It has been a rough summer. Some dear family members are dealing with serious health issues, I’ve been struggling to get in shape, and I’ve been dogged with a bad case of the blahs for months. All that is about to change.
Toddlers & Tiaras is back, and life has meaning again.
Toddlers & Tiaras was a reality show that aired on TLC from 2008 to 2013. Each episode followed several children and their families as they prepped for and competed in beauty pageants specifically designed for very young girls and babies. If you’ve been hanging around the blog for a while, you’ll know that watching this show was a guilty pleasure for me.
The big-wigs at TLC (an acronym that used to stand for The Learning Channel, but now stands for Trashy, Low-down, Circus-sideshow) have finally came to their senses and resurrected Toddlers. The first new episode airs tonight.
These pageants have very little to do with the legitimate pageant world, except for the obvious – beauty. The Miss America pageant world stresses poise, charitable work and talent along with physical beauty. The toddler version is all about over-the-top makeup, hair and costumes, coupled with an elusive but essential quality called “sparkle.” I would be interested to know if many girls make the leap from one world to the next; I suspect not.
The cameras roll through the child’s town and then show her pre-pageant routine at home. Contestants are overwhelmingly little girls and the pageants are primarily in the south and southwestern United States. I watched one show, however, where the child who wanted to be queen broke the mold on both counts: it was a little boy and he was from my hometown in Michigan. I was geeked to see familiar landmarks on the screen, but couldn’t help wondering what kind of therapy this kid will need down the road. I wonder that about most of the contestants. It would be interesting to follow up 10 years later when they’re no longer little and cute, to see what lasting affects this experience has had on them.
In case you’re not familiar with Toddlers & Tiaras and are planning to watch it, here’s a little vocabulary primer to help you understand their special jargon.
Diva: spoiled, obnoxious monster child who does whatever she wants. Surprisingly, this label is pinned on the child by her doting parents. Rather than considering this a character flaw that requires spanking to correct, the parents brag about their young hellion.
Full Glitz: some pageants feature natural beauty, but most are all about the fake. In “full glitz” the children sport spray tans, bleached teeth or fake teeth called “flippers”, Dolly Parton-height teased hair with extensions, false eyelashes and makeup applied with a trowel. The fake package is then encased in a uniform of ruffly ankle socks, white patent leather shoes and a pageant dress so stiffly fluffy, ruffly and rhinestone-encrusted that the child can barely move. It’s clear from the behind-the-scenes footage that many parents have to take out a second mortgage to afford these one-of-a-kind creations.
Beauty Wear: the contestants’ first solo walk on stage. This is their chance to impress the judges with their super-expensive dresses and talent of being able to walk, blow kisses, bat their eyelashes and sparkle all at the same time.
Wow Wear: a second opportunity for each contestant to take the stage and show off costumes for a specific theme like 50s Wear, Western Wear, or High-Priced Call Girl Wear. The child whose parents spend the most money on the most outlandish outfit, complete with lavish props and costumed adult helpers, wows the judges and wins the category.
“Git it baby girl”: what moms yell while they’re prancing around behind the judges, pantomiming the special walk and eyelash-batting smile they want their kid to adopt up on the stage. Most of these stage moms are ruthless barracudas who can barely disguise their ambition or desperate longing to be beauty queens themselves. Watching the parents is perhaps the best part of the show.
Pageant Juice: Red Bull. A legal stimulant that moms give to their kids to counteract the toddler’s natural need for a mid-afternoon nap. This mid-afternoon slump inconveniently falls just when Wow Wear begins.
Pageant Crack: Pixie Sticks – pure sugar with a little flavoring added. This treat is given to boost the child’s energy even more. These come in handy paper straws so they can be tipped into the child’s waiting mouth without disturbing her lipstick.
Pageant Crash: the meltdown that inevitably occurs late in the day when the kid comes down from their Red Bull and sugar-induced high, after being poked, tweaked and urged to sparkle for 12 hours, and when they realize that some other little girl got a bigger trophy.
I wonder if my fascination with this show means that I, like the pageant moms on the show, secretly wish that I was a beauty queen. It’s possible. They didn’t have this kind of thing when I was a kid. Back then parents were concerned with raising kids who were well-behaved, respectful and God-fearing. They were weird that way. Most didn’t know that if they exploited their children when they were young, it would pay off big-time when said child grew up and starting earning serious cash appearing on “Where Are They Now?” and (semi) celebrity body/marriage/substance abuse/love-life rehab shows.
If my mom hadn’t wasted all her time feeding, diapering and raising nine kids and had, instead, invested in me, I’m sure I would have attained the top title of Ultimate Mega Sooper-Dooper Beauty Queen Diva Grand Supreme.
TLC is kicking things off with a Toddlers & Tiaras marathon today so we can get in the mood for the big season-opener tonight. I’m going to call in sick and sit around eating Cheetos in my jammies with my crown and scepter. Shhhh … don’t tell my boss.
Happy Toddler Day to all, and may the sparkle be with you!