For the uninitiated, Toddlers and Tiaras follows around a small group of children who are set to compete in an upcoming beauty pageant as they practice (usually against their will), select outfits (the average “glitz” dress is $2,000!), get spray-tanned, practice “talent” (dancing age-inappropriately is a favorite) and so on.
I watched this reality show’s inaugural season last year for a few reasons.
- I'm from Texas, so I have a natural tendency to be interested in pageants of all sorts (well, except the Hooters and Hawaiian Tropic varieties)
- Over-the-top personalities always make for good reality TV (and most pageant moms and dads are pretty over-the-top)
- Plus, I enjoy judging mothers who subject their children to the pageant system.
Season 1 of T&T was pretty entertaining, so I was marginally excited to see it back on the line-up. I TiVoed it and last night was ready for a light-hearted, mildly disturbing (in a good way) look at kiddie pageants (and the mothers who live vicariously through their children who enter them). Instead, I was left feeling very disturbed (in a bad way), kinda sad and ready to adopt AshLynn, one of the precious little contestants. (This from a gal who is happily child-free and plans to stay that way.)
I won’t go through the episode blow-by-blow (I can’t stomach watching it again), but here are a few of my observations about the major players:
Annette Hill, Director (and emcee) of the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant
If you watched last year, you may remember Annette. This season, she’s much more animated and it’s painfully obvious she’s been hard at work perfecting her sound bites since last season. To her credit, she’s wayyyy less creepy than Michael Galanes, emcee of the “Little Miss Perfect Pageant” another cringe-worthy “reality” "pageant" show.
Eden Wood, Age 4
OK. I could just eat her up. She is a doll, despite her “diva” moments (what the rest of the world calls tantrums). During the pageant, however, she really creeped me out. Here she was, in full-on diva mode, but when her foot hit the stage she was immediately transformed into a Stepford child who was engineered to win pageants. Don’t get me wrong, she was good, but it’s a little eerie watching a child “turn it on” like that so quickly and easily. I can’t even flip the switch that quickly and I’ve had a lot longer to practice.
Cameron & Kevin ages 7 and 2 weeks respectively (yes, 2 weeks…that’s not a typo)
Mom Michelle Treder is excited about Kevin’s first pageant and speculates that he may be the youngest child in the pageant (ya think?!).
Brother Cameron’s a cute kid, but I’m just not all about boys in pageants.
BreAnne & AshLynn Sterling, age 6
Fraternal twins BreAnne and AshLynn compete against each other, although mom Jamie is quick to tell us BreAnn usually comes out on top (this is because AshLynn is “really skinny and a little bit larger-nosed than BreAnne.” – mom’s words…not mine). From the onset, it’s painfully obvious BreAnne is the favored daughter and AshLynne is the Cinderella of the Sterling family.
Not only does mom Jamie light up when she mentions BreAnne (a marked contrast to her countenance when discussing AshLynn) in the first 2-minute segment alone she shared these observations:
“BreAnne does look a lot like Mommy and is probably the prettiest out of the five [children]” (Did I mention mommy looks a lot like the bug-eyed runaway bride from a few years ago?)
“BreAnne stands out because she is outgoing, fun and full of life. And AshLynn is just AshLynn.”
“AshLynn usually wins princess, but BreAnne usually gets Queen.”
Sweet little AshLynn’s dress is ripped and she begins to cry after mom tells her she’s going to get points taken off. When she asks about wearing something else, Jamie tells her she has another dress coming, but that she’s pretty sure it will fit BreAnne (if you haven’t figured it out…BreAnne is the number one priority around the Sterling house as far as mom is concerned). But mom promised to sew the dress before the pageant. Obvious spoiler: She doesn’t.
The entire hour is one example after another Jamie puting BreAnne first. I’m sure Jamie will be interviewed on some web site saying it was the editing, but I don’t buy it. Even watching the girls interact with one another you can tell they aren’t close like sisters of that age should be, let alone twins. I’m sure this spirit of competition Jamie encourages, coupled with her blatant favoritism of one twin over the other has diminished any chance these girls have of ever forming a bond.
My hero of the episode is Jamie’s husband, the girls’ dad. I won’t ruin it, but I’ll tell you that this man is a saint. Not only does he put up with Jamie, he also seems like a good father who has his head on straight.
Of course, any feelings of hope I was starting to have for these girls is gone after watching their final clip:
BriAnne: I winned [sic].
AshLynn: You did not win.
BriAnne: I was the runner-up in our age group.
AshLynn: You don’t know, you were asleep.
BriAnne: Yes, mommy told me.
AshLynn: I win.
BriAnne: No me, me. Ask Mommy.
No, AshLynn. Don’t.