Toddlers and Tiaras? I Was A Baby Beauty Queen


Have you ever seen Toddlers and Tiaras? You know, the show that features little girls (and some babies, from what I've seen on commercials) getting all dolled up and prancing around and crying because their scalps hurt from their hair getting teased so much?

Yeah. That show.

And no, I've never seen a whole episode. Just commercials. Because I think that's all I could take in one sitting. It hits too close to home and reminds me of my own painful pageant days.

TiaraWhat? You didn't know that I was a baby beauty queen? Oh yes, I was, when I was four years old. I still remember those days. Training, all the time. My face hurt from constantly smiling, my feet hurt from going tippity-tap for hours. The gowns. The hairspray. The bathing suit competition.

Okay...maybe it wasn't like that. Maybe I only appeared in one pageant and didn't even win. But the experience has stayed with me for 27 years.

If you live in the Philadelphia area, you're probably familiar with Al Alberts.

Good old Uncle Al. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Uncle Al, he was a singer back in the...50's? 60's? with an quartet who released some albums or something. Anyway, he had his own show on our local ABC station called Al Alberts Showcase, and he'd feature kids doing all sorts of singing and dancing and whatnot. He would banter with his wife, Stella, and would eventually sing at least once over the course of the program. It was local TV at its cheesy finest.

And every year he held two contests, one for girls (Little Miss Showcase) and one for boys (Little Mr. Showcase). Parents sent in a picture of their utterly adorable child and would then cross their fingers that a letter would come in saying that their kid had made the cut and would appear on TV for literally hundreds of people to see and make judgements over from the comfort of their living rooms.

Needless to say, my parents sent in my picture. And I was picked to appear. I was just gorgeous like that.

I still remember getting all dolled up the night of the pageant (I didn't understand that the shows were taped in advance -- it took me a minute to get over the fact that we were going in at night when the show aired on Saturday mornings). My mom's side of the family was there, too; it was a big deal, you know? I remember to this day how positive I was that I was going to win. I had a grandmother who doted on me, after all, and that sort of positive reinforcement is difficult to ignore.

Then there were my two teenage cousins who waited til the three of us were alone in the living room to mutter, "You're not going to win, you know that, right?" Angels. They were just jealous that I was a pretty pretty princess and they weren't.

Moving on.

We went to the studio for the taping. I don't remember much of it, just a blur of activity as we were told where to sit on a set of risers. I sat next to a nice little girl and I'm pretty sure I told her I was going to win. She still talked to me after that, though I don't know why.

Then the pageant. It went on and on. We didn't have to, you know, perform or anything -- though there was talent lined up for the event in the form of at least one little girl who sang a song or something. It's a blur. I was four years old -- not so much with the attention span. I was most likely concentrating on forcing myself to sit still.

Then it came time for the announcement of the winner and her court. As each name got called, I became more excited -- after all, I was going to WIN! Hadn't I been assured of my WINNING ever since the letter came in the mail telling me I'd been chosen to appear? And WIN?

Alas, my name was never called and the show came to a close. My eyes searched the crowd for my parents' faces. I was desperate for someone to help me understand this travesty. Then I started crying. Boy, did I cry. And cry. And...cry. Again, I was four years old. I truly believed I was going to win from the bottom of my little heart. But my heart was broken for the first time.

The much more level-headed little girl next to me stroked my arm and consoled me until my parents made their way through the audience and on to the stage. I can only imagine how much it hurt them to see me so distraught. See, they believed too. They weren't the beaten-down parents of four that they are today. They were still two crazy kids who really believed that their little girl was special enough to win. Oh, youth.

For many years worth of Saturday mornings after that fateful night, we booed and hissed every time the little girl who beat me appeared on the show. Because evidently, winning Little Miss Showcase means that you have to appear, like, every week or something and show off some stupid talent or whatever and pretty much rub it in the faces of the little girls who didn't win.

Boo. Hiss.

Incidentally, I just called my mom to tell her that I was writing this. She said: "Ooooh, we were walking through the parking lot afterward and we were right behind her and her parents, and I said to Dad 'There she is' and he said 'I know!' and I wanted to run over and knock her down and take the trophy and ride off. Here she is, a little girl, and I wanted to do that". We both laughed (...menacingly).

Through it all, I take one small consolation: My brother's picture was sent in for Little Mr. Showcase. But he didn't get picked to appear.

Because I'm cuter than him.

What do you think about little girls appearing in beauty pageants? I'm not talking Uncle Al here -- I mean the real deal.

Mrs. Jen B
The Misadventures of Mrs. B
Twitter: @MrsJenBardall

Photo Credit: robynlou8

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