Go-go juice, pageant crack, and flippers are a part of the child pageant circuit depicted on the reality TV shows Toddlers & Tiaras. But Northwest pageants are natural, and there’s an effort to keep them that way.
If you’re new to the TLC pageant drama Toddlers & Tiaras, each episode follows contestants and their families as they prepare for competitions. Some participants are infants, proudly displayed by their moms and dads, most are between the ages of two and 12.
Go-go juice is a mix of an energy drink and Mountain Dew for the ultimate caffeine fix. Pixy Stix and other sugary candies are pageant crack that moms use to keep their little girls energetic and awake through a long day of competition. Flippers are false teeth that go over a girl’s natural teeth, which are often missing at a young age.
On most weekends girls compete in these beauty pageants with full makeup, wigs, spray tans and bedazzled dresses that cost hundreds of dollars. The “glitz” pageant world has created stars like Eden Wood and MaKenzie Myers. The newest star is Alana Thompson who’s known for saying, “I want to win money. A dollar makes me holler honey boo boo.”
You won’t find a “honey boo boo” child in the Seattle area. We don’t have Glitz pageants here, and Northwest pageant directors want to keep it that way because they think the showy, high pressure competitions are damaging to young girls.
“Girls are not allowed to wear make up until they’re getting close to the pre-teen, teen years. There’s no fake hair falls. There’s no fake teeth. If they lose teeth that’s part of growing up, the same thing with braces. We don’t encourage spray tanning or the fake nails or fake eyelashes,” says Jessica Bodge, from Mukilteo, director of the Little Miss of America pageants in our region. “It’s all about natural beauty.”
Natural talent is also a part of the Northwest child pageant scene. Glitz pageants have been controversial for having little girls dress in seductive costumes. Below is a screen grab from the show featuring 3-year-old Mia in her Madonna costume.
In contrast, local pageant directors say the talent portions of Seattle-area pageants are more “wholesome.”
Teagan Nguyen is a 4-year-old who recently competed in her first pageant because she wanted to perform a song, as she confidently starts singing, “I got the joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.” She was the high-point winner in a recent competition.
Lexi Smith, who’s 9, is also new to the pageant world.
“When I got home from school I said, ‘Mom can I do pageants?’ She was surprised,” says Lexi. Her mom, Heather Odgen, says she always thought Lexi would be her “little Tom boy, but here she is doing these wonderful pageants and looking like a little princess.”
Odgen says the pageants have been positive for her daughter.
“I really like that it has given her self-confidence,” she says. “It’s allowed her to make new friends. It’s helped her to be more outgoing.”
Although they’ve only done a couple of pageants, Odgen says she’s seen a “big turnaround” in her little girl’s self esteem.
“What I’ve learned along the way is that judges don’t only think one person’s a winner. In their eyes everyone is a winner and I just can’t wait to see other girls be crowned,” Lexi says. “Even if I don’t win, I’m just happy because I got to enjoy it.”
There have been a few screaming, kicking, hitting melt downs on Toddlers & Tiaras when little girls don’t win. Psychologists, and parents, have raised questions about whether it’s healthy to put children into these competitive situations all dolled up.
“Pageants may help girls with their confidence if they’re not focused entirely on appearance,” says Redmond clinical psychologist Andrea Johansen. “I worry that girls at young age are being taught that their natural appearance is not good enough. In order to be a winner and be beautiful they need to have hair, teeth, eyelashes, and a skin color that is not their own.”
Most of the glitz pageants are in the East and South, but there are some in California.
Josephine Sherwood is Tiny Miss Lynnwood, participating in natural pageants. Her photo is from Lens-Art Photo Studio. MaKenzie, photo on the right courtesy TLC, is a pro in the glitz pageant circuit. The Louisiana girl is frequently featured on Toddlers & Tiaras.
By Linda Thomas