Toddlers, tiaras and terrible TV

For anyone going on a J1 to America this summer, you have no idea how insanely jealous I am. This summer is going to be the biggest adventure of your lives, and a lot of your stories for the next year will start with “When we were in America… ”. My friends and I kept a diary of our experiences as we went along, and almost a year later, it makes for hilarious reading. An entire page was dedicated to the weird Americano TV that you have to look forward to when you’re hungover, broke and more than likely sitting on patio furniture (indoors).

One particular gem is called ‘Say Yes to the Dress’. In our diary entry, we recorded that “the girl emerges from dressing room in white dress with sequin waistband and states: ‘Oh my God! This one’s perfect – sparkles is my favourite colour!'” Another dumbfounding reality TV show is called ‘Freaky Eaters’, where we followed a rock addict, a sofa-eating woman and a girl who piles Worchester sauce on everything. Oh and films, which once finished, start again immediately. Fantastic for those of us with short-term memory loss.

My favourite discovery on the tiny telly-box was ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’. This show consists of pushy ‘pageant moms’ dragging their crying daughters, some as young as six months old, to get spray tans, manicures, hair extensions and false eyelashes. One child even goes to a chiropractor before pageants to correct her posture. Apparently she had picked up some bad habits in her five years of being able to walk.

The thing that makes this show addictive is the sheer creepiness of it. When five year old girls are made up to look and act like 15 year olds, how can you not be hooked, and a little bit intrigued as to where they buy their make up? One pageant diva, known to the world by her nickname ‘Honey Boo Boo Child’, is given a homemade cocktail of Mountain Dew and Red Bull, known on the pageant circuit as ‘Go-Go Juice’, to get her sufficiently riled up when she gets on stage. Her talentless whale of a mother meanwhile stands in the audience and slaps her stomach while shouting “Show ’em yo’ belly Honey Boo Boo Child! Work it Smoochie! Shake yo’ butt, baby!” Seriously, look it up on Youtube. It will make you rethink a person’s right to bear children.

But, as if God is trying to apologise for sending Honey Honey Boo Child and her momma to wreak havoc on the world, he also sent Eden Wood, a self-proclaimed “pageant superstah”. Eden has won the World Champion Ultimate Grand Supreme Crown, but at the tender age of seven has retired from the world of pageanting to focus on other projects. Now, I’m three times her age and yet somehow this little wagon is more successful than I’ll ever be. She has five songs available on iTunes, including her smash-hit debut single ‘Cutie Patootie’. Her ambitions in life are to win an Academy Award, a Grammy and become the President of the United States… all before she is 20, because she will be too old after that. Yeah, I had ambitions once too, Eden. Pity I discovered boys, alcohol, Project Free TV and that you have to be over the age of 35 to run for President of America.

I’ve found that you can make the most out your ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ obsession by inventing games around it. One particular Tuesday, my housemates and I were trying to convince the editor of Flux just how good the show is. Unsurprisingly, Googling a ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ drinking game will show a lot of people in a similar situation to us. We had to drink whenever a child was being a brat, whenever a contestant is referred to as a diva/princess/Jesus, whenever a pageant mom makes a flippant remark about how much it costs, whenever a child is getting a beauty treatment done, whenever the camera pans to that one bone-chillingly-creepy male judge and whenever the pageant contestant is clearly favoured over other siblings (drink five times as much if that sibling is an identical twin). Needless to say, we won her over in a fairly short space of time.

My only regret from my J1 is that I didn’t enter one of these pageants. Isn’t 21 a bit old for all this, I hear you ask? Well, yeah it is… but the winner of the pageant with the older girls in it gets ten grand! I can lower my dignity for ten grand. I’ve done much worse for a lot less. So, I bought a shiny baton with tassels and practice my talent every night before going to bed. Someday I hope to emulate the success that Eden Wood has enjoyed. But for the moment, I can only dream.

Laura Cronin

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