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On Bryce’s Mind

By Staff | Sep 14, 2012

“Toddlers & Tiaras” is one of TLC’s (The Learning Channel) highest rated shows that is still on the air. For five seasons it has followed the lives of beauty pageant contestants and their parents on the day(s) they compete for the crown, or the trophy.

Recently, however, one pageant mom on the show came under fire for dressing her daughter up like Dolly Parton. This mother also dressed up like Dolly Parton in her younger years, when she too was in beauty pageants. Her husband is suing for custody of the child.

Or how about Alana Thompson, a/k/a, “Honey Boo Boo”? This six-year old girl competes while her mom allows her to consume a concoction called “Go Go Juice”, a cocktail made with Red Bull and Mountain Dew.

On an episode of “Dr. Drew”, Dr. Drew Pinsky interviewed a woman by the name of Wendy Dickey, who dressed her daughter as the lead female character from the movie “Pretty Woman”.

Whether or not this show is scripted is debatable, and I can’t say that this goes on in every child beauty pageant. Frankly, in addition to the couple of previously mentioned examples, I find this show and other similar shows and activities to be reprehensible.

Dickey said in her interview that people have a stigma about pageant mothers and families living “in a fantasy world.” She also said, quote, “It infuriates me that people sit back and judge me based on a 15-second segment they’ve seen on a reality show.”

And yet the fuel for internet commenters saying that pageant moms are delusional, nuts, or living vicariously through their competing daughters is there.

In the same episode of “Dr. Drew”, Pinsky interviewed Mike Galanes, director of the “Little Miss Perfect” pageant. Galanes said that while his pageants allow girls to be princesses for a brief moment, he has never had girls dress like “Pretty Woman” or Dolly Parton.

“In my doing these pageants for 20 years, I have never had a ‘Pretty Woman’, I have never had a costume like that. And I think that in a costume like that, there is a need for a pageant intervention. I don’t think that it was a good call on the mom’s part, and I don’t think that it projects a positive energy and good feeling for the child,” Galanes said. And I agree.

There needs to be an intervention done to someone, be it the mothers on the show, or even the network. Someone is allowing–almost to the point where it borders on exploitation– girls to be brought into a false idea of beauty. Someone is allowing some of these girls to take in sugary, and/or highly caffeinated beverages and candies. Someone is instilling false expectations for the immediate, and possible, future in these girls based on an aforementioned false sense of beauty. Take girls who think they could become models, based on their experiences in pageants. Very few actually even get modeling gigs, and there’s no telling how it affects girls who don’t get gigs right away, or at all, especially when being “beautiful” is the only thing these girls know.

William Pinsof, a clinical psychologist, (in 1997 was president of the Family Institute at Northwestern University), said in an AP article that if pageant life is all-consuming , “… being a Barbie doll says your body has to be a certain way, and your hair has to be a certain way. In girls particularly, this can unleash a whole complex of destructive self-experiences that can lead to eating disorders and all kinds of body distortions in terms of body image.” This needs to stop.

We should strive for girls to feel good about themselves and their natural image at an early age, rather than sexualize them, or make them think they need to be like Barbie dolls to be beautiful.

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