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Toddlers and Tiaras Shows You a World of Little-Girl Beauty Pageantry

There was a good amount of discussion when I asked for your thoughts on beauty pageants. Most of you find them outdated, dippy, or sexist, but a few readers piped up to show support for them. No matter what you think about pageantry, you'll probably be fascinated by Toddlers and Tiaras, a documentary series debuting tonight on TLC.

The show follows a handful of young girls as they prepare for and compete in beauty pageants, and it is in-sane. Dads seem out of the picture, and the moms are pushy — no surprise there, but there's plenty to surprise. It's bizarre to see a 7-year-old be fitted for fake teeth, for instance, or to watch a terrified, spindly-legged girl sob as she gets her first spray tan. There's more random goodness, too: A lesbian couple turns pageant stereotypes on their heads (Heather has two stage moms!) and one girl confesses that her love of farm animals drives her to compete. For a preview of the show, check out these clips from the first episode — and let me know if you're as gripped by it as I am.

Photo courtesy of TLC

Join The Conversation
erinVFC erinVFC 8 years
i believe this show is 2 much 4 little girls 2 handle... i am an early teenager and i watched the new episode last night...i and was like there skin in gorgeous and they wear more makeup than ME!! which is truly sad... i dont get spray tanned and i already have perfect lowers girls self esteem...
ManRay ManRay 8 years
I agree with what most of you said: Little Girls, disguised as dolls with heavy "sexy" make-up and getup are really giving me the creeps. Anybody seen "Little Miss Sunshine"? - then you know what I'm speaking of:) I think the point ist not whether or not it's pageants, ballet or any other stage performance - the real problem for me is: children being judged by adults for things they cannot yet understand. For children, "beauty" as such is not really important - until adults teach them what is "beautiful" and what's not. When I'm gonna be a mother, I'd like to protect my kids as long as possible from such a judgment. IMO, everything you make your child do - that normally it would have neither wanted nor wished, is child abuse - and parents only do this as a compensation for their own unfulfilled wishes or lack of accomplishments. Children are no little adults - and should not be treated as such.
jc jc 8 years
Nuts, nuts. nuts. I was pretty shocked when I say one family from San Jose. I thought only the folks in the South were down with that stuff.
karen-zoo karen-zoo 8 years
arienne arienne 8 years
I watched a few minutes on TV last night. One very little girl got first runner up and was jumping up and down when they handed her the big trophy. Her dad's reaction? "She didn't win." Ugh...
Glittersniffer Glittersniffer 8 years
Oh DEAR. Had my mom tried to put me into pageants as a kid I would have flat out REBELLED. I'm talking kicking screaming ripping and clawing! My sister, now she'd have been ALL for it. Priss.
bananapancake84 bananapancake84 8 years
As a former pagent girl, I felt like I had to comment. I was in the Jr. Miss America pagents when I was between 9 and 12. Personally, I loved them. However, my mom never spray-tanned me, never made me wear fake teeth or hair. I wrote my own little speeches, made up my own dance, and helped my mom sew and bedazzle my costumes. I don't remember any of the other girls in the pagent going through what the girls on this TV show go though, but maybe I was too young to pay attention. I never won a single pageant. I also participated in ballet and gymnastics. I'm now 24 and my self-esteem is better off because of all of this.
KimBurnett KimBurnett 8 years
The cow thing was not cute. It is as disturbing as everything else. What the hell does she want a cow for?
mnp mnp 8 years
I can't seem to understand the motivation behind putting a child into a pageant unless the child wanted to. I think it might lie in the mother's motives. Maybe they are living vicariously through their daughters?
Beauty Beauty 8 years
I know, Pixelhaze, isn't the cow thing too cute? For all of the messed-up stuff going on in pageantland, the girls kept making me smile.
fordhamalias fordhamalias 8 years
I agree with emalove that picture is straight up disturbing.
pixelhaze pixelhaze 8 years
OK i just watched the whole episode on youtube and it's sliiiightly less scary than the Living Dolls documentary I saw. And it was kind of adorable that the little girl was competing because she wanted to buy a cow :) I think my poor cold heart melted . . .
pixelhaze pixelhaze 8 years
bailaoragaditana: That's a really good point, actually, I hadn't considered thought about it like that. I do agree with you that it's different, though. The makeup in these instances is part of the costume, think about instances when the actor is playing an animal, a doll, or a child such as in the ballet The Nutcracker. Even with "normal" human roles the idea with stage makeup is to make it heavy and emphasize things like your eyebrows so that even people in the back row can make out your facial expressions. I'm not against beauty pageants at all, but I find these kiddie pageants extremely disturbing. I mean if it is kids competing, why can't they look like kids??? The fake hair, the fake teeth . . . next they'll be getting chicken cutlets to stuff in their bikini tops! I saw that docmentary Living Dolls and did anyone else notice that every single pushy pageant mom was overweight to obese? It seemed to me like a classic case of living out your dreams through your kid.
Advah Advah 8 years
Sick - and that is one creepy picture. Good point Baila, and I agree that makeup in ballet or ice-skating is part of the costume. Beauty pageant (as the name shows) is about putting the emphasis on 'beauty'. It's also completely ridiculous imo since someone's face and morphology changes SO MUCH until at least 24!
ModernGraceKelly ModernGraceKelly 8 years
How many more years is this kind of thing going to be okay? That looks like a baby she's putting makeup on! It's so obvious that the mothers are getting more out of it than the kids. Living through my child 101. It makes me literally ill that the perverts and people who abuse children, are also watching these shows. Then they go out to find real children to hurt.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 8 years
Personally I think every little girls dad should tell her that she's the most beautiful girl in the whole world. Having some stranger tell this little girl that she is a loser because she isn't as pretty as the winner is just going to ruin her self esteem for life. It's teaching the children that everyone judges you on how you look, that you only get far in life if you're on of the "beautiful people." I hate that philosophy and I don't think it should ever be pushed on anyone, especially kids so young. They also looks EXCEEDINGLY disturbing when they're dressed up like adult soap stars. UGH!
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
Baila, I danced ballet as a child and most of my life and I must say stage makeup is very different. Not only does everyone, boy or girl wear it, but the emphasis is on making you look the part and cohesive with the set design and costumes. You danced daily for five months out of the year in practice gear to wear a costume and makeup for the run of one show. I never felt anyone was trying to make me look better and I think that's the main difference. In fact ballet, figure skating and gymnastics makeup is pretty atrocious up close and you never want to walk around in public looking like a clown afterwords. Of course dance and competitive sports have their own issues. I just don't think this is one of them.
bloodred bloodred 8 years
La-Tua-Cantante La-Tua-Cantante 8 years
It's disgusting. How can you feel moreally okay doing this to your daughter? I guess if you're willing to pay her massive therapy bills in the future...
catita85 catita85 8 years
Beauty pageants for kids are probably one of the most disgusting and vile things to do your child. Fake tan, fake teeth, fake hair, pounds of make up and evening dresses for little girls? Geez. I seriously can´t understand parents that actually encourage their children to engage in these contests. It´s beyond comprehension to me.
emily_88_88 emily_88_88 8 years
I find the makeup and the weird ways they move their arms and legs disturbing.
sidra5397 sidra5397 8 years
sidra5397 sidra5397 8 years
It doesn't seem healthy to add fake teeth, or in some cases plastic wrap a child's abdomen (to make her appear slimmer) for the sake of a win. In realation, parents can become overly competative and agressive when it comes to their kids whether it's in pageants, dancing, sports or whatever. As for face paint and makeup on little skaters, and dancers I think it's to add to the costume's effect. Whatever the competition I think it's important to let kids be kids (not superficial imitations of an "adult") and help them develop healthy attitudes towards their own worth. Don't break a kid's spirit while it's growing.
LaVida LaVida 8 years
There is so much pressure and expectation on grown women to be beautiful in society, why subject toddlers and little girls to such judgement!!! I find it so ridicules, Children are physically beautiful because they're new. Their skin is poreless and perfect, their hair like silk. Why in God's name put garish makeup up on them, teese and curl their hair and make them wear false teeth (I think they call it a flipper) when they loose one of their baby teeth? Your taking away everything that makes them beautiful, they're Children!!! I think the answer is clear, Mother's seeking glory for themselves through their Children.
Lukin Lukin 8 years
I agree that it's much different than "feminine" sports like ballet and gymnastics. Ballet dancers and gymnasts are not being judged on their appearance; it's merely to enhance or add an effect. As it says in the name, beauty pageants are ALL about how the girls look.
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