Toddlers & Tiaras

Now this is a strange show that I can’t say I ever expected to watch, but I saw a commercial for the upcoming season and got curious. Needless to say, there were a lot of things I wasn’t expecting.

Marleigh enjoying the pageant.

Marleigh enjoying the pageant.

The episode I watched followed three girls competing in the Miss Georgia Spirit Pageant. My first surprise came in the form of two year old Marleigh, who has been competing in pageants since she was 4 months old. What exactly can a baby do at four months? (I discovered later that the youngest category is actually 0-24 months so apparently newborns qualify too.) Marleigh’s mother is a former pageant girl who says that Marleigh loves to do pageants, as is evident by the amount of tantrums she throws every time they do something related to the competition. She says that the day Marleigh says she doesn’t want to do pageants is the day she will be done with it all. I’m not sure Marleigh will ever have the guts to tell her mom she hates it.

Competing in the 5 & 6 year old division are Story and Kayleigh, two girls coming from very different pageant mentality families. While Story’s father isn’t certain that he agrees with pageants in general, her mother goes all out, glitzing the daughter up, getting her a coach, practicing everyday, having custom made clothes, and competing in 2-3 pageants a month. Though they said they wouldn’t do fake tanning and false eyelashes, they end up using all of those options. Kayleigh’s family takes the opposite route and is all about the fun factor. She goes on stage with no make up, the hair is done by a friend, and she has only a little training. She typically only competes in a few pageants a year.

The parents stress through out that you never know who will come out the winner because every judge is looking for something different. The categories were casual wear, swimwear, and dressy. Marleigh spends the episode screaming off stage but then smiling once in front of the judges and comes in as the runner up. Other optional categories include best eyes, hair, dressed, and most photogenic. Story wins best dressed and Kayleigh wins most photogenic. At the pageant they annnounce that Story is the winner and Kayleigh is the runner up, but a couple days later a judging error is discovered showing that personality actually won out over training and Kayleigh won.

The show is done with no voice over to avoid judgment but you can still see some of the judgment in the way the clips are cut together. In another show, they show a girl practicing her gymnastics routine with a coach. There is a sign that says “Parents, for the safety of your child please do not yell out to or coach your child” and in the same frame we see the mother calling out to her daughter, telling her to make sure to follow through. No judgment there at all…

The sad thing about this show is that the parents often forget their children in their desire to win. These aren’t girls who asked to compete, they are girls whose parents put them in the hair and make up before they can decide if it’s something they like. It’s also sad to see an adorable girl get packed with make up to the point where she is no longer recognizable and looks like she is thirty and washed up.

The thing they like to say about pageants is that girls like pageants that they like to look like princesses, but as Summer’s father says “I’m not sure it’s right to make little girls look like adults.”

Next Episode

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