Cute baby contests have been around for decades. They probably began at fairs where contests of all kinds were a staple entertainment. It was good, clean American fun. But then, like most things that start out wholesome, our society twisted and tweaked the idea until they became sordid and disgusting (wet T-shirt contests, any high school popularity bullshit like Best Hair, etc.).
Contests aren’t simply entertainment; they have also been used as an effective marketing ploy since about the beginning of time. For example, the first Gerber baby contest was held in 1928. So began a long, sad tradition of women displaying their infants with the hopes that their bundles really are as adorable as everyone says they are. Do they need to be reassured that their children aren’t actually ugly little trolls? Of course not. These loving mothers are looking for cash.
Over the years, “Cutest Baby” has morphed into “Toddlers & Tiaras”, a show whose tagline could easily be: It’s never too early to teach our daughters to be narcissistic, catty little bitches. Honestly, I’ve never seen the show, but here’s a sampling of the photos that come up if you do a Google image search for “Toddlers & Tiaras”. Very fucked up.
I think beauty pageants in general are stupid and demoralizing, but pageants that involve deranged mothers dressing up their little girls like dolls and then trotting them out for public consumption is repugnant. The mothers disgust me and the children seem like aliens, so when I saw the following CNN headline, the hypocrisy of it compelled me to read the article (quoted here in its entirety).
After one contestant dressed as Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman,” another, Isabella Barrett, was filmed singing LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” at an event.
Barrett’s mother, Susanna, has since filed a lawsuit against TMZ, Huffington Post and Daily Mail Online, among other media outlets, for running stories that she alleges “sexualize” her 5-year-old daughter, according to court documents obtained by CNN.
“After this firestorm, I quickly protected my daughter by having cease and desist orders sent to most media outlets that ran the story,” Susanna said in a statement provided to CNN, adding, “I intend to clear my daughter’s name.”
Barrett also detailed her version of the events shown in a video published by TMZ. (In the video, Isabella can be seen singing along to “Sexy and I Know It” at a DJ booth with a microphone in her hand.)
News organizations reported that the Barrett’s were at a nightclub, however, Susanna said in her statement that she and her daughter were actually at “a pet friendly charity event at an American bistro restaurant in New York City at 7:19 p.m. It was a private well-lit event with vendor tables and pets in attendance.”
Little Miss Sunshine, if you’ve never seen it, is a wonderful movie about Olive, a seven-year-old girl who desperately wants to be in a beauty contest. Olive is not a beautiful little girl, something her dad reminds her of, inadvertently but often. Like most parents, he loves his daughter and wants her to be happy so he gives in to help make her dream come true. (There’s much more to the story, but it has nothing to do with the point I will eventually get to.)
Olive’s father (Greg Kinnear) doesn’t know anything about the Little Miss Sunshine pageant other than it means something to her. He’s actually a little irritated by this parental imposition, expecting a typical school-play like production. Then the show starts. Sitting in the audience, he sees little girls dressed like trollops and prancing around the way they might in a pedophile’s daydreams. Then he notices the creepy voyeurs sitting in the audience with him. You can tell by the look on his face when he finally understands what’s going on. His love for his daughter, his need to protect her, has finally broken through his self-absorption. When it’s Olive’s turn in the talent segment, he (along with the movie audience), is suddenly anxiety-stricken. He’s afraid she will be humiliated and hurt and it’s breaking his heart.
Olive comes on stage in her everyday clothes and it’s awkward. Then the music plays and Olive begins to dance. There’s no attempt at childish seduction, no coy winking at the audience, just a little seven-year-old girl dancing her silly happy dance. She was beautiful.
As for Isabella, her mother should be ashamed for corrupting her daughter’s childhood. If she really wants to clear her Isabella’s name, let her be adopted by someone who understand the meaning of responsible parenting.