I caught up with Sarah, mother of SaLiz Anderson, a contestant in the Universal Royalty Pageant featured on Toddlers and Tiaras. I have to say - Toddlers and Tiaras did not give Sarah and SaLiz the credit that they deserve. On the show, Sarah and SaLiz both handled themselves with class and dignity, but the show didn't give them enough screen time for us to see what they're really about - we just got to see some short snippets that didn't tell the whole story. From having communicated with Sarah, I learned that she and SaLiz have depth and positivity far beyond what was portrayed in the hour long television program, and I think that deserves to be shared with T and T viewers.
One example of a misinterpretation from Toddlers and Tiaras was the part of the show where Sarah tells us that SaLiz is going to be a star. From the perspective of the trusting viewer, we think that mom wants SaLiz to be a star and is willing to go to any length to get her there. But in reality, SaLiz genuinely wants to be a star, and mom was just stating SaLiz's desire. The creative editing created a negative impression where we should have actually had a positive one.
Additionally, it appeared that SaLiz didn't take home major prizes, when in fact, she did! SaLiz was first runner up in her age group, and she only missed Queen by 1/10 of a point. She also took the prize as the National Ambassador, a big award at the Universal Royalty Pageant. With the power of creative editing, we heard nothing of that on television.
Below is my interview with Sarah, SaLiz's mom. She brings us behind the scenes of Toddlers and Tiaras and tells us what it's like to be a real pageant mom.
SaLiz's name (spelled incorrectly as Saliz on the show) left me with some questions. What does it mean? How was it chosen?
SaLiz, pronounced Suh-Liz, is not only commonly mispronounced, it is almost always misspelled. The correct spelling is “SaLiz”, big “S” and big “L”. Her legal name is Sarah-Elizabeth. I never intended to name a child of mine after myself. (In all actuality, I think it is rather vain for a girl to be named after her mother; not so with a son named after a father). However, Sarah-Elizabeth became her name because that is the name that God chose for her. I was at a Women’s Conference at church and heard His voice say “her name will be Sarah-Elizabeth”. I was not even pregnant at the time, but I became so shortly after. My husband wanted a unique nickname for his baby girl and came up with SaLiz. It became so popular among family and friends that I thought it would be awesome to use as her stage name; Sarah-Elizabeth is a mouthful!
Do you think that you or SaLiz were misrepresented on Toddlers and Tiaras? One notable example that comes to mind for me is that the pageant actually had a Hollywood theme after a change was made, not an Old Hollywood theme, but the viewers were not alerted of this. This made SaLiz seem like she wasn't following pageant rules, when in fact, she was.
During the airing of the episode, it was announced as Old Hollywood a couple of times. Did anyone notice that it was also referred to as “Celebrity Wear”? None of the paperwork I received said the theme was Old Hollywood, it all said Celebrity Wear. After seeing the episode and hearing some people’s negative comments about SaLiz’s Nicki Minaj outfit, I called the pageant director and asked her about it. She said the theme was originally Old Hollywood but that a lot of people had contacted her saying they were having trouble coming up with ideas for that theme, so to be more accommodating to everyone, the director changed it to Celebrity Wear. Nicki Minaj is a celebrity, not particularly one of my favorites, but a favorite of SaLiz. My family and I were pleased with how we were represented. One of the things I have said before is that the camera can only record what you give it to record; so what you saw was the real Sarah and SaLiz.
How is a Toddlers and Tiaras pageant different than a normal pageant?
The only way a Toddlers and Tiaras pageant is different than a normal pageant is if you are one of the families followed. When you are followed you give up a lot of your time. The home filming is not bad because you do what you would normally do. On pageant day, it is a totally different story. I made a statement on the show that I was nervous and hated having to rush. The reason I said those things is because we had been downstairs doing interviews and that took away more than half of the time we normally take to get SaLiz ready for Beauty. Generally, my friend and I take about two hours to get SaLiz ready for this category because it is the most important. Due to the interviews, we only had 40 minutes! You do the math! Had we had our usual amount of time we probably would have changed SaLiz’s hair from being down into an updo. (We both came to the conclusion that SaLiz looks more elegant with her hair up and in curls.)
What do you like about the pageant world? What is your favorite aspect?
I like the spirit of competition. When we first got started in pageants on the local level, there were several times that SaLiz was the only contestant in her age group. That would make me mad because I felt I wasted time and money on it because, let’s face it, I could have used that money to buy her a HUGE crown and trophy! It’s all about competition. I also like it when lessons can be taught based on the competition. What I like best about pageants is the joy SaLiz gets from doing them.
LTR's comment: That's something that I can truly respect - mom Sarah enjoys SaLiz's happiness. SaLiz genuinely wants to perform - mom isn't forcing her to perform.
What do you dislike about the pageant world? What is your least favorite aspect?
I dislike the sneakiness and secretiveness of some of the moms. I think it is ridiculous for a child to need acrylic nails, flippers, and fake tans to win a pageant. There are press-on nails for children (that’s what we use). Flippers, I don’t like them, but I suppose I can see where they may be needed. However, if a child can win with braces, why can’t they win with a missing BABY tooth?! Fake tans. Hmm. I would love to know who decided that a pale child did not stand as much of a chance at winning as a tanned child. Least favorite thing is easy: pageant moms who live through their children. When it is obvious your child does not want to be in pageants, you should let it go! SaLiz wants to do pageants. Here is my philosophy: a mother has about a two-year window of opportunity during which putting her child in pageants is what SHE wants. Right around ages 2-3, said child develops her own opinions and when that happens it’s time to listen. If she doesn’t want to do pageants, don’t make her because she will be doing it for the wrong reasons. My child is an extension of me, not the other way around.
LTR's comment: I LOVE the quote about SaLiz being an extension of her mom, not the other way around. So true!
What positive traits would you say SaLiz takes from being a pageant competitor? Do you think pageants have helped her so far in life, and how do you think they'll help her in the future?
SaLiz has learned what it means to compete against others and that she will not always be #1 (she’s an only child). I mentioned earlier about her being the only one in her age group at a few local pageants. I remember one in particular, where she did an excellent job. At crowning, of course she got everything. When I commented on that, SaLiz said “of course I got everything; I was the only one there!” She was only 4! She also is learning to take winning with grace (you don’t want to gloat) and defeat with poise. My husband and I are teaching SaLiz to be confident and sure of herself; pageants have a little to do with that, but good parenting plays an even bigger role. As SaLiz begins to win money, pageants will definitely help with her college education and with traveling (she loves going places). They will also help her to handle herself admirably in whatever situation may arise.
How has your life changed since SaLiz's appearance on Toddlers and Tiaras?
Life has changed a little for us, but not much. Society and the media are more interested in the drama, but that is okay, we will remain positive because SaLiz made an impression on somebody out there! People recognize her more often. She has almost 200 fans on Facebook and she has been entered in photo contests by some of those fans. And believe it or not, SaLiz was in the February 6, 2012 issue of Reality Weekly Magazine! There were two pictures of her in her Nicki Minaj outfit! Unfortunately they did not get her name right, but it was her. I sent an email requesting they correct the name, but I haven’t heard from them. I do believe people see that there are some positive pageant families out there so that is great.
If Toddlers and Tiaras approached you again to participate on their show, would you do it?
If they were to ask us to do the show again, MY answer would lean more towards “no”. Not because we had a bad time, but because of the time constraints. However, it is not about me, it’s about my sweet baby SaLiz! She wants to do the show again. And for that reason, if they call, my answer will be yes. I think SaLiz has even more to show the world and if Toddlers and Tiaras is the way to do that, then so be it. SaLiz was in her element while filming the show and I believe it was a wonderful experience for her.
What do you have to say to critics of child beauty pageants? How would you refute their claims that they are unhealthy or inappropriate for children?
Critics will always find something of which to be critical. Yes, there are some things about pageants that are cause for concern, but overall, pageants are a positive experience for children. When the spirit of competition is taught correctly, children learn they will not always be number one; sometimes they will be second or third or not place at all. There is no difference than if the child participated in a sport. Personally, I do not agree with some of the outfits some of the children wear, but they are not my child(ren). Those who say pageants are unhealthy for children, I disagree. Pageants are not unhealthy for children, some of the things parents allow their kids to eat or drink is unhealthy. It is ridiculous for parents to feed their children pixie sticks and give them all sorts of energy drinks and caffeine. If SaLiz needed all that stuff to compete, she wouldn’t compete. Critics are entitled to their opinions, but I think they should also allow me mine.
I was once told that every child should be able to compete in beauty pageants because any child should be able to win. What do you say to that? I personally think that's not true because there is a standard of beauty in American society, and not all kids fit perfectly into that standard. (For the record, SaLiz does - take a look at her glamour pictures!) In any case, some kids are good at art or sports, not pageant-related talents, and I think those children are better suited for other venues. What do you think - should and can all kids compete in pageants? Or do you think that some kids are talented in other ways and are better suited for other accomplishments?
I believe that all children should be able to compete in beauty pageants. The reason is simple, true beauty is on the inside, not the outside. I feel blessed that I have a child who is beautiful on the INSIDE and the outside. SaLiz is being taught that no matter how beautiful she is on the outside, if she is ugly on the inside it shows through. And truthfully, if “every kid fit perfectly” into society’s standard of beauty fake tans, flippers, overly airbrushed photos, and fake hair would not be needed.
Anything else to add?
SaLiz is a well-rounded child who is also a straight-A student, takes dance, gymnastics, and voice lessons. She plays soccer, swims, and has plans on learning how to play tennis. She enjoys doing pageants and believes she will be Miss America one day. Not only does she believe it, she believes she will be the last Miss America. When I told her there would be one after her just as there was one before her, she said “Momma, I’m going to be so good at it, they won’t want another one!” Someone said she is over-confident, I say yes she is! The pageant director even said SaLiz is the most confident 7-year old she has ever met. SaLiz knows the two things I expect of her at a pageant: 1. Have fun and 2. Do your best! Anything after that is a bonus!
Want to know more about Sarah and SaLiz? Check out SaLiz's Facebook page. I think you'll find that Sarah and SaLiz are strong, articulate, positive competitors in the pageant world who deserve to have the support of pageant fans and followers. They recognize the negativity in pageants, but move past it in order to reach their goals. They've been hurt by unjust criticism, but they don't let it act as a deterrent. They move beyond barriers and push forward to be the best that they can be. You can be sure that I'm 100% on Team SaLiz, and I think that you should be too.