I’m a big fan of Lisa Ling’s series Our America on the OWN network because of it’s depiction of some of the more taboo communities of people in our country. I find that it really tests my personal beliefs and stretches my thoughts, and I believe I’m growing as a person when I watch because I’m gaining new perspective and sometimes empathy for those I might otherwise judge.
Recently, I watched an episode covering the beauty pageant industry – more specifically with our younger girls – and I found it thought provoking for many reasons.
I have three daughters and I often ask myself how I might prepare them best for this high pressure world where their looks unfortunately, do matter. I often wonder how I will prepare them to be strong, confident and very comfortable in their own skin while the world around them is often soÂ judgmental.
Two things that Lisa Ling said in the course of the show resonated with me on this point:
“As I watch Lauryn Taylor revel in the spotlight, I realize that for her, and for many of these girls, feeling beautiful is what it takes for them to feel ok with themselves. It seems like it shouldn’t be this way, but it’s a feeling many women can relate to.” ~ Lisa Ling
“I’m beginning to see that in many ways, life is like a pageant – we strive to meet expectations, we compete for prizes, and we are judged.”~ Lisa Ling
How true she was. I love that about this series of shows. While not portraying the pageant industry as positive overall, she did well to pose it as a potentially positive thing for some girls. Consider for example, those who come from meager means:
“In this fantasy come to life, I catch a glimpse of the promise of pageants – a chance to rise above the ordinary boundaries of everyday life.”
~ Lisa Ling when talking about Eden Wood, the Toddlers and Tiaras star.
Eden Wood is a common face on TLC and the star of the love to hate Toddlers and Tiaras show. Her family, not too long ago, was living in small town America and came from meager means and now they are living life largely with the potential for so much more.
But, I hesitate and feel a sense of dread when I think of how bad it could truly go for Eden being as young as she is, in the line of work she is in. We can only hope her mother maintains perspective – and there were glimmers of that in the documentary.
Toward the end, Lisa makes a poignant statement and then poses an interesting question:
Â ”I think it’s easy for people to criticize a lot of the parents of these pageant kids, but we can’t deny the fact that we live in a society where looks matter. Could they be just preparing their daughters for what to expect in the future?”
That really sat with me for a bit. But, while this did give me pause, I think I will prepare my girls in a different way.
It’s not to say that I don’t think there isn’t value in pageants at a certain age, because there was a story of two sisters who were teens that were picked on – one due to illness, the other for being the “smart kid”, but when they started pageants, they found a community where they feel they fit in and truly just love it. So, in that case it seems to have worked out well.
What I find difficult is having a child being dressed in make-up, tanned, with hair pieces and wearing outfits that are borderline sexy at such a young age. I think the boundaries to inappropriate have been crossed and there should be some scaling back. There should be some refocusing on age-appropriateness for each stage of pageantry.
You don’t see Mrs. America wearing leopard print booty shorts on stage…or have I missed a shift in the classiness in recent years? Additionally, I think parents should ask themselves if they are really doing this because their children love it or if it’s their misguided attempt to get acceptance and attention for themselves – because I do believe there is some of that happening.
What are your thoughts on beauty pageants for young girls?Â
Image: Nicole Abalde