Confessions Of A Pageant Queen
Before I go any further please let me say my feelings on pageants are mixed, but overall I do believe they do more harm than good. More precisely the glitz pageants are, well, disgusting. Right now the two popular kinds of pageants are : Natural pageants (no or very little makeup, promoting ‘be yourself on stage’, no over the top costumes…) and glitz (fake teeth, retouched photos, wigs, fake tans on 3 year olds, think scary doll). Glitz pageants are what I have major issues with since it is very little about letting a child be or look like a child.
When it comes to pageants I have seen it all: the crazy stage moms, yelling at the judges, professional make up artists, and more. My first pageant was when I was 7 and my parents were hooked. At this point I was enrolled in a dance school where we had dance class every night and all day on the weekends unless we were at a dance competition or a pageant. Not long after and many tears since I hated it there my family took me out of that dance school and not because I wanted to leave, but because they got fed up with the politics and though I was being cheated out of “what I deserved”. What that was to this day I have no idea, but as a child I believed it as well. This set the stage for a pretty interesting idea of my sense of self. After that I ended up only taking singing, modeling (group and private), and two dance classes a week.
The pageants were another story. Yes, I loved competition. Being on stage was great, but everything else was not my thing. I hated the prep and the endless practicing that was involved. Although to this day my family insists that I loved it. During all of this my family told me I could quit whenever I wanted. This wasn’t really the case. When I would tell them they brushed it off saying that I “didn’t really mean it” or at least they didn’t think I did when I talked to them about it years later. When I cried, refused to do what they wanted, or just plain didn’t do what they wanted because I wanted to quit I was yelled, no, screamed at. I will never forget sitting on the stairs in my house when I was about 9 crying because I was done with pageants and wanted to join an after school program that interfered with my dance class. My Mom screamed at me that if I would “be a quitter and we are not a family of quitters.”
The parents themselves were usually set in the ballroom of some hotel or a mall. Prep work always started the night before with the endless packing: Makeup? Check (I had more than my mom and grandma combined). Shoes? Check. Photos? Check. Gown? Check. Sport Wear outfit? Check. Talent costume? Check. Music? Check, check, check. The list was endless. There was also the hours spent curling my premed hair. Usually my grandma would pop in a movie and if all went well my hair would be finished when the movie was over. Not fun. The next day was always stressful. Parents were always on edge getting fidgety kids to get dressed, hair done, and makeup ready. Tension ran high and kids were always getting yelled at. If I was traveling with others in the pageant our parents usually got a professional makeup artist and several of the parents did hair professionally.
When we went to pageants there were always people who we knew. The pageant world where I was from was close knit so many of the faces we knew. This also lead to some interesting predicaments. Kids gravitate to kids and we wanted to talk, play, and have fun. This was usually frowned upon by the parents since you might give away your answer for the Q&A or some other secret that they might use. Even worse were the parents were video cameras who taped others and not just their children. They were the ones who were trying to “steal” other people’s routines.
Usually it was a full day of competition, but sometimes it did spill over to two days. Why so long? Well some pageants over did it with categories. Beauty, talent, photogenic, and Sportswear were the standard categories to compete in. Then there were the other categories like international wear, western, swim, novelty, holiday, your choice, interview, me and my doll, commercial, and singing. Oh, and the additional categories such as prettiest face, best smile, best eyes, best outfit, best hair, best whatever else you can think of. Bit of an overload. Many times it took the toll on the younger girls and they didn’t want to perform. This is the point when mothers would drag their kid on stage kicking and screaming.
So, now the real juicy stuff: the parents. Yes, this is by far the best part of the pageant and would make a much better show than Toddlers and Tiaras. The parents, well, the life blood for any parent is the score card. This is the where the judges score and comment on everything from smile and hair of the contestant to their performance and costume. Parents read them. They study them. They use them to give critics or generally complain about the judge and their qualifications to be a judge.
Backstage I have heard parents talk shit about other children and in one over the top episode rush the stage. Yes, remember that dance studio I took classes with every day? Well, a few years after I left I attended a pageant hosted by former modeling teacher of mine and that group showed up. They competed and didn’t win everything that they believed that they should. Their solution: rush the stage, pull the microphone out of the director’s hand, and scream about how the pageant was fixed. Class act. Although this was an extreme it wasn’t uncommon to see some less than gracious behavior from the parents.
The biggest issue that I saw was the divide between the parents and child. Explaining the situation from the child’s point of view is difficult because, well, it’s very mixed. Yes, we enjoyed being on stage most of the time, but that is only a small part of pageants.
How much did all of this cost? Truly, I have no idea since my parents paid it all, but keep in mind here are just some of the things that went into a pageant: modeling classes, dance class, make up, dresses and costumes for each category, photos, entry costs, jewelry, shoes… However I am confident that if I added up everything (classes, pageant cost, travel, and costumes) I could have easily paid for college.
Practicing for hours became a second job and more important to school. Some of my fellow competitors were pulled out of school to practice for a “big” competition. There were many things that I saw that others hated going through myself. Hair, makeup, practice, the never-ending world of pageants took over our social lives. The big disconnect between parents and kids is that children have different needs than adults. Kids need brakes, time to play, and naps. Being 100% focused all the time isn’t in a child’s nature and the parents don’t see that or seem to ignore it. Many times the parents look past their child’s needs and justify it as “my child’s different” or this is “what they really want.” Yes, it may be what the child wants, but not in the same way. Kids do it partially to make their parents happy, but the parents fail to realize that kids need to be kids.
On the other side of it parents seemed to really distance themselves from the reality of the pageant world. Their child was a star and pageants were gateways into their child’s career. However much the child protested was overlooked. From my experience my parents would criticize other parents who dragged their crying child onto the stage. They would never do that. However when I would get fussy and upset oh, well. The show must go on. To this day my parents still haven’t come to terms with it. Any time I try to talk about it they change the subject.
In the end am I happy I did them? Yes, it created the person I am today. However what happened in my family did create a divide with me and my family. And what I see today with photoshopping pictures of small children and creating a very unrealistic vision of what beauty is can’t be healthy. Afterall what is it shaping these young, impressionable children into?
Your thoughts? What do you think about pageants?