Dress-up speedball

13 Jan

Tiara or mitre for a really fabulous pope?

January is a month that many Americans have earmarked as the one when they will adopt a new lifestyle, amputate old habits or start making little changes.  It’s a month where budgets start anew and students have a clean semester.  For me, it’s the month when I first became aware of child pageants and the month when we start getting ready for “the season” at work.

My first glimpse into child pageants started here

Like most people I don’t think I ever gave child pageants much thought until the mysterious death of young JonBenet Ramsey dominated the headlines in January 1997.  If people were interested in the investigation, they became absolutely rapt once it was revealed that she was a child beauty queen.  The pictures of a tarted up tiny girl in full, professional makeup and perfectly scaled miniature Vegas-style show girl dresses with sparkly heels was both disturbing and, if I am being honest, fascinating.  From there the American public has become morbidly curious, not only about the fun-sized beauty queens themselves, but about what kind of horrific parents put their tots on parade, who actually sits in the audience at these spectacles, what kind of people become judges.  This subject has snowballed into a reality-based industry spawning TV shows, HBO documentaries and coffee table books.  And, who didn’t love Little Miss Sunshine?

A little somethin'-somethin' for the coffee table

In 1997 I had no idea that I would one day be working in an ancillary arm of the Pageant Industry.  I am a girl Friday for a jewelry wholesaler specializing in prom, bridal and pageant baubles.  In addition to the oversized rhinestone and crystal jewelry, we also manufacture and sell all manner of tiaras, sceptres and crown themed jewelry.  Who knew?  In the five years that I have been doing this, I have come across lots of pageant folk and there is most certainly a profile.  The Pageant mothers are usually faded beauties who have a lot of vanity tied up in their daughters…and occasionally their sons, too.  They still love hair and make-up, but have usually kinda let it go, by loving donuts more, if you know what I mean.  For a day of shopping at the Mart, a pageant mother is likely to be clad in a velour track suit, platform flip-flops, full jewelry including a toe ring, hair in some kind of up-do and dramatic make-up.  The Dads are usually repressed queens or oddly macho.  My favorite glitzy dad customer has a daughter who is a state pageant winner and went on to Miss America.  I won’t say who she is, but her “sweet” daddy has bragged to me that he has to pick out all of her outfits, down to nail polish and bra choice.  Ewww!

The show Toddlers and Tiaras has done a lot to educate Jane Q. Public about pageant culture.  Have you seen it yet?  My favorite “character” is a little girl, straight from central casting, named Makenzie.  She has a super raspy voice and looks like a pint-sized Delta Burke.  There is no doubt in my mind that in forty years when she’s all growed up, she’ll be wearing a floral print moo-moo with a ciggie hanging out of her mouth.  My friend Allison thinks she’ll be telling a state trooper to kiss her ass because she won’t be puttin’ out the cigarette until she’s good and goddamn ready.  I like that visual.  I digressed….the parents on this show always say that hitting the circuit is a bonding time for their family, just like families that are involved in sports, ballet or any other activity.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, but those just don’t carry the creep factor of twisting together sexual objectification and quality family time like pageants do.

My eyes! My eyes!

Its gotta be fairly normal for children to be piqued by pageants though.  Right?  I loved to play dress up as a wee one.  But actually getting involved in the lifestyle?  This is something other; this is dress-up on a speedball.  With a liberal dose of parental emotional agenda heaped on top.  It just gets weird.  It seems to be a largely low-income and small town deal, which makes the expense involved a real head-scratcher.  Entry fees can be a few hundred dollars, but it’s all the other stuff that is truly staggering.  Dresses can hover in the $1000 range, then there’s paying for professional makeup and hair, coaching, head shots, staying in motels, not to mention the countless bags of pizza flavored Combos that must be purchased while on the road.  Parents also spring big for spray tans, hair falls and flippers. Flippers are those grotesque fake teeth that the little girls wear to disguise their pediatric dental situations.  Usually, they just make them look like Matt Dillon in There’s Something About Mary.

Matt Dillon in a big boy flipper

I could go on and on about pageant stuff.  The truth is that for every seven head cases I’ve met, there’s a normal one.  Last year’s Miss Atlanta, Laura Stone, is one of them.  BUT, as colorful as the pageant moms and daughters are, they are NOTHING compared to the brides that somehow score a mart pass.  That story is for another post!

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3 Responses to “Dress-up speedball”

  1. Sharon Y January 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Dear friend and co-worker, believe or not I used to judge those pageants! When I worked 3 floors up we carried mini-pageant gowns and lots of other items to make even the homeliest small town girl a princess, at least in her parents mind. Once we get back to work we can chat about all my experiences in the world of flippers and falls.

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