Now granted, I will admit it’s most likely my fault.

You see, I was the one who got addicted to watching TLC’s wacky hit show Toddlers & Tiaras this summer. Actually, all the wacky TLC shows I’ve been watching this summer could fill another post, but let’s save that fun for another day, shall we?
So. Yes. Toddlers & Tiaras
You know, when you watch it through what I’m going to call a “reasonable person” lens, you can see it’s chock full of (mostly visual) irony. The producers and editors of the show must have a hoot when they are putting the show together. What amazes me is that the irony, although absolutely blatant to me, must be invisible to enough pageant families, because they keep on agreeing to be featured in the show.
So I watch it. And I love it. No apologies. I find it hilarious, ironic, and fascinating. Yes, and a little bit disturbing/disgusting…but isn’t that what all the shows on TLC are like? I mean, tune in to Hoarding: Buried Alive or My Strange Addiction; and Toddlers & Tiaras is mild by comparison.
But here’s an unexpected side-effect of my watching the show. Now my 8 year-old daughter is begging me to enter pageants herself! Even after watching these girls sit for hours enduring painful procedures like eyebrow waxing or plucking, aggressive hairstyling, spray-on tans, inches of makeup and false eyelashes, my little girl still wants to do it. 
All I can say is: thank God there is no pageant circuit in Canada, because this kid wants a fancy dress, false eyelashes and a crown, baby! Which is not to say that I would permit her to enter pageants…far from it! First of all, she wouldn’t make it past the registration with a normal name like Madeleine. Here’s what you have to be called in order to make it big in pageants in the US (these are actual names of actual girls featured on the show):
Sparkal (yes, when spoken it sounds like the word sparkle)
Kragen (sounds like the villain in a Sci-Fi movie to me…)
Zanna (not the worst, when you consider the competition)
Aniston (isn’t that a last name? Like, Jennifer Aniston’s last name?)
Secondly, there isn’t enough spray-tan in the world to take her ivory skin and brown it up the way these girls do for their pageants. Ick.


And then there’s the photos…they’re required for the “most photogenic” prizes that are awarded at all pageants. I don’t have the cash to fund a professional photographer never mind the amount of hours a graphic designer puts in to photoshop these babies…have a look!
I know, it’s scary. That kid looks more like a barbie than a human. It’s the unnaturally large and glossy eyes that does it. Here’s an example of a little girl, Isabella, going through the transformation from, well, just plain old Isabella to “natural pageant” looks (which, actually is not the worst) to “full glitz” photo. It doesn’t even look like the same girl, does it? 
toddlers-tiaras-season-3-6.jpgThat’s our girl Isabella on the left, posing with pageant superstar Eden Wood.

Isabella’s photos for “natural” pageants. Not too bad, right? I mean, weird to have makeup on an 8 year-old, but it’s not outrageous.
And on that note – ahem – here she is again:
That’s the full-glitz look. Fake nails, major makeup and a LOT of time in photoshop.

So, I mean, obviously we all know the reasons why these things are offensive, right? There are a laundry list of reasons to object to beauty pageants:
  • over-sexualization of young girls
  • emphasis on facial beauty 
  • emphasis on clothes/hair/other aspects of appearance
  • the falls! (those are the hairpieces all the little girls wear to give them that big ol’ southern belle bouffant look)
  • the flippers! (kinda like dentures for those little girls whose front teeth are missing or just, well, not perfect!)
  • the parents!
And that’s just a few of the reasons why most of us get that these events and the culture that feeds them is just wacko. 
But…but…my little girl, she doesn’t get that. She wants to do it. And why? I’m not 100% sure, but I believe it has a lot to do with getting to dress up and look pretty. This is a girl who likes to do that. She’ll always pick a skirt over pants, and she’d rather have a frilly, lacy, sparkly skirt over a plain one. That’s just the way she is. I swear! I mean, look at me…look at my profile pic…I’m wearing a down vest and not an atom of makeup. And that’s how I roll, baby. I is what I is, and yet: my Maddy is what she is too, ya know? And I promise I didn’t push any of this “fancy” stuff on her…trust me. Her older sister is a die-hard dinosaur enthusiast (even at nearly 11) and wears jeans every. single. day. She hates doing her hair and will sometimes even fight me over bathing (okay, nobody tell her I told you that, because she’d kill me…but it’s true!) So yeah, I didn’t push my little one into wanting to look pretty. She just does.
But the thing is, I happen to think she looks very pretty all on her own. I happen to think she doesn’t need age-inappropriate makeup or hairpieces or a flipper to do it. 
So the compromise? Well, she wants to go out as a “pageant girl” for Hallowe’en this year, and I’m going to let her. I bid on this dress on eBay (cross your fingers I win the auction) for only $30, which is certainly what I’d pay for a costume for her anyway. 
We’ll do her hair up, get her a dollar-store tiara and pin a number on her dress. Now let’s just hope it’s not -20 so she doesn’t have to wear her snowsuit underneath it…that might take away a little from the effect!
  • Alice

    People don’t even know what’s normal anymore! Gah. Madeleine is a lovely name, and classic.

  • Tracey

    Great call on the Halloween compromise, Kath! I’m with Christine though – I can’t even watch that show at all, and pageant pics give me a rash, holy crap. I just can’t get my head around the practice of it all… and your daughter is just adorable. I hope Halloween will give her the dose she’s looking for. Maybe a “costume closet” with some of that stuff might give her the dress-up feeling she’s desiring… good luck!!

  • Kath

    I know, Therese. Where did our little girls go?

  • Kath

    Awww, gee, thanks Julie. And yes, “scary” costume indeed!

  • Kath

    God, Christine, you forgot about the Red Bull! One one episode this one woman fed her daughter not one, not two but THREE cans of Red Bull in one morning! I can give them all a hint on how to keep their daughters’ energy up: go to bed early and don’t spend all day sitting in a chair getting hair, makeup, nails and tan done!
    Oh: and the ash-eating lady? That was just sick, man. SICK. Thank GOD they had her committed. Usually I just watch that show and laugh, but the ashes? That was truly disturbing.

  • Kath

    LOL Alice! The strange spellings of normal names abounds in the pageant world too. Like the girl in the glitz photo with the blue background? She’s MaKenzie, not MacKenzie. Then there’s Karmen and Jaclynn, Brittanie, Lynsie…
    On a related note (somewhat) one thing that really bugs me is when people ask how my daughter’s name is spelled, and then say, “oh, that’s unusual!” when I tell them. PEOPLE! THIS is how you spell Madeleine. Take a look at any map of France (or Canada for that matter, we have Ile de la Madeleine). And when you listen to the narrator on the Madeline cartoons, he very clearly says, “Mad-e-LINE”. Grrrr….

  • Kath

    Ah, so true Aileen. Freckles, crooked teeth and tangled hair is what girlhood’s all about!

  • Kath

    OMG, you’re so right about the cut and paste! Freaky…

  • Therese

    Holy cow – when did Maddy grow up? In my mind she’s only 5 🙂

  • Julie

    oh yah, and i’d rather my daughter play with the “kid in the car” as opposed to “the kid in the bar”. your daughter looks waaaay more fun!

  • Julie

    it’s the perfect scary costume! i love that dress, tho’…..
    i agree, the feelings that get stirred up in regards to this show are crazy. sure we played dress up as kids, but never like this. i say it’s almost abuse. go nuts on hallowe’en! that’s what it’s about!

  • Christine

    I won’t even watch because I get so annoyed and creeped out.
    It’s teaching “toddlers” that they aren’t good enough just as they are. So it’s ingrained in them as early as it can be.
    You need hair that’s not yours
    You need teeth that are not yours (I’m sorry that’s THE WORST part of the show for me…those damn flippers)
    You need nails that are not yours.
    Your skin needs to be darker.
    And the pictures of you need to be change so that they do not look like a real child.
    What the f*uck is wrong with these people???
    And have we touched on what the daily pageant day diet is? Coke and pixie sticks? To “keep her energy up”. NO wonder they needs false teeth.
    And what do they win? like 500 bucks or something? The dresses cost twice that much…
    Sorry. Touch a sensitive spot for me.
    I do love the idea of going for halloween! And yes – your girl is beautiful just as she is!
    Now…can we talk about the woman who ate her husbands ashes? Can you write a post about that? It disturbed me on so many levels…

  • Alice

    Going out as a pageant girl for Hallowe’en is a perfect compromise! She gets the fantasy and make-believe play, without being touched by the weirdness. Good call! (And I am so creeped out by the pageant photos, I can’t even tell you.)
    Her name, though, might pass for a pageant if you change the spelling to MaddyLynne, perhaps?!

  • Aileen

    That girl with the blue background looks like a Bratz doll to me, with the unnaturally large head and eyes. How can that possibly be considered an example of childhood beauty? I find it truly creepy. I much prefer the freckles, crooked teeth and tangled hair of the girls I know.

  • Jen

    I agree 100% that she just likes the idea of getting all dressed up and pretty. She is into “fashion” (as she says) so you can see why this would appeal. I think letting her play with lip gloss and make-up plus dress up is perfect. We did when we were kids! Going as a pageant girl for Halloween? Brilliant. And yes, she is truly beautiful all on her own.
    The very creepy thing about those two glam photos? The girls’ eyes are EXACTLY the same. I think they cut and paste!

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