High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants by Susan AndersonAbsolutely fascinating topic but rather lackluster treatment. Anderson is a photographer; one of the jobs shes returned to time and time again is pageant photography. This is a world shes used to, if only as an outsider: $2,000 dresses for five-year-olds, hairstyles that take two hours to arrange, primping and posing and glitter. Glitz.
I would pretty happily read an in-depth investigation of child pageants. Scratch that—I would love to read an in-depth investigation of child pageants. Its such a weird pastime, one that is arguably more for the parents than it is for the child (Simon Doonan, a fashion designer who wrote the foreword, would disagree, but a bit more on him in a moment). Ive never seen Toddlers in Tiaras (not likely to change, as I neither own nor desire a television), but I can understand the appeal of watching it for its excess and wtf-ery.
Anyway, High Glitz doesnt go there. Instead we get a couple of short essays (including the foreword and introduction) and then what amount to studio portraits of some very young girls dolled up to look much older than they are. (Their hair especially tends to be reminiscent of Barbie.) Some themes emerge: blonde, generally slim, often from the southern US. Young. There are five-year-olds dressed to look as though they have cleavage. Nine-year-olds who could pass for thirty.
The photos themselves are fascinating. Obviously an incredible amount of work and thought goes into creating these looks. But whats missing is what goes on behind the scenes. Doonan argues that pageants are flipping awesome for these little girls (despite the fact that he doesnt appear to have any kind of insider knowledge—just envy left over from childhood—and his pro-pageant arguments run along the lines of its great exercise! Really? Better than, say, after-school athletics?), but theres no evidence to suggest thats the case—or, for that matter, that its not. No interviews with these girls. No interviews with their parents. No interviews with judges. No photographs of the girls being coached. No photographs of them being made up. No photographs of two-year-olds having temper tantrums because theyre sick of sitting still. No photographs of girls laughing with friends theyve made from having been on the pageant circuit for so long. No discussion of the way pageants are sometimes marketed as providing scholarships, despite costing hundreds of dollars to enter and/or thousands of dollars to prepare for.
Fun photos, but not much depth here.
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I never thought it was terribly sinister that I was in beauty pageants as a kid. As part of her preoccupation with my weight and appearance, she policed what I ate and imposed severely restrictive diets. But there was a darker side: The old men scratching their crotches while I performed in skimpy costumes. The latent and confusing fear of being looked at sexually, which continued even into adulthood. And the haunting sense that I had no face when it was not made up for the stage. In a beauty pageant?
Eligible for Free Shipping. Sep 8, While adult and teen beauty pageants are often looked at disdainfully, child beauty pageants produce an even stronger negative response. Many critics liken them to child abuse. Opponents of child A child beauty pageant is a beauty contest featuring contestants under 16 years of age. Competition categories may include talent, interview, sportswear, casual wear, swim wear, western wear, theme wear, outfit of choice, decade wear, and evening wear.
A mber is seven years old and loves Miley Cyrus. She sleeps with a poster of the actress above her bed and stores all her most treasured possessions in a glittery purple box emblazoned with the image of Hannah Montana. She also likes watching music videos on YouTube and making up dances to accompany the songs of JLS, her favourite boy-band. But, most of all, Amber likes to collect stones. She lays them in a line on the carpet and looks at them proudly.
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Susan Anderson's photography book High Glitz —which includes thought-provoking essays by Simon Doonan and Robert Greene, as well as a guide to everything glitz—presents a portrait of the bizarre American pastime that is the world of child beauty pageants. In his essay, "Artifice and Transformation: The Imaginary Lives of Little Girls," author Robert Greene presents a feminist analysis in defending the pageant industry, proposing that when we "respond in one of two ways" to young girls in pageants—moralizing or laughing—we might just be "imposing ourselves on them [and] responding out of certain preconceptions. Underneath it all is the unstated assumption that [girls] are essentially passive and weak…Boys can create their own worlds; their fantasies can be dark and violent, but we can accept the fact they correspond to some desire or need inside of them. Girls are empty vessels, screens of projection; they are not the agents or producers of their world, or so we think. We do not recognize that they could produce something strong, strange, and even freakish all on their own. Greene goes on to explain the work of Lewis Carroll— author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland —who also took portraits of little girls, as a way to understand them.