If you've ever seen the HBO documentary Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen, then you're well aware of how integral gay men are to child beauty pageants in the South, from emceeing, to judging, to coaching, to hair and makeup. They practically run the whole show. But I've always wondered how these guys deal with old Southern values and bigotry, and whether the parents who enter their little girls into these competitions are accepting of homosexuality, or if it's just a case of cognitive dissonance. Today, Radar has a piece about the prominent gay men in the world of Southern pageantry that's eye-opening, but also left me asking more questions. For example, the writer, Lee Bailey, sort of hypothesizes that the glitzy dresses, big hair, and heavy makeup these kids are subjected to aren't so much about the hyper-sexualization of little girls, but rather are an extension of the drag queen culture some of these men have been influenced by.Michael Galanes, one man interviewed in the piece, says, "People see a four-year-old child in excessive hair and makeup and immediately conclude that that's wrong. But that's a very shallow interpretation. These girls grow, become more articulate, make friends, and come out of their shy shells." Okay, but what about the fact that there are age categories that range from 0 - 18 months, for which infants don hair pieces, blush and stiff, uncomfortable dresses with sharp sparkles and hazardous beading? What shells are they coming out of, besides their embryonic sacks? He goes on: "If JonBenét had been a Brownie, would the Brownies have gotten all the bad press that pageants did?" Um, the last I recall, Brownies teaches little girls how to help senior citizens, tie knots, sew buttons, and make new friends and keep the old, not how to make the "correct" kind of eye contact with a group of people judging them on the way they stand and smile. Don't get me wrong: I love exaggerated femininity as much as the next Dolly Parton or Mariah Carey fan, and I more than love documentaries like Living Dolls, and it's great to read something like, "If you're gay and in pageants, it doesn't matter. It's kind of like Hollywood. Sexuality is very accepted in this business." But I also believe that such a look has to be something that is chosen for an individual by that individual, not by their parents or paid consultants, gay or straight. Queen of Tots [Radar] Earlier: The Best Child Beauty Pageant Coaches Are Queens
I have seen this and what astounded me most was what big business this was for those involved. Certainly Shane and Michael appeared to be doing well, (a lot of the coaching is done at their house) then there's the woman selling the flippers, the people who sell the dresses. I found it so depressing that all this time and money went into these little girls being transformed beyond recognition to parade around in front of other pushy stage mothers and to ultimately be judged. Yuck.