I just want to give a brief heads-up on this great Radar article "Queen of Tots," which examines on the role of gay men in child beauty pageants. The point that the pageant circuit is something of a sanctuary for homosexuals in the South adds yet another mind-blowing layer to this lifestyle that is endlessly fascinating. (I clearly think so, in any event.)
Beyond the gay stuff, there's, of course, some justification of child pageantry. My favorite talking point comes from a quote from pageant judge Ray Smith (whose roots on judging criteria, by the way, are in drag shows): "The world is competitive, and parents want their kids to be able to get by without them. That can be done through giving them the best possible education or by straightening their teeth with braces, and I think pageants are just another way to help them get an edge in life." Uh, I think I agree...maybe? The social-Darwinism perspective is, at least, the best explanation I've heard in support of encouraging children to look and act like whores of Broadway.
Anyway, read the article. For real. Do it.
(Shout out to Tracie, without whose heads-up, I could not deliver mine.)
An update of sorts comes via email from a former child-pageant contestant, Heather E., who talks about her subliminal education in tolerance, among things:
I still value my pageant experience. It taught me to not be afraid to speak in public, make friends easily, have a good sense of self, and be confident in myself and my abilities, such as they are. I also think it taught me tolerance without even meaning to. By the time I came to understand what "gay" was, it wasn't even an issue for me, other than the fact that these fabulous guys would never be interested in me in "that way." A loss for me, but a gain to others. I've never understood the intolerance people show towards others' sexuality. What business is it of mine whom you love? I'm just glad you love someone. I believe being exposed to diversity at an early age made me aware that not everyone was exactly alike, that being different is an asset not a liability, and people are just people no matter what. I think if you'd ask other women that participated in pageants during their formative years, you'd find similar sentiments. I'm still dismayed that the shows on pageants only ever seem to focus on the negative instead of the positive, but having lived in that world myself for a time, I know that there is a lot of good to be had by participating.