I discussed Todders and Tiaras and the world of child beauty pageants with a pageant insider. While I won't provide details about this person, I will say that the person is articulate and intelligent, and I highly recommend you read this person's perspective on the TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras and the pageant world. The source's words are below.
* First and foremost, remember this is reality TV. It is not a National Geographic documentary, aimed at providing a factual account of the
pageant subculture. T&T has about as much basis in fact as "Jersey Shore", and nearly as much drama. That's how they like it.
* Remember, they cast the show the way they do on purpose. The weirder
the family, the trashier the director, the crazier the kids, the better
the ratings. Think back to the episodes you remember - the moms who
screamed at their kids, the kid who got spray tanned at an auto garage,
the boys who say "I can turn into girls", the parents who favored one child
over another, the director who said "fat kids need not apply"...Every
bit of it was intentional and done for the ratings.
* "But it happened! I saw it!". Did you? Yes, it happened, and no, it
didn't. At least, not likely in the manner or context in which it was
intended. Post-production editing is a powerful thing, and many many
good intentions end up on TLC's cutting room floor.
To address some common concerns:
* Yes, there are crazy pageant moms, harsh coaches, and kids who'd be
better off pursuing another hobby. Isn't that the case in any kids'
sport? We all know "that Little League dad" who got ejected for yelling
at the ref, that dancer or gymnast forced to compete on an injured
ankle, that young wrestler who runs the hallways of his school in heavy
clothing, sweating to the point of dehydration, to "make weight" for his
next meet. Where's the outrage for these kids? The reality show on
* "All the emphasis is on their looks!!!". No, not really. Unless it's a
"face pageant", there's far more to it than that. 99% of the time,
confidence and personality will win over a pretty face.
* "But what about the makeup? The fake hair? They're just BABIES". Let
me be clear that actual babies usually compete with neither of these.
My granddaughter is a year old. She competes with, at best, a hint of
blush to keep her from washing out under stage lights. We do use a
hairpiece, because she has enough hair to justify it, and I am a huge
fan! Doing her hair takes all of 10 minutes. All the hot rollers,
setting spray, hair spray, and other processing happen to the hairpiece,
which isn't attached to the head of an active toddler! It's a huge
time saver, and makes it far easier on the kiddo. In any case, none of
this is unique to pageant kids. Dancers and cheerleaders wear makeup,
eyelashes, and often fake hair as well.
* "But it's so expensive!!!". Yes, it can be. But so are many other
sports in which kids participate. Have you priced hockey equipment, ice
time, and tournament fees recently? Or dance costumes and private
lessons? And just like any other sport, there are ways to do it, even
on a budget. Many successful pageant kids rent a dress, or buy second
hand. Many get sponsors to help cover their fees and travel expenses.
More than a few "big name" kids have paid for their college entirely
through their pageant winnings.
* "They're forced to practice!!!". And? Most kids aren't a fan of
practicing anything. They want the glory of competition day, not the
drudgery of practice. If you signed your kid up for soccer, would you
make them go to practice, or just let them show up, unprepared, for the
In short, pageants are no different from
any other kids' sport or activity. There are good parents, and bad
ones. Pushy, overbearing coaches, and inspiring ones. Money-hungry
directors, and ones who genuinely care about the kids. And T&T is
like any other "reality" show - largely staged, and heavily edited to
show what they want you to see. Do you honestly believe everyone in New Jersey acts like Snooki? No, probably not. You're smarter than that.
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