One of the most notorious shows in the entire pageant world is “Toddlers and Tiaras.” The series follows child pageant stars and their families as they prepare to compete. While a guilty pleasure for me and many queens, the series has not helped the pageant world’s reputation. Often, contestants with helicopter parents are shown yelling at their children for not landing a routine or scoring a perfect 10. Keep in mind most of these children are under the age of 12.
(Janeyah, 3, during her opening introduction for “Toddlers and Tiaras.”)
I feel the television show is not an accurate representation of child pageants. However, it is the only resource many people have to form an opinion about the subject. As someone who has coached contestants in this age range, I can tell you “Toddlers and Tiaras” is way off in its representation of pageantry.
During my gap year from school, I coached a girl named Lily. She had never done a pageant before and when she heard I did them, she was all about trying it. Her first one was like the typical glitz pageants seen on the show. However, it was anything but drama. The day of the pageant Lily was nervous. But, once we got there and she started talking to some of the other girls her age, she quickly made friends.
She also fully embraced the stage. After dolling her up and getting her in her gown (that I bedazzled by hand) she took to the stage for the first time. While she had no idea what she was doing, she did not care and neither did I. She was having an absolute blast just like Tom Hanks is having below.
Overall, this experience is one of many at child pageants. The experience painted by “Toddlers and Tiaras” is one I have see by only a couple of contestants at any given pageant. Most of the time, the girls are just there to have fun. Many of moms are sweethearts who just want their daughters to feel beautiful. In fact, the moms are having just as much fun as their daughters.
Do not get me wrong, “Toddlers and Tiaras” is not all drama and sensationalism. In recent years, I have seen the show move towards painting a more accurate picture of pageants. They even featured Lily’s friend in the opening and she is a doll. However, after the backlash from the first couple of seasons, they are climbing a very tall mountain in order to combat the stereotype created by the show.
Every pageant experience is different. However, as illustrated in the picture below, child pageants have served as nothing but a positive experience for my clients and myself as a coach.
(Lily after the 2015 Miss Frozen Christmas Pageant. She won Supreme Ambassador Queen, Charity Queen, Early Bird Queen, and first runner-up in her division.)