxiety on my life I feel the need to be perfect at everything, and I know that's not realistic. You can't be perfect at everything." Breedwell also claimed her mother "pushed her too hard."
- Living Dolls
There's a new fad afoot among the young folk- turning yourself into a living doll. Harmless fun or is something more insidious at play...?
- Beauty and Advertising
We are constantly bombarded with ads designed to persuade us to try this or that skin treatment, hair product, body shaper or cosmetic procedure. Some though, seem just a little too much; creepy, far-fetched or even dangerous...and yet, enticing.
- Pink and Blue
Pink for girls..blue for boys right? Well not always... Prior to the 20th century, specific colours don't seem to have been associated much with gender at all. Interestingly, in the early part of the 20th century, rumour has it pink was considered a
Child Beauty Pageants:Helpful or Harmful?
After corresponding with a couple of mothers who have been very up-front about their pageant addiction, and seem..well quite nice actually....as well as loving mothers, I'm now not as convinced that the pre-teen beauty scene carries the sinister undertones I first suspected, although I still have big reservations or I wouldn't be writing this. The mothers also point out that when they're away from the circuit the children lead normal, childish lives. Is it just that I've made a value-judgement and one person's tackiness is another's aesthetic pleasure...or is there something else going on? After a barrage of criticism many of the pageant parents are on the defensive. Is it just strange but harmless? I don't know....but the stakes might be rising in the US style child pageant industry as they have now moved into the UK and Australia and possibly elsewhere. I've got a feeling there's big bucks involved...
*The video I've included is a self-serving ad for Dove, but I still liked it. It's right above my self-serving ebay ad...