Elevate Difference

High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants

Style writer Simon Doonan’s foreword starts out High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Pageants. Doonan feels that beauty pageants geared for children are no more exploitative or harmful than cheerleading or little league. He writes that children learn endurance, losing gracefully, and social skills. It also gives them exercise and breaks from the tedium of childhood.

However, early on Doonan mentions he has never actually experienced the pageant world. Even if he had, undoubtedly child beauty pageants are a different experience for female children then for adult males. While Doonan paints an envious picture of pageant life from an outsider’s point of view, he still admits he can’t see contestants going on to the fame and glory for which their mothers aspire.

Interestingly enough, in his introduction for High Glitz, Robert Greene, another admitted outsider to the pageant world, chose to mention long suspected pedophile Lewis Carroll. Greene never mentions any outright connections to his, but instead he mentions Carroll because of his "appreciation" of young girls, and his observations of how they liked to dress up and be photographed. Greene’s point appears to be that pageants are healthy for little girls because dressing up gives them a sense of personal power and is an adequate form of play. Personally, I’ve seen too many cranky kids on episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras _and _Little Miss Perfect to believe Greene’s point, but he presents it in such a clear straightforward way, it very well could be believable.

Finally, we get to Susan Anderson’s book. Anderson, unlike Doonan and Greene, is very involved in the pageant world, as she has been photographing contestants for three years. Anderson writes in a journalistic style that gives the reader an inside look at this strange pocket of our culture, but unfortunately we don’t get to see very much. Anderson doesn’t write a lot, and instead, lets her photographs speak for her.

The photos are all of girls between the ages of a few months to thirteen years; all look more glamorous, more grown up, and more downright sexy than I did at my senior prom. Some of these girls still look precious, like elaborate child Madame Alexandra dolls, while some of them look eerie, like ageless collectible figurines symbolizing "true" beauty; all of the girls have a look of no longer being completely human. I also can’t help but notice how few children of color are featured.

The images are frightening: girls as young as three are making attempts at showing cleavage, endlessly exposing midriffs, and squeezing into super short skirts. What skeeves me out the most are the images of young girls holding stuffed animals, as their fancy dresses ride up around their waists. Many of these girls do look happy, but from watching many specials on this subject, I know many of these mothers pay money for coaching. I would have preferred to see quotes from the girls themselves about what they think of their clothes and situations, how they feel being dressed in ways, even as a teenager, I would never have been able to leave the house in. This coffee table book, unfortunately, does not shed much light on the pageant world for the genuinely curious.

Written by: Jen Klee, September 29th 2009

just watched a little youtube clip of Doonan and Susan Anderson discussing high glitz here: [http://powerhousebooks.com/highglitz](http://powerhousebooks.com/highglitz" rel="nofollow)

at first i felt like i had to have an opinion about child pagaents that was either bad or good or whatever - but her photos, overall, really documented this culture better than TLC or any crazed pageant mom could. i hope people in the pageant world appreciate what the photographer did for them - bridging this subculture into a spot light that is more fine art than TV media.

I really disagree with this review. Anderson is documenting a subculture. Her work is not a rally or enforcement, nor a negative opinion - it is showing this world through a lens. I picked up the book the other day and find it absolutely fascinating.

"all look more glamorous, more grown up, and more downright sexy than I did at my senior prom."

LOL. Great line.

This review made me think of the Roman Polanski rape case. Why?

Well, the rape survivor was an aspiring child model/actor and her mother wanted her to be successful . . . the mother, the child, and the director all lived in a culture that privileges men and objectifies girls and women . . the culture thinks the pageants are harmless and views rape as "just one of those things" . . the Hollywood elite excuses a "creative genius" from rape because "he's had a hard life and he has suffered enough" . . . I could go on for hours.

Please don't get me wrong. Girls' beauty pageants and child rape are NOT on the same level. But they are connected because they're all part of the same game: Be sexually subservient to boys and men.

sounds like it's trying to sell the glamor; oh look at the pretty pics! it would be great to actually here their voices instead!