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Fayette-Mom: Toddlers and Tiaras?

Posted August 8, 2011

Jennifer Joyner

I realize I’m late to the party on this, but "Toddlers and Tiaras?" WOW.

My daughter wanted to watch the show on TLC this weekend, and having heard a little bit about the show, I tried to discourage her. I explained what a beauty pageant is, and how I thought it was silly to have such an event for kids. Aren’t all children beautiful? How exactly does one decide that this little girl is prettier than the next, and, more importantly, what do you as a parent say to the child who doesn’t win? Sorry, sweetie, but you’re just average looking?

Emma agreed with me, but she still wanted to watch, and I finally decided I would just watch it with her. Two minutes into the show, my jaw dropped … and stayed there.

Spray tans for two-year-olds? False eyelashes, fake fingernails … by the time these children were “pageant ready," they looked nothing like themselves, hence the before and after shots that are a staple of the show. Because that’s what we want to teach little girls from the very beginning — you didn’t come into this world pretty enough, so we’re going to use every trick in the book and hopefully we’ll fool everyone into thinking you deserve their admiration.

And the parents! Forking over thousands of dollars because they want to “help make my child’s dreams come true," only to spend most of their time barking orders and losing patience with three-year-olds who shockingly do not enjoy having their eyebrows plucked. Tell me, with a straight face, that your nine-month-old asked to be entered into a Beautiful Baby contest and you’re simply facilitating your kid’s pursuit of her interests.

Just to be clear: I am not anti-beauty pageant. Up until recent years, I never missed watching the Miss America pageant on TV. While it makes me feel a little icky when the contestants walk across the stage in their bathing suits while judges tabulate their scores, you can at least admit that the program promotes physical fitness and (hopefully) self-confidence. Certainly some much-needed scholarship money is awarded. And, let’s not forget, these women are adults — if they choose to participate in what some might call an objectifying exercise, well then, that’s their right.

Icky isn’t the correct word to describe what it’s like to watch a five-year-old little girl sob after she doesn’t win a crown. Horrifying is more like it. Yes, we all have to learn at some point that some people win and some people lose and that’s the way the world works. But trying to console your daughter from this cruel kind of heartbreak, especially when you’re the one that set them up for the fall in the first place? I don’t know how these parents sleep.

The show ended and Emma looked at me, her face scrunched up. “That wasn’t very fun, Mommy.” And off she ran to play with the dog.

I bet some of the girls on that show wish they could say the same to their mothers.

Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in September. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.



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  • heremeaj Aug 10, 2011

    Lab mom - I am sorry you have not found more wholesome and productive activities for your child.

  • Pseudonym Aug 10, 2011

    And yet, something comes to mind. 40 years after women's lib and 100 years after women's suffrage where are we?

    Women's magazines are about fashion, makeup, shoes, looking good, how to get a man, etc. There are a few token articles by Suze Orman and her cronies about "empowering women" financially and current events, but those are maybe 1 or 2 pages in a 150 page magazine.

    Nancy Pelosi is the first female Speaker of the House, but we still make fun of her painted-on eyebrows.

    More women are earning college degrees than men, but those degrees are in elementary education, social work, womens' literature, etc.

    We're having events and fairs to try to build up girls' interest in science, math, and engineering. Boys need not apply. We're even making pink tools and pink Legos.

    And yet, we always seem to wind up at this place where the mojority of girls are more interested in beauty and fashion than building things and developing their brains.

  • Pseudonym Aug 10, 2011

    I wonder how much money these parents would have for their daughters' college educations if they would stop spending the money on dresses, spraytans, hairspray, consultants, hairdressers, entry fees, ad infinitum ad nauseum...

  • Pseudonym Aug 10, 2011

    Quote from NANA13: "I worked at a hotel in Philadelphia where one of these pagents was held. I have never seen such brats in my entire life, and the kids were almost as bad."

    This made me ROFLOL

  • Lab mom Aug 10, 2011

    My 9 year old has been doing pageants for about 2 years and has NEVER acted like a brat nor worn fake hair, etc. She has fun and has made alot of friends. Are there mean girls?? Of course there are. I completely understand and agree with alot of these comments but there are mean girls in softball,basketball???? We dont watch the show. I think its drama blown up.

  • snowl Aug 10, 2011

    JonBenet Ramsey comes to my mind when I see commercials for this "reality show" content. Sad.

  • carolinagirl28 Aug 10, 2011

    MaxCat - I agree! I watch Toddlers and Tiaras and feel like a better parent, and then I watch Hoarders to feel like a better housekeeper :) It's like free therapy!

  • right2life Aug 9, 2011

    When I watch T&T, I feel like 'Mother of the Year'. No matter how many mistakes I make, at least I'm not spray-tanning a 2-yr-old! Some days I need that ego-boost.

  • justabumer Aug 9, 2011

    If only active participants are allowed to watch these contests then they are...what? Nothing?

    And it becomes more and more ridiculous to hear someone on the show say that some three-year-old has "the complete package". What does that even mean?

    It's child abuse and someone should be whatever it takes to stop this exploitation of young children.

    Watching this show is like coming upon an auto accident. You know you shouldn't gawk but you just can't help it. It's sick.

  • Con Amor brings luv and laughter Aug 9, 2011

    Oh and I just LOVE Eden Woods thoughts on hairspray!!