LITTLE MISS PERFECT: CHILD BEAUTY PAGEANTS

Spindle Log

June 2011, Spindle Magazine Issue 4

“She is beauty and she is grace,

She is queen of 50 states,

She is elegance and taste,

She is Miss United States.”

Sings a doe eyed man staring in adoration, with just a smidge of jealousy, at the weeping my size Barbie, draped in a sash with her tiara firmly in place and a smile stretched from ear to ear (whether through happiness or pain because she can’t move her face anymore is unclear).

The beauty pageant is a staple of American culture that epitomises beauty, perfection and riding around atop a float. Hello to big teeth, bigger hair and a face held on with hairspray and Vaseline.

Then there’s the offshoot of that: the kiddie pageant; the undeniably creepy and ethically debatable institution that brought to us children’s swimwear sections, frankly questionable male judges and the ever terrifying Pageant Mum, often eX beauty queens gone to graze who now live vicariously through their children and rule over them with an iron first. And it might be worth mentioning now flippers’: false teeth glued to gums recently bereft of their milk teeth.

Now the utterly hideous phenomenon that made a special generation of even mini-er Lolitas hit the stage is establishing itself in the UK.

Enter ten year old Miss Chloe Stedman, second runner up of the UK’s first ever Mini Miss UK, who won over the entire Spindle Team within minutes of meeting them and is staunchly opposed to the plasticity of the American pageants, insisting the UK do it differently. “Sometimes in the American ones their mums say ‘You’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that, you’ve got to have the fake stuff; it makes you stand out, it makes you be beautiful”, but really it doesn’t. It makes people think bad about them, about the kids but really it’s not the kids fault, it’s the parents.”

Not a toddler-in-tiaras-throwing-tantrums type Chloe entirely shuns the stereotypes and is dismissive of the shows they thrive on across the pond: far from being a victim of the dictatorial ‘Pageant Mum’, it was Chloe’s own interest in pageants that got her family involved on the circuit; those costly gowns that mother’s have been known to spend thousands on, have been found on Ebay for as little as £50; and Chloe is involved in pageants, such as Miss True Beauty, which ban make up on the younger children, as her mother Alison tells us.

“They were allowed a little bit of lip gloss but that was about it. They all had to be natural beauties… They were allowed to wear little high heels. The dress was normally to the knees with the finale gowns to the ground. Nothing higher than above the knees.”

Chloe even has ideas of how she can show the Americans the folly of their ways. “They have fake teeth and they have fake tans and everything. Well I had an idea what we can do; I was thinking I could get a group of girls that do pageants over in England to go over to the American ones to do the American pageants so then we could show the Americans that you don’t need all that make up and fake stuff when it’s just fun making new friends and you don’t need to always wear fake ‘cause there’s no point.”

However, despite the positive message Chloe and her family emanate about their experience of the UK’s pageant circuit to date, it’s not like that for all the other children involved.

“There are some pushy parents. There were a few little girls that looked a bit unhappy like didn’t want to be there. I mean there was one little girl that did the catwalks that didn’t smile at all. She didn’t look like she was enjoying it,” Alison says. “Some of them are forced into it, aren’t they,” Jeanette, Chloe’s grandmother, agrees.

Noting that other mothers they have met have spent up to £1000 each on gowns, both Chloe’s mother and grandmother are wary of an inevitable move towards the more traditional, Americana style pageant. “A couple years time it will be like the Americans ‘cause they make money,” Jeanette warns.

“At the moment it’s nice and it’s elegant,” Alison says. “Americans are too over the top with the little short dresses and the bikini swimwear.” “If they change it, it ruins it,” Jeanette adds. Should this be the case, Chloe will be pulled from the pageant circuit.

For Chloe and other little girls like her that stand to gain from a chance to compete in pageants that promote a healthy, natural beauty outlook, let’s hope that the UK’s pageant scene doesn’t take start taking its cues from its American counterpart. There’s only so much Fake Bake a girl can take.