"When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships." - Andy Warhol

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beyond beauty

Trivia question: What reality TV show do I watch that provokes my husband to say: “Whenever I see this show, I want to punch the TV!”

Answer: Toddlers & Tiaras.

If you’ve ever seen the show, I doubt you’re surprised by my husband’s reaction.

Behind the glitz

In all of the episodes I’ve seen, the pageant has been “full glitz,” meaning that the sky’s the limit when it comes to beauty treatments, costumes, props, routines, preparation time, and monetary expense.

I’ve seen some young boys participate in pageants, but for the most part, the ones dieting, getting spray tanned, and being fitted for fake teeth (Flippers) are little girls between the ages of two and nine.

When little girls who aren’t old enough for elementary school bear the pain of having their eyebrows waxed and their natural nails filed down to receive acrylic tips, I shudder.

When five year old girls are knocking back energy drinks and countless Pixie Stixs (known as “pageant crack”) to keep the bounce in their step when they walk across the stage with “pretty feet,” I shake my head.

And when parents bribe their kids to perform and pressure them to do well, my hands hover over the phone, poised to call child services.

If you’re happy and you know it, SMILE! BLOW KISSES! POSE!

I’m often amazed by the beautiful, composed appearance of the girls on stage as they blow kisses and smile at the judges.

In the pursuit of winning a tacky crown, a gaudy trophy, or a fanned-out array of small bills (or in one case, a puppy, believe it or not), these girls submit to endless hours of practice, beautification, travel, and forced smiling.

But in spite of the caffeine, chemical tans, and pressure to perform, is it really about the kids?

Glamazon moms going for gold

The “pageant moms” (their term, not mine) make up for what they lack in self-esteem and healthy hobbies with bottomless wallets, insurmountable dedication, and endless enthusiasm.

They devote their time, energy, and money to setting their little girls apart from the competition, often to the detriment of their own financial stability, marriages, and other children.

And they do it all with the hope that their child will be named “Ultimate Grand Supreme” - a title that comes with a trinket and a modest cash prize that won’t come close to covering the money they’ve already put into costumes, coaching, and beauty treatments.

Outside of the pageant world (which is composed primarily of pageant moms), most people would simply recognize the title at face-value – as a string of synonyms for “great.”

Pageantry point of view

In the spirit of being open-minded, I will say that pageantry isn’t all bad – or at least, it doesn’t have to be. It can be fun, build self-esteem, and may even inspire participants to come out of their shells.

A win can be used as a learning opportunity about being a gracious winner, and failure to place can be used as a learning opportunity about the value of handling loss without bitterness or resentment.

Yet, Toddlers & Tiaras usually shows mothers displaying poor sportsmanship and treating their kids like dress-up dolls. Too many times, mothers drag their uncrowned kids out of the crowning ceremony, muttering statements about the unfairness of the judging.

No crowns for my kids

When my husband scoffs at the TV and asks me why I’m watching this show, I find myself saying that it helps me feel more confident about how I want to raise our future children.

After all, knowing what you don’t want to do is just as important as knowing what you do want to do.


  1. I absolutely hate Toddlers and Tiaras, yet I can't stop watching it if I stumble across it on TV. It's like a horrifying car wreck...you just have to see what happens next.

    As a mother of a daughter, I can say that it never once crossed my mind to put her into a pageant. However, I have given her an occasional pixie stick...I guess no one is perfect!

  2. Thanks for your comment. Haha I don't think Pixi Stix are the problem!