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Darling Divas & Tot Terrors In Tiaras
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Darling Divas & Tot Terrors In Tiaras

I can't help myself - I'm addicted to children's reality pageant shows!

I know many people would think I should be ashamed - and believe me - I fully expected to be disgusted and horrified to see little girls dressed up like hookers being exploited for the benefit of their parents.

But as it turns out, it's nothing like that, and people like me who believed that way probably have not seen an episode. The benefit of a reality series is you get to see the whole story - not just a snapshot of babies performing in full hair and makeup. What I've found is the children who participate love getting dressed up and are excited to perform onstage, or else they try it, don't like it and don't continue, like any sport, club or dance class for kids. Pageants are very similar to any other kiddie-sport but are more individualized, more expensive and require a lot more commitment from the child and the parent.

And yes - there are the Pageant Parents who are obnoxious - but have you ever sat through a high school basketball or soccer game? Those kinds of parents are everywhere and in the pageant world they aren't any better or any worse than in any gymnasium in the country. Additionally, to have a child participate in pageants requires a lot more money, time and effort than most children's activities; most parents won't invest that much into a sport or club if their child isn't really interested in participating.

I was surprised to discover that pageant reality shows are as entertaining and very similar to my favorite reality series The Real Housewives, only the shows move along faster and the tantrums are more age-appropriate. Dynamically they're both situational and have great potential for drama, but the pageant shows’ ever-changing cast members make it easy to become vested in the tots' stories. And another refreshing change from other reality shows: each episode has a conclusion and not a cliff-hanger. Whoo Hoo!

Another aspect I can really appreciate is, unlike the Housewives franchises, pageant shows are framed around achieving a goal rather than wealth, lunch and personal interaction, and the opportunity is available to all, not just a select few. Otherwise they both shows feature fashion, relationships and beauty - only the pageants kids have much smaller egos and much bigger hair.

To be fair, an argument can be made that pageants reward contestants for good looks and the right clothing, but welcome to the real world! Without hair and makeup, they look no more special than any other kid in the neighborhood and despite the 1960's country diva-dos, they are learning valuable life skills like how to win and lose gracefully, carry themselves well, desire success and look people in the eye. They're just doing it with fake eyelashes, nails, spray tans, jeweled, immense ‘cupcake’ dresses and huge hairpieces!

Where the show’s drama heats up is from the fact that you are watching children and the parents who love them perform and compete - and just like any school or team, drama happens. You'll see the sweetest angels and some you swear are the spawn of Satan - and those are the just parents!

Pageant kids practice and work very hard to get pageant-ready, and they come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments, too. One of the amazing facts about child pageants is frequently the ones that are the most difficult off-stage and hardest for parents to deal with are the ones who end up being the best and most talented on-stage. Behind the scenes they are crying, throwing a fit or telling their moms where to put it, but put one foot on stage and magically, as if tapped on the heads by the Attitude Fairy, they are transformed and onstage walks a completely different child.

It will blow you away!

Often the shows will follow the same child through more than one season, and it’s nice to follow them a little and develop favorites! One of mine, Makenzie, is a child most people would kill themselves if expected to raise, but onstage she’s in perfect form, and even her features look different during performances. Her behavior is shocking, but somehow after seeing her a few times she's grown on me and I'm strangely enamored and rooting for her to win.

Just like grown up Real Housewives many of the girls have websites and 'write blogs,' that smell suspiciously like a parent or publicist, particularly since many contestants can’t yet read or write.

Take my advice and give the pageant tots a chance. Watch a couple episodes, or even a few clips - especially if you are already a fan of reality TV, and the Real Housewives series in particular. The pageant genre has Bravo TV written all over it and I'm surprised they haven't incorporated a version as a daytime, more family-friendly extension of beautiful (wee) women and the drama it entails to be one. Sort of a 'Real Housewife' training ground!

All I can tell you is after watching one or two episodes I went from being horrified at the thought of child pageants to feeling neglected and resentful my mom didn't enter me in them when I was a kid!

You may change your mind, too and find the pageants and the performers really 'Sparkle, Baby' for you, too!


Street Talk

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