Saturday, July 25, 2009

"Just Ashlynn"

Out of morbid curiosity, I watched the season premiere of "Toddlers and Tiaras" the other day on The Learning Channel (TLC). I say "morbid" because to me, there is something inherently wrong about dressing small children up as sexpots, decked out with glam makeup and big hair and skimpy outfits. I mean, yeah, I can understand how putting makeup on your daughter a la "playing dressup" would be cute; we liked to do that when we were children. But there is a line between dressing a child up as an adult for fun or Halloween or something, and dressing a child up to actually look "desirable," which is what it seemed a lot of parents did to their children on the previews for this show. These children did not look 4 and 5 years old; they looked like miniature grown women, and were acting "sexy." I saw one little girl dressed up as a teacher or something, doing some sort of body skimming move with her hands that looked like how a rock video model would have done in the 80s, acting like the nerdy/sexy teacher being caught in some sort of naughty act. Other little girls were similarly decked out in provocative outfits, pursing their lips and shimmying on stage in ways that no toddler should even know how to do. Even these little girls probably have no idea that how they are acting is, for lack of a better phrase, sexually charged. Seeing these little girls made me think of JonBenet Ramsey.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am not completely against cute baby contests and not even pageants per se. I think my two children are extremely adorable and might even be able to win such contests if they cooperated, but I don't think I will subject them to an event where because of its very nature, if you don't win, you would surely feel that other people think someone else is prettier and better than you, and that cannot be good for the ol' esteem, not even for children. ESPECIALLY not for children. My shady views on these glam pageants for little girls (and boys apparently) were vindicated when I watched "Toddlers and Tiaras." But this time it wasn't because of the little girls looking like pedophile bait. It was because of the insane parents, namely a woman named Jamie Sterling from Texas who was a pageant girl herself and has all five of her daughters in pageants. The thing that really got me (and apparently dozens and dozens if not hundreds and thousands of other people) was that she was very obviously playing favorites and had one daughter, six-year-old BreAnne, whom she thought was her shining star and it showed. The person it showed to the most was BreAnne's twin sister, Ashlynn.
Now I am not going to go the route like a lot of ticked off people on TLC's forum did by insulting Jamie's or BreAnne's looks. But when they first appeared on the show, I did not expect that BreAnne was going to be the most "successful" pageanteer. But her mother has groomed her to be exactly that, and what is awful is that she is doing the exact opposite for Ashlynn, while making her compete against her sister in pageants, which she doesn't seem to want to do. I can't describe the heartbreak I felt while watching her tear Ashlynn down and build BreAnne up. This poor girl will probably have to have lots of therapy in her life because of what amounts to emotional and mental abuse, being made to feel inferior while her sister is busy developing an obvious superiority complex. Jamie Sterling gushed about how BreAnne lights up the stage and has such a bright smile and how she looks "just like Mommy," then she said that Ashlynn is "just Ashlynn." Said it with DISDAIN, as if it was a bad thing, adding that she is skinny and has a "bigger nose." (Ashlynn, for the record, is adorable.) She claimed she doesn't know how to work the stage, and she had no confidence in her. There were so many moments that made me want to punch through the television and take this girl from this awful shallow woman that I cannot even describe them all. She made Ashlynn cry because her pageant dress had a rip, which she "forgot" to sew, so Ashlynn had to wear it for the pageant that way even though they deduct points, and in fact, she made people cut the lace with scissors. BreAnne was acting like an extreme brat, to the point that her father (who does not like pageants but concede's to them to make his marriage work, he said) took her out of the competition before the talent part, to Jamie's dismay. Every time they showed BreAnne on stage, Jamie beamed with pride, and every time they showed Ashlynn, she looked like she couldn't care less and was embarrassed even. Now, I know that shows can edit certain parts of video to look a certain way, like Jamie's look of disgust could have been at a different point than the exact moment it was shown. HOWEVER, they could not edit the ugly things Jamie said and the way she was acting herself at the moments she said them. Ashlynn won 3rd runner up, and Jamie said she was shocked. BreAnne somehow won 2nd runner up, but was asleep and could not accept it. But what got me was that Ashlynn won a "Director's Choice" award, with a huge teddy bear and trophy, and her mother could not even bring herself to make over her the way she did over BreAnne. She said she couldn't believe it and she never expected it. She never expects Ashlynn to win anything. And in fact, at the end when TLC was interviewing the twins, BreAnne was stealing Ashlynn's winnings and Ashlynn was saying she won, and BreAnne said SHE won, and then to hurt Ashlynn said that she got 2nd runner up and Ashlynn got 3rd, and that Mommy had told her she'd won. Before they even went to this pageant, she was wearing tiaras and Ashlynn was meekly and sweetly asking for it back (might have been one she had won), and at the pageant, when BreAnne was sulking, Ashlynn was trying to share and offer her sister a balloon, then offered the whole bunch to her. I don't know that I've seen a child with a sweeter, more generous spirit in the face of being beaten so low emotionally. She also seemed sad, and very obviously felt like her sister was better than she because her mother and her sister acted that way. They both treated her like a nothing. I can't describe it adequately in a blog; it's a "you have to see it" thing, but I could not ever imagine treating my children the way this mother does. I am sure she loves her children, but she really has something wrong with her to treat Ashlynn like she is not good enough. The girl would have more confidence in herself if her mother would show her a little confidence and respect and not play favorites like she does.
I hope that Jamie Sterling sees this show and sees what an awful mother she seems to be. I know that pageantry is just one aspect of their lives, and I can't say she is a horrible mother just based on that because maybe she builds Ashlynn up in other ways, but I just don't think so. I can't wrap my mind around the way she tore her down constantly on this show, and is creating a monster in her other daughter. The younger ones, I can't say for sure how they feel because they didn't focus on them as much. They way I am not focusing on the other two pageant parents who clearly have a few issues too, but not as bad as Jamie Sterling. They love their kids I'm sure. One has spent nearly $70,000 on entering her 4-year-old in pageants, and the other has 2 boys and entered the second when he was 2 weeks old. But I guess if that is your thing and you have the resources, so be it. Just PLEASE, ladies (and fellas if you are a pageant Dad), teach your children that INNER beauty is the most important thing. Jamie Sterling, you did NOT exhibit inner beauty and you are NOT instilling that in BreAnne, I can promise you that. Don't make any of your kids feel like they aren't good enough, or are less than someone else, especially a sibling, and ESPECIALLY a twin sibling. If your kids do not want to participate in pageants or any aspect of them, don't make them. If your kids are acting up, even if they are your "shining star," discipline them, even if it means not letting them continue on in the show. If your kid is not feeling well, get them better first and foremost. I am not an expert on pageants, but I am a mother and I feel like this advice can span the spectrum of children's activities. I know I have a lot to learn about managing extracurricular activities because my kids are too young for a lot of those, and I have no interest in subjecting them to pageantry, but I know that when they are old enough to "get involved" with whatever their hearts desire, I will be supportive of them both and encourage them both, and never let one of them feel like he/she is better than the other. I want them to know I love them with all my heart at all times. Equally. I want their self esteem to be the mirror of the love they get at home, not the mirror (or what they see in it) to be the reflection of their self esteem. I want my kids to have true beauty, and they will not need a tiara or trophy to stack up to that.

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