Saturday, September 17, 2011

Reacting to the Toddlers and Tiaras Article in People Magazine

The September 26, 2011 issue of People magazine featured an article about Toddlers and Tiaras. It gave us an inside look into the show and to how some of the parents - and kids - feel about pageant life. This blog post includes some information about the article and my thoughts on the statements.

"Child beauty queens are taking the pageant world - and reality TV - by storm with spray tans, fake teeth and risque costumes. Should they be stopped?"

No, pageants in and of themselves are not wrong. When a child genuinely enjoys being onstage, is dressed in an age appropriate manner and has parents that can afford pageant attire, an occasional pageant is a healthy thing. It can help build self esteem and allow a child to make new friends. Pageants turn negative when they become an obsession for the pageant parent or child, cost more money than the parents can afford and turn kids into nasty little divas.

They are also inappropriate when parents force unwilling kids to compete or make them live a full-time pageant life. To cite an example, take a look at Baylen and mom Beth. Baylen clearly didn't want to be in pageants, but Beth forced it, and the end result wasn't pretty.

It's also problematic when kids give their kids attitude when they lose pageants. Even if a kid tries her best, she may not make the cut against more experienced, talented or beautiful girls. That being said, this isn't specific to pageants - this happens in sports, dance, school and just about any other venue that can even remotely be considered competitive.

The worst is when parents pit their kids against each other. The best example of this is the case of AshLynn Sterling and BreAnne Sterling. Mom Jamie Sterling clearly favored BreAnne, and AshLynn knew it. You could see the pain in AshLynn's eyes, and beyond that, she is sure to suffer from long lasting effects of mom's favoritism for her sister. Also take a look at Braxton and Alaska. Alaska, who was naturally talented and beautiful, took a backseat to her less talented brother in their mother's eyes.

Paisley as Julia Roberts
Lindsay Jackson outfitted daughter Madisyn Verst, then 4, with faux breasts and padding for her derriere to more convincingly play Dolly Parton; a week later, Wendy Dickey dressed up her 3-year-old daughter Paisley in Julia Roberts's streetwalker costume from Pretty Woman, complete with a cut-out dress and over-the-knee boots. (She won.)

Okay, this stuff is inappropriate, but I don't think there's any malice in the parents' actions. Would I put a kid in fake boobs or in a prostitute dress? No. But are pageants really about the kids when they're young? Also no. The goal is to appeal to the judges, which usually consists of three things: the child's beauty, the child's attitude and the creativity of the parents. Does Madisyn really know who Dolly Parton is? Of course she doesn't, or wouldn't without her mom providing a detailed explanation. Until the kid is old enough to understand what's really going on, all of the Wow Wear / Western Wear / Outfit of Choice competitions are all about the parents.

Accentuating their appearance with such accoutrements such as fake hair, teeth, spray tans and breast padding "causes the children tremendous confusion, wondering why they are not okay without those things."

I think most kids can determine the difference between a pageant look and an everyday look, but I can see where the need for these add-ons can lead. Here's the thing - some kids just aren't meant to win pageants. Not all kids are equally beautiful and talented. Especially when a child is not particularly beautiful and talented, her parents have to make up for that with extra glitz and ploys for attention. So, when that average kid keeps being entered in pageants and losing, her self-esteem is sure to plummet, and she'll move towards wanting to falsely inflate her self-esteem with makeup and other modifications. She may not feel beautiful even with the extras, but she'll really feel sub-par without them.

Conversely, many pageant parents argue that there's no better confidence boost than winning a pageant.

Well, yeah, I'm sure winning at anything is a confidence boost to a kid. And, kids who win pageants probably do have high self-esteem because they're constantly told how awesome they are. On the other side of that is the fact that one kid wins the overall title at a pageant, leaving the other kids in the dust. So, ultimately, one kid gains the self-esteem while the others don't. The ratio is a bit off with this. And, even worse is when parents criticize their young children for not placing well in pageants. A lot of the time, it's hardly the kid's fault - she can't help it if she doesn't have a winning smile or mom's lack of spray tanning skills cost her some points. If your kid constantly loses pageants, she probably has low self-esteem and shouldn't be in pageants in the first place.

No comments: