Meet Eden Wood. In American child beauty pageant circles, she is the reigning queen.
And now, she's coming to Australia and with her, pageant organisers, Universal Royalty.
A veritable shit storm has erupted over this and despite there being about a zillion voices already competing to be heard on the contentious issue that is child pageantry, I'm going to throw my hat in the ring, too.
That photo up there? Makes me want to vomit. And just based on the fact that you read The Little Mumma, I'm going to take a wild guess and say that it makes you want to vomit, too.
This child is FIVE YEARS OLD.
I don't have a daughter. But if I did, there is nothing in the known universe that could convince me to allow her to participate in such a competition.
I was a precocious child. I was a performer. I wanted to sing and dance, I wanted to be an actress and I loved nothing better than putting on Mum's lipstick and clomping around the house in her high heels. But that rite of passage kind of behaviour exists in a whole other realm as compared to what is being represented in the above picture of little Eden. When I was done clomping, I went outside and made mudpies. And nobody gave me a score out of ten.
But let me just think for one minute about what might drive a mother to enter her daughter in a beauty pageant. Is it because she thinks her kid is the most beautiful in the world?
Because I have been there.
When LD was a very small baby, I was convinced that he was the most beautiful baby on the planet. At the supermarket one day, I bought a magazine on the strength of the cover which announced a most beautiful baby competition. I entered my beautiful baby and I rallied friends to vote online for him. He did not win and I was filled with resentment when I clapped eyes on the child who did. Her? She wasn't half as cute as LD. I couldn't believe he hadn't even made the top 10. Who was running this thing? Clearly, it was rigged.
I never entered either of my kids in such a competition again.
Here's the thing. Entering LD required only that I send in a snapshot. He was blissfully unaware that he was even entered and certainly had no residual feelings about having lost.
In the pageant world, the child is primped and then paraded. Winning is the goal. Not winning has to be upsetting. And even if the child isn't upset, you can bet that Mum would be unable to conceal her own feelings of disappointment.
Unless you're the winner, what's left after your child competes is ugly. Pageant or cutest baby or whatever.
It's all ugly.
Does it suck to lose at a game of tennis, too? Sure, I did that plenty of times as a kid. But it never sent me to the mirror to wonder what it was about my face or body that made me lose.
Another admission. It's not completely incomprehensible to me why a mum might enter her kid in a pageant in order to reclaim her own youth or get the coveted crown that she herself could never quite claim.
Both LD and Zee are signed with my acting agent. In case either of them wants to perform, I know from experience that it is easier to build a career if you start early.
But here's where I think I differ from the pageant mums. Taking my kid to an audition makes me uneasy. What I originally thought might be 'a bit of fun' and a way to top up their bank accounts for the future is, in practise, uncomfortable. I am used to putting myself up for consideration, knowing full well that I may be chosen or I may not. When I think about the person being considered as my small child, I feel very conflicted. Why would I put my child in a position where strangers could weigh up whether he was 'right' or 'a good fit' or any other criteria by which they sought to judge him?
I don't like the idea of my child being reduced to a commodity.
There is some comfort in knowing that LD has no clue that he is being judged when he auditions. He is completely unaware that the other kids in the waiting room are in direct competition with him. I never prepare, push or prompt before or during an audition.
And still, it all feels….weird.
So then, I have to wonder how women can subject their daughters to this kind of competitiveness, chasing the prize so aggressively without feeling conflicted about the impact this might be having on their child.
I noted on the Universal Royalty website that for only $45 per photo, you can have your child's photo retouched – "We can add Teeth, Eyelashes, Change Backgrounds, Remove Blemishes, Change Colors and lots more." It's also only $45 to enter your child in the Beautiful Faces Photo Contest. Presumably, a retouched photo (now with added teeth!) stands a better chance of winning.
From the outset, it seems clear the message is that whoever you are is not enough. To be the best you can be requires fake lashes and rhinestones, blushed cheeks and bronzed limbs and even then, there's nothing a bit of photo retouching can't improve upon.
Once again, we're talking about CHILDREN.
I started this piece all prepared to be up in arms about child beauty pageants (which I still am) but have ended up considering whether choices I have made for my children are the right ones. I wonder if I'm a hypocrite.
But then I look at that picture of little Eden Wood.
The culture of child beauty pageants is not one I want to see flourish here in Australia.
Check out Pull The Pin an organisation against beauty pageants for children. There are public rallies happening across Australia tomorrow.
There is a difference trying to obtain opportunties for your kids, there is promoting your kids, and there is being a stage Mum.
Then there is the above. That is in stark contrast to anything I have just mentioned.
When I look at the above picture – all I see is child abuse.
As an American, I honestly hope we never manage to export this atrocious product to another country. How can anyone look at that photo and not see someone is sexualizing a child? I agree with what Ladybird said–it’s child abuse and it’s revolting and irresponsible.
Like you, I LOVED to play dress up as a child. But this goes well beyond trying Mommy’s lipstick & high heels.
Angie, this thing has been on the periphery of my mind for a little while now but thanks for posting and reminding me to check out what’s going on with it.
I could rant for paragraphs but really you’ve said it much better than I ever could. And don’t think that getting your kid some acting work makes you a hypocrite. As you rightly pointed out, there’s a world of difference between that and turning your child into a sex object for your own perverse purposes (and I think a lot of those parents who put their kids in these pageants need psychological help).
It is also fun when you’re a kid to dress up and use makeup for fun and I remember doing so too but this pageant crap is a whole other world. In a way, I’m glad shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” are out there to expose this shit for what it really is.
I know we’ve often talked about wanting a little girl to add to our families. If there is one thing I am very happy about it is that I will never have to worry about a daughter of mine constantly evaluating herself in terms of how she looks to others or whether she is “pretty” enough. When we get down to it, life is all about looks for women – sadly, this is still the case, no matter how far we’ve come. These disgusting pageants are just an ickier manifestation of that problem and they should be stamped out.
By the way, I’ve still managed to rant and I’ve “Liked” that link on Facebook for Pull the Pin.
Yeah, logically, I know the difference between the two is vast. But writing this made me wonder why I even got LD an agent in the first place. It made me examine my own agenda. And there is one. That’s the honest truth.
In saying that, LD has auditioned a handful of times in his life. The opportunities are few and far between. I am certainly not pursuing the agent to get him more work.
Indeed, this has NOTHING to do with playing dress ups.
Unfortunately, Victoria, I think Universal Royalty (what the fuck does that name even mean??) will get inundated with entries here. There is no shortage of parents wanting to turn their tiny daughters into showgirls.
I know, Mel, navigating that terrain with a daughter makes me feel nervous – although not nervous enough to stop wishin’ and hopin’ for a little girl next. Third times a charm?
But yes, it’s frightening to think about raising a girl in this age of ‘raunch’ culture. I also worry about how best to shape my sons’ views of women when they are bombarded at every turn by imagery of women that is offensive.
The Mums of these little girls – are they not just screaming for acceptance? Screaming for the whole world to adore their child? To adore what they have produced? I love my daughter with all my heart and I think she’s gorgeous and I don’t need anyone else’s approval of that because I am happy with myself. Most days 🙂
It’s a total disgrace honey, I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. It makes me so angry I want to cry when I see children paraded around like this. I know with Ash’s dance concert last year I felt quite uneasy with the amount of make-up she was required to wear, I get that their faces need to be seen from the stage, but I felt that the foundation, blush, eyeshadow, black eyeliner & fire-engine red lipstick she was required to wear was total overkill. She, at 5, wasn’t even in the youngest group, there was little 3 year olds that also had to wear the same amount of makeup!
Let our kids be kids!
There is definitely a whole lot of vicarious living going on, Julie, yes. Frightening.
And hell yeah, you’re daughter is gorgeous and so is her mumma! xx
I did dance classes and I think we wore some make-up but it was nothing like what we see these days. I certainly don’t remember looking like a doll.
At least with dance concerts, the spectacle is not the girls themselves but rather the dancing and a little bit of make-up and a sequin here and there just adds to the fun and performance. Although I think some dance schools are dangerously close to blurring the line now.
Three year olds in fire-engine red lipstick? No.
Yep, & it had to fire-engine red, I’d bought Ash a bit more of a dulled down red (less street walker like, lol!!) for her dress rehearsal & was told to get fire-engine red!
I agree with dance concerts it is about the dancing, thank God! There’s definitely a blurred line, I had to stop Ash from prancing around the house singing that God-awful Kesha song “Take it Off” cos one of the older groups did a dance to it!!!
It is just wrong for all the reasons you mentioned and more.
It is sexualizing little girls in most cases.
I can’t imagine I would feel differently /react if my daughter was alive but yes dancing/jazz competition rules on beauty & hair are a little over the top.
PS MY 74 Lime Street image arrived and I love it 🙂
I remember you saying that! How insane!?!?!
And yes, B did the sound production for a dance school’s end of year concert and two 7 year olds sang “Since You Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson. Did it not occur to anyone that this was demented?
I have very strong views on child beauty pageants, and vomit-inducing is an understatement. They are revolting. Child abuse? Yes.
I know it’s not the same, but as a tall, skinny teenager, BC (before curves), several people close to me were really pushing for me to model, and I’d also been approached in the street (cliché?). I wasn’t interested, though. I’m sure it’s fine for some girls, but I sort of intuited that I wouldn’t be happy if I pursued it. I didn’t want to be part of an industry that values people solely based on appearances.
I see child beauty pageants as an extreme form of that. Just vile. My wish for my daughters is to grow up happy and comfortable in their own skin. To feel beautiful, the perfect way they already are. I don’t see how that’s possible for girls in the pageantry circles to know those feelings, and that makes me incredibly sad for them. And mad as hell as their parents.
Oh, and a few acting gigs/auditions here and there is not the same at all. You are not a hypocrite! I can understand how writing about the above would prompt you to examine your motives, but you can relax. Your boys are being raised with a million times more love and sensitivity than those poor pageant kids are. x
It’s wrong no matter how you look at it. There is no place for judging children on their looks. Horrible, horrible, damaging stuff.
I’m sorry about your daughter. xxx
Well, the modelling industry has its own set of problems. I can definitely see why you would have avoided those advances, Mad.
But yes, there is nothing redeeming about beauty pageants for children. Absolutely zero. It’s all hideous.
I do know that. Of course I do. But when I am judging other mothers for their choices (and on this occasion, I am, yes, I am judging them), I guess the least I can do is be fully transparent about my own choices. Am I similar to these women in any way? How? And how does that make me feel?
I just needed to be honest.
And that’s why we all love you!
Strange I didnt see this post until just now. Yet the night b4 you wrote this I dreamt about pagent kids. I woke up feeling ill.
Have you seen the one where the mother injects her 8 YEAR OLD daughter with botox???? I shit you not, disgusting.
talk about creating a kid with a complex.
If i had children I couldnt put them through that!