Are Child Beauty Pageants Ugly?

PHOTO: FROM HIGH GLITZ BY SUSAN ANDERSON, PUBLISHED BY POWERHOUSE BOOKSPHOTO: FROM HIGH GLITZ BY SUSAN ANDERSON, PUBLISHED BY POWERHOUSE BOOKSAnyone who's seen the spray-tanning, trowel makeup application, and Aquanet bangs on Toddlers in Tiaras knows that child pageants are an abuse of beauty products, but are they child abuse?

Susan Anderson, the photographer who shot High Glitz, a new book of pageant portraits, says her project isn't her personal answer to that question, but a collection of facts. Still, Salon wonders if the photos aren't just another way to objectify these little girls, who for most of their young lives have been judged by their looks. And then Salon posted a slideshow of the photos for millions of people gawk at.

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We understand where the Salon editors are coming from. There is something fascinating about the images-and the whole kiddie pageant scene in general. Last year, Allure interviewed drag star RuPaul, and found we shared an obsession with child pageant documentaries. We vividly recall HBO's Living Dolls, while Ru likes to quote Painted Babies-and calls the doc his "sickest obsession."

But we still have to wonder if any good can come of child competitions. Judges and parents say the pageants are character building, and there are certainly parallels between them and school talent competitions-for both you need preparedness, poise, and drive-but the latter rarely involves slowly turning around in a bikini.

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What do you think? Are pageants showcases for outgoing kids who love to play dress up? Or is the over-the-top glitz a sign of the ugly beauty standards set for American girls?

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