Toddlers and Tiaras: New Beauty Pageant Reality Show

Cynthia Dermody
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corset dress

Photo by momtiara

You may have caught the documentary mini-series earlier this year called "Toddlers and Tiaras," a behind-the-scenes look at child beauty pageants. Viewers were so fascinated by the show that TLC is spinning it off into a new reality show of the same name. Premiering in late January, "Toddlers and Tiaras" will follow a number of contestants of different ages, including kids under 5, through the pageant scene. (See my review of Toddlers and Tiaras.)

The show's producers say, "The series showcases the traditional elements of child pageants, jam-packed with stage moms and dads, hair extensions, spray tanning, makeup, and glitter. It features extremely non-traditional and modern aspects of the pageant scene, from girls entering the competitive landscape with less makeup and a more natural look, to pageants with boys mixed into the competition."

I've never been to a child beauty pageant and know very little about them -- although those scenes in "Little Miss Sunshine" did have me rolling on the floor! I've heard both the positives (mother-daughter bonding, scholarship money) and the criticisms (too much emphasis on looks, the brutal competitiveness of parents).

So I decided to ask summerm, owner of the Mommies of Pageant Kids group, whose girls compete in natural pageants (off-the-rack clothing and only minimal makeup), for her take.

What did you think of the original documentary?

"I thought the show was better than most "documentaries" that I've seen. I think it had a nice balance of the drama that some people watch these shows for, and it showed that pageant parents really do care about their kids and that the kids really do enjoy doing the pageants. I was irritated with the comment that was made about Hollywood and being thin."

Do think the series will help or hurt pageants' image?

"It can't hurt any more than other documentaries have. There were a few parents that made me cringe and think, "Are people going to generalize and lump all pageant parents into a group because of their words and actions?"

I think it can help somewhat, though, because it does show we care about our children and not just a crown and trophy. I hope that people will take away from the show that it is just a hobby for most kids, it's not their life.

What benefits do children get from competing in pageants?

"I know personally that my girls have learned to have confidence in themselves, they have tons of fun meeting other girls and playing/talking with them. They take pride in their appearance, by this I mean they keep their hair brushed, their nails trimmed. We don't have to fight them to brush their teeth. I think they've also learned patience, since they have to wait in line for their turn.

My oldest has successfully ran for treasure of her student council and I believe she achieved that by doing pageants. She's also been in the community talent show, tried out for plays etc. She was a painfully shy little girl and she wanted to be Rodeo Princess, since we don't own a horse it wasn't going to happen. We put her in the little sister program at Miss Wyoming and she had a ball. Later I saw a flier for a Christmas pageant and I talked to my husband and after he gave his okay, I asked her if she would like to do it, she was 7 at the time and of course said yes.

My youngest we started at 2 1/2 only because she was acting up sitting in the audience and we thought we would try her in one to see if she liked it, if not then we would try something else. Turns out she loved being onstage making people laugh. She's made some wonderful friends through pageantry, they play together outside of pageants, and she has friends outside of pageants.

Anything you wish you could change?

"As far as pageants, the system that we compete in right now, I wouldn't change anything. It's a nice system, the girls are nice and it's like a big family. We all know each other and cheer each others' children on, and cheer just as loudly when their daughter wins as we do our own. The girls get along so well, it's just a fun thing to do if it's what they choose to do.

I would change some of the perceptions of pageant parents. We're not all overbearing and demanding perfection from our children. We don't force our children to do pageants. I would say a vast majority of the kids WANT to do pageants. If there's a pageant coming up, I'll ask them and if they want to do it then we will, if not then we won't.

They are regular kids who get dirty, ride bikes, get bumps and bruises. They have hobbies and play sports, they're not just going from pageant to pageant chasing that crown. They just happen to get dressed up a few times a year and maybe win a crown and trophy.

Thanks for enlightening me, summerm!

If there are other pageant moms out there, please chime in. Have you seen the documentary, and what do you think of the idea for a reality show? Will it help to alleviate concerns or fuel the flames?

And for all you non-pageanting moms, any opinions on the matter? Are you going to tune in?

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