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“You don’t want to look like the turd in the punchbowl, do ya?” What an audio visual delight that statement is. A mere snippet of the verbal trash that comes out of the mouths of pageant parents on Foxtel’s Toddlers & Tiaras. Classy huh?  If you haven’t seen it yet, young girls vie for cash, crowns, titles and sashes in pageant events in the US. The show
follows pageant families in preparation for contest day. It’s serious business.

The mums take the prize! Talk about controlling, competitive, pushy bitches. Go glitz or go home is their common catch cry. Most of the girls seem to enjoy the whole charade and, they say they feel like Cinderella, but one suspects some are cajoled and manipulated by their egotistical mothers. It’s seems a very huge deal to them.

One mother, who paid $1200 for a custom dress, put her 8 year daughter on a fruit diet simply because her dress was ‘snugger’ than the mum liked. ‘My mum wants me to be nice, healthy and thin’, said the cute, young, perfectly weighted child. The same mum wants her daughter to do more pageants, if her daughter fits into the dresses. Slap! Mum’s going to put her on a diet if she doesn’t. What’s this doing to the psychology of her beautiful pre-teen child? Um I’m not pretty unless I’m thin? She didn’t win 1st prize. The child cries into her mother’s chest and, later mouths the words, ‘I lost’ to the camera. ‘If you get to win, you’re really happy,’ she adds. For this gorgeous child, mum used a well known expletive to show her disappointment. What is the gratification they get? These women will do anything and everything to make sure their child is crowned the winner. It’s horrifying that they seriously equate winning as a measure of their daughter’s beauty.

‘She’s got the whole package’ exclaims an excited pageant mum. Vision a 5 year old girl in a fake tan, fake hair, false eyelashes in bikini and high heels on stage doing a ‘sassy’ walk, wiggling her derriere and winking at the audience. She’s got
the face of an 18 year old on a small petite childs body. Doing the ‘sassy’ walk or wiggle is everyday language to these girls. It’s a word repeatedly used throughout the series. Before these children even reach the stage they have been carefully coached to perform sassy. ‘We practice everyday to go on stage to be sassy and beautiful, ‘said one 4 year old contender. ‘She’s really hard
on herself if she messes up her walk,’ laments her impatient mother. Perhaps pageant people, cute would be a better word?  Sassy
infers some sort of sexiness which these impressionable girls don’t need.  Some parents even go as far as paying professional pageant and dancing coaches to ensure their daughters sassy success and as one mum’s expounds, ‘If they ain’t talking about ya, you’re a nobody.’

Toddlers and Tiaras is an intense series. It raises all sorts of questions about beauty and societies narrow ideal of physical appearance. On the upside, the prizes and cash are bountiful. If she’s beautiful enough to win successive contests, then she’s a parent’s cash cow dream! Sass, smile, wiggle, jiggle, wink, scoot left, and scoot right. Them there are definitely the skills that every little girl needs to succeed in the future. Sarcasm intended!

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