By Beverly Foster Seinberg
Let’s get one thing straight: Child beauty pageants, the stock-in-trade of TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, are not about dressing up little girls like miniature call girls. OK, there was that one 3-year-old last season who wore an outfit modeled on Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, but most pageant outfits — including that one — are less revealing than what a little girl might wear for gymnastics or dance.
That said, there is plenty in the kiddie “glitz” pageant culture to make you go, “Huh?” The fake teeth, hair, nails and tans. The expense. The omnipresent Pixy Stix (a.k.a. “pageant crack”). And, of course, those wacky pageant parents.
The wack factor is actually a bit toned down in the new episodes of T&T. Katie, mother to Riley and Bob, may be the most outrageous of the three moms featured for encouraging her kids to mimic drag queens and admitting, “I’ve had [Riley] performing ‘Poker Face’ on the bar at Applebee’s.” (But, she is quick to insist, “it’s not like people threw dollars at her or anything.”) By the standards of this show, however, that’s not so bizarre.
Joining Riley and Bob in the pageant du jour, the Southern Celebrity Glitzmas Pageant in New Jersey, are Laila (pictured above), 3, a budding ballerina whose mom spares no expense on her pageant prep and apparel, and Anna-Maria, 9, whose doting mom insists that yes, even a brown-skinned biracial child needs a spray tan.
There are the usual meltdowns and malfunctions — not the wardrobe kind, thankfully — leading up to the crowning of the Ultimate Grand Supreme, which sounds like a menu item at Taco Bell or Pizza Hut but is actually the title to which participants aspire. And if you’ve seen even one episode of T&T before, it won’t be hard to predict who does and doesn’t win.
The “Southern Celebrity Glitzmas” holiday episode of Toddlers & Tiaras airs Dec. 7 at 10pm ET/PT on TLC.