Lindsay Jackson may lose custody of her six year old daughter, Maddy Verst for dressing the tot up as a Dolly Parton look-a-like on TLC’s “Toddler’s and Tiaras”. the child’s estranged father has filed for sole custody after learning of Maddy’s participation on the program. on the surface it all looks so harmless and silly, with pigtailed Maddy grasping at fuzzy inserts that will give her flat chest a little bit more of Dolly’s ample oomph.
So what’s wrong with little girls pretending they’re all grown up? Plenty! for one thing, Maddy Verst isn’t choosing this ‘make believe’ for herself. At her age she’s too naïve to know ‘how’ or even ‘what’ she wants, except the aim to please her stage door mama. Lindsay Jackson’s actions were not merely in poor taste. They teeter on the verge of child exploitation. Whatever happened to children just being children?
For decades the cultural debate has raged over the impact adolescent beauty pageants can have on little girls’ already vulnerable self-esteem. Contestants who ought to be riding tricycles or playing with Barbies instead endure, not only hours in the beautician’s chair, having their faces painted and hair teased, but also contending with their mostly obsessive, occasionally neurotic caregivers who have made the pageant circuit a way of life and behave as though the fate of an empire rests on Suzie Chiclet walking away with that most coveted and sparkly little piece of plastic jabbed between her sprayed locks and glitter beads. how sad.
Of course the real fraud in adolescent beauty pageants is the claim made about inspiring confidence and poise from their prepubescent competitors. But scratch the surface of any stage mom and you’re likely to find a discontented woman who fervently believes she sold out her own youth and chances for fame and immortality when she became a wife and mother. So, whether she likes it or not, little Suzie Chiclet gets sewn into her black sequin and feather leotard, plastered from horn to hoof in tan foundation, and painted over in rouge, eye shadow and lip gloss until her head resembles the frozen puss of a porcelain figurine, before being thrust into the spotlight to do her kid-let version of Katie Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” for the judges.
In fairness to Lindsay Jackson, the iconography she chose for little Maddy was not that pop tart princess, but Dolly Parton; not a bad role model on the surface. No French kissing, groping, exposed nipple rings, etc. But Parton’s top-heavy fantasy hourglass proportions – especially when she was in her prime – really set the bar impossibly high for most women. and we are not referring to adult women herein, rather girls much too young to be coached in the virtues of shaking moneymakers they have yet to possess. Arguably, this is the best case scenario. But what happens if the child’s own eventual pubescent endowment falls short of Dolly’s iconography, or worse, her mother’s expectations?
Well, then we have just another disillusioned teen well on her way to a lifetime of crippling personal dissatisfaction and a rescue intervention on Dr. Phil. the oft exorcized plagues of bulimia, anorexia and compulsive indulgences with plastic surgery need no help to take hold of an impressionable mind. While none of these disorders can be directly attributed to beauty pageants in general or even the women who sacrifice their children to them, there is little to deny that the message a child gleans from these competitions is filtered through a very warped sense of self. All that the child sees and knows comes from a world dominated by the superficial where the true meaning of self is based on a few 8X10 glossies and the prospect of filling up her trophy case with some shiny memorabilia.
Will Bill Verst win his custody battle? the jury is still out – literally – but the fact remains that unless he can uncover other ways to prove his ex is a destructive influence on their daughter he will likely have to settle for joint custody and tolerate Lindsay Jackson’s misguided addiction to remake their angelic toddler into a thoroughly mixed-up twenty-cent tart. yet, even in the likelihood that Lindsay Jackson will win her case she ought to seriously consider what she’s already lost in this very shallow victory: that in her love of a plastic crown the truest integrity and chance for happiness in Maddy’s young life has surely been misplaced.