The latest U.S. export to land on foreign shores? Child pageants. The BBC3 documentary Baby Beauty Queens follows contestants in the first-ever Mini Miss UK contest, and, as Eleanor M. blogs for The F word: it's "surely a new low."
If you've seen Toddlers & Tiaras, you already know the deal: Makeup, fake tans, elaborate coifs.
According to Eleanor:
The programme itself follows three contestants, Madison, Sasha and Tyla. Each is desperate, (or rather, they are told they are desperate) to win the title.
Tyla, however, blew Madison right out of the water. Also nine, she is the youngest girl in Britain to wear contact lenses (glasses are, of course, ugly), she has highlights in her hair, and, aged seven, had plastic surgery.
Yes, apparently Tyla's ears stuck out, and had to be changed. In the clip below, you can witness the tone of the documentary, which certainly does its best to paint the contestants — and the mothers, for no fathers are pictured — in a negative light. There's more where this came from on YouTube.
As the little girls prepare for the pageant, there's no joy, no laugther, no "child"-like giddiness. Just tons of makeup. One contestant's mother says, "They remind me of little drag queens, really."
In addition to this new documentary, there's a new book from PowerHouse called High Glitz, featuring portraits of child pageant contestants. The photographs debuted earlier this year at a gallery in The Netherlands.
While the pageant culture is looked upon with a mix of fascination and disdain, blogger Eleanor (who is a "is a 17-year-old feminist from Edinburgh") is also worried. She writes:
It broke my heart to think of these children (none of whom won) as they left the venue. At an age where my biggest body hang up was wondering when my next tooth would come out, what would these girls now think of themselves? That they were ugly? Or indeed, that it mattered? That they were worthless, because their only ‘talent' had been beauty, and they had failed at it? Which would grow up to suffer from eating disorders, (which are affecting younger and younger children), or to believe that fake tans and plastered-on smiles are more important than intelligence, wit, compassion and love?
Well, we can only hope that these baby beauty queens will turn out okay — and that just like other American stuff which washes up on on distant shores — McDonald's; Coca-Cola; Madonna — pageants won't be taken too seriously by too many.