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A good role model?

Text: Sharon Haywood, AnyBody contributor

 Perfect your child with digital enhancement compliments of an American re-touching company

What Is The Learning Channel Really Teaching Us?

You don’t need to sneak behind the scenes of a fashion magazine photo shoot to catch a glimpse of packaged perfection. Instead, just tune in to Toddlers and Tiaras: a weekly U.S. reality show on The Learning Channel (TLC) that documents the world of children’s beauty pageants. Its cameras reveal that kids apparently need a lot of help being beautiful. False lashes and penciled brows magnify eyes. Hairpieces add body and volume. Spray-on tans bronze lighter skin tones. French-manicured fingernails shine impeccably. Short ruffled skirts bare silky shaven legs. And ‘flippers’—retainer-like contraptions that give the appearance of a perfectly veneered Hollywood smile—camouflage unsightly gaps caused by lost baby teeth.

An estimated 250,000 babies, toddlers, and children participate each year in beauty pageants across the United States, never failing to generate controversy. It’s of no surprise. Contestants, some not even out of diapers, compete for the crown of The Prettiest Princess by sashaying for judges in formal attire and shimmying down the runway in the latest swimwear. When TLC’s latest series premiered in late January 2009 the online public reacted. Bloggers were disgusted. Mothers were appalled. Then, the strongest voices emerged and expressed their anger: two female high school students from the city of St. Catharines in Canada created a group on the networking site Facebook aimed at taking Toddlers and Tiaras off the air.

These students, Karrin Huynh and Lesley Cornelius, have spoken out against the exploitation and sexualization of these children. They have also drawn attention to the negative messages about body image and self-esteem the show sends young viewers. Their group members, over 5000 Canadians and Americans and still growing, continue to support the proposed ban via emails to Discovery, the show’s parent network. For the moment, shutting it down doesn’t seem forthcoming; however, somebody at the network appears to be listening. The Toddlers and Tiara’s website had previously given viewers the opportunity to vote on the appearance of child contestants, using a scale of one through ten. This feature, as well as before-and-after shots of participants, has thankfully been removed.

If TLC is truly interested in educating the viewing audience, the show’s producers should take a closer look at young women like Huynh and Cornelius. By putting a spotlight on the newest generation of role models and activists, TLC could really teach us something of value.

Reader Comments (41)

March 10, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersusie orbach
This program displays an extremely low level of human social behavior. It promotes the exploitation of the children involved, and helps to feed the depravity of the adults who are responsible for these so-called 'pageants'. The question of whether the child enjoys the pageant experience or not is irrelevant. The purpose of child pageants is simply to satisfy the sick need of parents to live out their own frustrated fantasies through their children. Even worse, it teaches girls that their value depends on a false conception of superficial 'beauty'. This program, which promotes child exploitation, should be taken off the air immediately, and all individuals responsible for it need to have a serious conversation with state and federal authorities concerning the growing trend toward sexualization of children and pedophilia. Thank you.
March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarrell Yetman
I am also proud to call my hometown st. catharines and it is amazing that two highschool girls from my city started this group and brought awareness to this discusting tv show... i watched it and i was horrified...
March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
I was disgusted at this show and was so proud to know that two high school girls took action against it. Hopefully something more will be done, but I'm glad to know that there are enough people out there who feel the same way to start to shake the ground around it.
March 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJen
Kids apparently need a lot of help being beautiful.
March 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSpring kids clothing
This show is horrible. I can't believe mothers would actually put their children through this.
March 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAshley
i can not believe that the first line i read on this page was "Perfect your child with digital enhancement ..."

i have two children, both boys, and i also have 4 nieces. i could not think that there was any way you could make any of those children any more perfect... they were born perfect and they will stay perfect...


i am also proud to be from st cathariens where people like you wouldnt dare to step foot into... because you will hear what we have to say ... and you really dont want to ... we all know it....

i am so angry at the fact that grown adults could think the way you do...
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessy
my previous comment was all out rage against people who seem to think that they need to put their children into pagents and such...

my loath is to those who are living vicaresly thu their children....
March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessy
Have we all forgotten about little JonBenet Ramsey already? I remember, and if my recall is correct, more people were outraged at her parent's damn near "prostituting" her out at beauty pageants, than they were about her murder. I am a former Sheriff Dept Deputy and have seen first hand what young women who feel "not- worthy" of anything and have low self-esteem do to themselves. It is anything but pretty.

I agree with Jessy. I have a 14 year old daughter that is having such a hard time with herself. It just enrages and sickens me.
March 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLydia
i have always thought child beauty pageants are disgusting and encourage pedophilia! Children and beautiful and sweet and precious and they are not for looking at. It is lots of fun to play dress up but that is just for fun and being like mommy in a fancy t00-big dress and pretend lipstick. This is teaching the children that beauty is only on the outside. I once read somewhere that you should help your child find value within themselves as people not as "the girl with pretty hair" or "the boy who gets the most goals". You can do so by giving them compliments about things found in their minds rather than what they put on their bodies like this: "that tutu you are wearing really makes you look like a smart little girl like someone who will listen with her good listening ears to the teacher" instead of "you look so cute in that perfect tutu"
It might not work for everything, but it is something to ponder and to try at least some of the time. Like I know when I am a mother, I will tell my children that they look good and also compliment the things they do with their brains. There has got to be a healthy balance.
March 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah
I agree with most of the comments here. One thing I want to include is that the future of girls who particpate in this contests. Early in life, we are teaching them that as a girl their pysical is important. After thier brothers are not doing any beauty cotest.....they are in foot ball club or something. Sexualization of women is at its peak today. I have found an article that dipicts the differnt ways that is sexism is refelcted in our society in old times and in the contemporary age...check it out.
April 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterselam
all yall bitches are ignorant its jus a damn picture stop takin it so serious u idiot!!
April 17, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlindsey
I haven't seen this particular show, but have seen enough creepy behind-the-scenes pageant documentary footage. It's something I find horrifying and irresponsible, and they start 'em REALLY young. I hate to think what kind of perverts sit in the audiences at these pageants. Ugh!

They're kids, not dolls. That child in the photo doesn't need retouching, the "after" shot is disturbing and makes her look like a spiritless Stepford child. I would hope any good parent would love their child unconditionally instead of wishing to make their eyes bluer or their smile bigger.

Unattainable ideals are not something one should be holding anyone to, especially not a child. It's hard enough growing up as it is.

And by the way, lindsey, it helps to use correct spelling and grammar when you call someone ignorant. Otherwise people just tend to roll their eyes an snicker, like I did. *wink*
June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJemma
Really, you people are taking this way too seriously. It's no different than a dance recital or cheerleading. Get off your high horse.
June 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTessa
Is there a list of advertisers for this show? I told my wife that we are going to boycott its advertisers and also write to them. It really is disgusting, dangerous and exploitative.

I am not usually one for boycotts (though I like Miller Lite, I won't drink any Miller since it gave $20K to a pro-ILLEGAL immigrant march in Chicago a few years ago). This situation calls for action though. This is not simply a free expression issue.
July 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArt
After seeing one of these shows and there are more than one that I have seen sadly, I was sick to my stomach.
It is very disheartening to me that these children are put through all of that.
In the one show I saw some of the little girls on there seemed happy to be doing it but for the most part the girls seemed unahappy and uncomfortable. They seemed to be doing what they did for the mothers and family that had brought them there.
In one case the girl was unhappy and in pain and the mother said something similar to 'suck it up'.
My cousin put her daughter through hell over these pageants and they are not on speaking terms to this day.
I believe in being healthy and these pageants are in no way healthy for any child that young.
October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFaydra
I don't have children, and I don't know anything about beauty pageants (I think they should have them for boys too though). However, that pic belongs on photoshop disasters. That has to be one of the worst retouches I've ever seen. The kid's eyes don't even line up anymore.
October 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterblueelm
November 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteryak
Great advice. Role models should be implemented early in the stage of life for results down the road.
March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentergetexback
Hopefully something more will be done, but I'm glad to know that there are enough people out there who feel the same way to start to shake the ground around it. <a href="">grow taller</a> <a href="">Electronic Cigarette</a> <a href="">reverse phone detective</a> <a href="">tava tea</a> <a href="">error fix</a>
August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard2000

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