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Growing Up Too Fast

January 17th, 2011 by Jessika

(Photo by Robynlou8 via Flickr)

There aren’t very many shows I can’t stand to watch. But a few days ago I found myself turning the television off, because I was disgusted.

TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras takes viewers behind the scenes of America’s beauty pageants, introducing viewers to little girls who pretend to be grown ups.

“You got to work hard for your money, sister,” says Stephany Ellis in a season one episode of her 2-year-old daughter Daylee Ellis who has only won about $150 from pageants. Daylee’s sister Destiny Ellis, 5, has won close to $6000.

But putting a child through a pageant is expensive. Just one dress can cost anywhere from $800 (if mom makes it) to $3000, says Stephany. That figure doesn’t even take into account the cost of makeup, accessories, hair or professional coaching.

Some parents will do anything for their children.

“I want to have a little break,” says Karmen Walker, 6, in a season one episode to her mom Heather Walker after getting upset because she cannot wear a long dress in the Southern Celebrity Wonderland Pageant. (Only the older girls can wear long dresses.)

To change Karmen’s mind about taking a break, Heather has Karmen count all of the crowns she has won. By the time Karmen gets to no. 87, she has calmed down and agrees to continue prepping for her next pageant.

During the episode, Karmen continues to act out, making it obvious that she doesn’t want to be there. Every time she starts to whine, though, her mom makes it a point to say that Karmen is not usually like this. She must be tired.

“I’m smiling on the inside,” says Karmen, who looks like she just lost a family member, during her interview after winning queen of the 6 to 7-year-olds. The little girl is upset because she didn’t win Grand Supreme, the ultimate pageant crown.

The Grand Supreme title went to Destiny.

“Every mom that has a daughter competing in pageants is a stage mom,” says Stephany, Destiny’s mom.

While these stage moms may have good intentions, somewhere between all the makeup and coaching those intentions can get lost.

“Baby, I wish we could get you lips for Christmas,” says Rebecca Aaron in a season one episode as she is putting lip gloss on 11-year-old Madison Aaron’s lips in preparation for the Chitlin’ Strut pageant.

Madison is not your typical pageant princess. She isn’t super skinny. She has red hair and by pageant standards she looks, well, plain.

Rebecca fully acknowledges her daughter is at a disadvantage in the pageant world. She does Madison’s hair and makeup herself and coaches Madison without help.

That is about to change, though, because Rebecca and her husband Steve Aaron vow to spend more money on Madison in the next pageant after seeing their daughter come in last place. Madison lost to Aubrey Burgess, 10, whose parents spare no expense when it comes to pageants. Aubrey is groomed, spray tanned and coached like the best of them.

“It hurts to be beautiful,” says Pam Sturkie, Aubrey’s stylist.

Aubrey dreams all that pain will one day win her the title of Miss South Carolina or even Miss America. But I can’t help but wonder if sacrificing this little woman’s childhood will be worth it.


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