Beauty pageants for kids totally creep me out.

OK, once again I’m watching reality TV, somebody stop me!

This time it’s a show about kid’s beauty pageants on the WE Network called “Little Miss Perfect.” For some unknown reason I have a morbid fascination with this whole world, and have watched more than a couple of documentaries on it, which usually end up with me yelling at the television set at one point or another. There is something so inherently creepy to me about tricking little girls out like circus ponies (only sluttier). Why would any mother in her right mind want to sexualize her little girl? I just fundamentally don’t get it. To be fair, I’ve never spent any time talking to anyone who enters their child in pageants– even though I am a lifelong Southerner which seems to be Ground Zero for beauty pageants, I do not personally know one single ‘pageant mom.’

And it is the moms that really freak me out! At the risk of sounding unkind, I have to say that based on what I have seen they are almost universally a) unattractive b) overweight and c) hyper-competitive. I’m sure there are some MENSA member/Mother Theresa-type pageant moms out there, I just haven’t seen them on any of the programs I’ve ever watched. Oh, and there are also a handful of former beauty pageant kids who are now all grown up and producing second generation pageant kids, but again, that seems to be the minority.

Cases in point:

Not trying to be hateful here, I’m just saying that maybe there is some kind of latent wish fulfillment/frustrated ambition thing going on with some of the moms… OK, maybe I am being kind of snarky. My bad.

OK, this is how riled up I get when I watch these shows– I MADE NOTES! Here are some of the things I jotted down:

**There is actually something called the “wow-wear” portion of the competition. I am not even kidding

**Scary hillbilly mom to daughter–“Why do I keep saying ‘put some sass in your frass’? Because it’s better than telling you to wiggle your ass!”

**Same mom–“What’s more ‘wow’ than a girl with a 5 ft ball python hanging around her neck?”

**Mom to child during endless home rehearsals– “Stop apologizing, just do it right!”

** Same mom–“I don’t like to call her ‘my OCD kid’,  I prefer meticulous.”

**Note to self– if I had the Magic Tan concession for these things, Russ could retire.

**’Pageant coach’ is apparently an actual job.

**Judges: Deedee, who is always carrying Godiva, her teacup chihuahua, is a former Miss Teen something-or-other that totally looks just like Malibu Barbie. Only less life-like.

**There are only a handful of parents in a hotel ballroom full of empty chairs– who would come to these things besides grandparents and pedophiles?

**Yet another mom–“I guess you might think there’s something’s wrong with pageants– if you’ve got an ugly child.”

**The pageant mc guy just called that 5 year old girl ‘Miss Thing’– yikes!

**Smarmy voice-over while tiny girl models wow-wear: “When asked what makes her laugh, Haley answers simply, ‘Life.’ ” ARRRRRGH!!!

Do you think that the fact that I actually wrote this stuff down might possibly indicate that I am a little bit more emotionally invested in this than I should be?! I mean, why should I care if some mothers want to dress up their children and spend a lot of money entering them in contests that don’t really mean anything anyway? I guess its because I’m raising girls too, and it is already difficult enough to counteract the messages their culture sends them about what it means to be female in this world, and what really constitutes success as a human being and a child of God. So I DO get a little offended when there is an entire industry dedicated to perpetuating these particular myths:

Physical beauty = worth.

Acting flirty, blowing kisses and shaking your tiny butt while prancing around in a bathing suit wearing more make-up than RuPaul AND GETTING JUDGED ON IT is somehow completely appropriate.

A glittery, 5 foot tall ‘gold’ trophy is reasonable compensation for the massive amount of $$$ it takes to groom, costume and travel to these things– not to mention the steep entry fees, time off from work, emotional and physical energy expended, etc. And of course, that whole ‘robbing them of their childhood’ thing.

Walking and smiling are actual skills that somehow translate to ‘talent’ and ‘poise’.

I could go on and on. Oh wait– I already have! Anyway, am I nuts? Does this whole phenomenon bother anybody else out there besides me? Have any of you ever entered your kids in pageants, or were maybe a pageant kid yourself? Is there some intrinsic value in the whole experience that I am missing?  Because I gotta tell you, I think this borders on emotional abuse. Please weigh in with your opinions, and feel free to try to change my mind…

15 Responses

  1. jerscott

    You’re right on! I wish somebody could have said this on “60 Minutes.” Of course, there are always the preachers who push their kids to perform when their tots. Those child-preachers always freaked me! out!

  2. tori

    Yes. Child-preachers are officially even creepier than child pageants!

  3. pattie

    Tori, I am in 100% agreement with you on this..That is something that always creeped me out with all the news footage when Jon-Benette Ramsey was killed. They always try to justify it but I have yet to ever hear a respectable reason for these pagents. No matter who many Moms say it (she can quit any time she wants, I’m not pushing her) or the little girl says (I love doing this) I still have my doubt,,these little girls are obviously trying to please there momma’s and the mom’s are wanna-be stars!!

  4. grfdave

    Amen to both. I could not agree more. Along the same lines are the parents at sporting events! In Canada it is hockey games and I imagine Baseball in the USA. I kinda like the idea of kids being able to be kids.

  5. auburn60

    I have a little pageant experience. When I lived in Florida my best friend’s daughter was in a couple of pageants. She was kind of a tomboy but liked all the attention she got when she got all dressed up. She thought pageants were fun and she loved having all her friends and family there to cheer her on, but she didn’t take the whole thing too seriously and neither did her mother.
    My girls participated in ONE pageant when they were 4 and 5 respectively.We got in trouble with ‘the committee’ cause the dresses they wore weren’t the ‘Lil Dolly’-type. (Those were waaay too short for my long-legged kids. They would have looked like lamps.)We didn’t go to the local public school (but did live in the community )so we almost got kicked out before the whole thing got started. Is it necessary for me to point out that the committee members also had daughters in the competition? During the ‘question and answer’ part of the program one little girl(not mine) was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up.She said ‘Winn Dixie’.(!)The crowd roared and she went off the stage crying. Some of the kids froze during the song and dance number and their parents went CRAZY. My kids were just kind of disgusted with the whole thing by the end. Almost every other kid there was crying–they ALL expected to win. I was not left with a very positive feeling about the whole experience. I think (1)it’s all about the mamas and (2)little girls should not be sexualized. Ever. For any reason.
    But we have some great pictured from the event.
    And yes,in the South ‘pageant coach’ is a very LUCRATIVE job. Most of them are gay men. And they just keep taking those mamas money way past
    the point of reason.

  6. themema

    I believe that it is a form of child abuse..

    Is that strong enough?

  7. sammifredenburg

    tori, you landed on a hot-button for me. i’m totally with you on this one. i used to work in a dance apparel shop for a friend, and many kids, especially tot dancers and primary children, were often moms living vicariously, like a dad making a child do sports whether they wanted to or not. the kids were talked down to, disinterested, demoralized while parents put hundred’s on the credit cards for this stuff. sad.

    but when i came across sexy thongs in girl’s size 6x in a catalog we ordered from, i tasted bile. french-cut low-cut leotards in child primary sizes, sounds to me like candidates for child pornography. sorry, not in every case, but like you, most often discretion passes by, and diva-ness is not an attitude of humility, one that honors the Lord.

    seems to me to be an act of the flesh to judge people based on their luck in the gene pool . . . i’d rather hold up beautiful women like Mother Teresa and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and more as the winners in my world. and our daughters, neighbors, friends kids, and the orphans in third-world countries, children raising children giving in love from the nothing they have.

    our kids are bright enough to know that “participation” trophies are loser’s awards. i’m all for arts and cultural disciplines and sports in our children,but teaching grae and humility and shared credit are attributes that responsible parents and coaches should emulate and encourage.


    ah, done for now lol. thanx for sharing your view on this, and the rest of the gang here too! think i’ll switch to decaf for the rest of the day =P

    stay close,

    sammi =)

  8. CarolynR

    I was about to be all smug and superior and say that it would never happen in the UK. But apparently it does!!

    I totally agree with all that’s been said. It’s what happens when a society has gone way past struggling to survive and is is at the point of becoming a caricature. It is a sad indictment of life in the west.

  9. Rita A Carlton

    This is something I feel so strongly about that I even signed up for this site and used that outrageous password assigned to me.

    I have never been able to watch any of the programs about these pageants. Just seeing the ads for them as I am flipping through channels is more than I can stomach. This has to be child molestation…as part of ritual or ceremony, or sexual misconduct, or sexual trafficking of child under 12, or child pornography, or something equally reprehensible and/or disgusting. What they are doing to these small children does not even come close to the actions of a healthy, normal, loving parent. In the ads, these little girls behave in a blatantly sexual manner that is enhanced by the way they are dressed. I heard one of the little girls say, “I look good,” one time. She said it in a womanly way…drawing out the word good and making it a sexually teasing comment.

    I’m sorry. I’ll get off my soap box. I think the whole thing is horrible and should not be allowed. It also should not be on television.

  10. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Well, Rita, I’m glad I am following you because you have just said it all for me. I think it is disgusting and a form of child abuse…most definately. Oh boy, I’m with you, Rita…all the way.

  11. LSBellamy

    I agree with you about the sexualization of little girls through pageants. I have a hard enough time trying to figure out why a scholarship pageant for grown women (e.g. Miss America) has a swimsuit competition…talent I can see, bikinis? Not so much.

    To watch a child under the age of 18 parade herself in a provocative manner turns my stomach.

    How do we change this? Because we, as women, should.

  12. rockin robyn

    I guess I’m not sure how I feel because I don’t watch those kind of shows (any reality type shows). They just turn me off. They come-off as so phony to me.

    Tori, I honestly am convinced that on those type shows… the children and their mama’s are already acting and getting paid and you are the one getting suckered into watching – because of the controversy they put in the shows. If it was just a boring little girls pageant with no drama pulled into the show, you wouldn’t be watching it and talking about it on your blog – perhaps pulling in an audience to check it out.

    But I guess I’m naive in that I just thought those type of “real” pageants for little girls are a way of gauging their talent to get into “show-biz”. Whether it is in commercials or acting in plays or in hollywood. In fact, I just read an interview of a soap opera actress. She is well grounded and established and respectful in her craft and she said she was involved in pageants since she was 6-months old.

    Some of us go on job interviews to prove our talent and skills for a specific job. To me these pageants just push the outwardness of the talent for that child to advance in acting and not get to the “job” and then shy away – wasting productions time and money.

    That’s my take on it. I would like to think that these mothers wouldn’t put their children out there in danger or harms way. That maybe they just see an actor or actress in their child because of their forward personality or mimicking something they saw or heard.

    Now I truly don’t go for dressing little girls in provocative or “mature” clothing. That’s just wrong.

  13. teegees

    I agree Tori, those things are plain WEIRD and super creepy.

    When my oldest daughter was about 5 or so she had a friend who had done lots of pageants. As a result, she got a little fascinated in it. She kept begging me to let her be in one so she could “get a big trophy like *****’s.” I finally relented and signed her up for a small low key local pageant. As luck would have it, they moved the date and I had to be out of town. Not to be thwarted, she decided her Mimi could take her. The day arrived and they loaded up her gear which was basically one of her Sunday dresses (not the lampshade variety) a casual outfit and a hairbrush. While backstage preparing Mallory saw little girls being pushed and prodded and being barked at to “sit still” while their layers of mascara were applied. She looked around the room, and leaned over to her Mimi and said, “let’s get out of here.” And so they did.

    Moral of story: It’s so twisted even a 5 year old can see it!

  14. MostlySunny


    I agree with all of the above; and especially with rockin robyn – I think “Momma” is hoping her beautiful baby girl is her ticket to riches and stardom – “Hollywood – and anyone else who wants to pay us a gazillion dollars — here we come! I’ll sell my soul (and my child) for it.”

    Mallory sounds like a smart little girl. Good for her, and thank you, Mimi!

    I’m so glad I had boys!

  15. » My Blogoversary!!!! | babybloomr

    […] and embarrassingly transparent. You have allowed me to express deep emotions and indulged my shallow tangents. You have celebrated my children with me, the joys of ordinary life and the miracle of a […]

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