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Friday, May 13, 2011

Too Much Botox, Too Much to be Believed: UPDATED

Poor Britney Campbell is back in the news. I wrote about Britney in March after her story appeared in The Sun, detailing her Botox injections and virgin waxes.  Yesterday morning Britney and her mom, Kerry, appeared on Good Morning America to “defend” themselves and talk about wrinkles and waxings.

The somewhat-horrifying interview/video speaks for itself. Click below to watch it.

I have a variety of questions about this story, which part of me still wants to believe isn’t true.
  •        The Sun reported Britney’s mother, Kerry is from Birmingham (UK). Why no accent in the television interview?
  •        Did Kerry Campbell know that by appearing on GMA she went on a parenting kamikaze mission—opening herself up to investigation by child welfare agencies (she must have known something untoward could happen, given the fact she wouldn’t name her Botox source)? Why do this? [Note: it's being reported that a formal investigation has been opened by the state.]
  •         The Sun story focuses much more on pop superstardom and less on child beauty pageants. Why the shift?
  •         GMA shows a clip of Britney in a “pageant dress,” but it doesn’t look at all like a high glitz pageant dress. Does anyone in the California pageant scene actually know this family? I stand by my earlier comments that I know some pageant moms wax their daughters (OUCH!), but Botox is a bit hard to believe in girls this young.
  •        This observation is going to sound horrible, but if this mom is so concerned about Britney’s appearance, why not invest in orthodontia instead of Botox? I know many eight-year-old girls with braces (sad, but true, and I think it must be a bit young—though definitely not my area of expertise!). Seems like a better, and more permanent, “beauty fix.”
  •        Finally, are dimples no longer desirable? It seems like the “wrinkles” they don’t like are Britney’s adorable dimples. My mother tells a wonderful story about taping frozen peas into her cheeks each night before bed as a child because she wanted dimples so badly. I’d still love to have dimples! Is this déclassé now?
Of course, there are many other unanswered questions, but I’ll stop there. Personally, I’d rather have Amy Chua and intense music lessons than Kerry Campbell and Botox injections.  What do you think?

UPDATE I: There already seems to be a "copycat" mom, covered by The Sun. This mother, Sharon Evans (also apparently British), tattooed her daughter, Bree, giving her permanent eyebrows. She also did fillers in her lips (in addition to Botox). Be horrified some more.

UPDATE II/I: Apparently this is not too much to be believed it is real. Poor Britney was taken from her mother and apparently is under custody of CPS. This article on the latest developments reveals another head-scratching fact: Britney's father died four years ago at the age of 83. So her mom was 30, with a four-year-old daughter, when her 83-year-old husband died... I wonder what kind of "research scientist" the father was? And whether or not *he* used Botox?

I have continuously said there is something seriously off with this story. Proof the Botox mom is not who she says she is. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Evolution of American-Style Child Beauty Pageants

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post on May 10, 2011.

The Australian press and public have reacted strongly to plans to hold an "American-style" child beauty pageant in Australia this summer. Since I wrote a summary and a response to the "Australians Against Child Beauty Pageants" situation, the media attention has increased. Last weekend numerous articles appeared about this issue in Australia's newspapers. Now some in Ireland have raised concerns about having an "American-style" Miss Princess Ireland pageant. [Note added: This pageant in Ireland recently took place without a hitch, and reportedly more pageants are being organized for the near future.]

What are the historical roots of these "American-style" child beauty pageants? Having studied these events for over a decade, first as an undergraduate and now as a professional sociologist, I can offer some insights. Somewhat ironically, the first event that would evolve into an "American style" child beauty pageant actually started in a Commonwealth country.

A British art critic and historian named John Ruskin got the idea to hold a springtime festival for young girls, honoring their girlish innocence (Ruskin was actually rumored to be a pedophile...). Ruskin called his events May Queen festivals, since one girl would be selected queen, the "likeablest and loveablest" of all the maidens. The first of these festivals was held in England in 1881 and they quickly spread to North America, where they found a strong reception in the United States.

These competitive festivals soon developed into more systematic baby competitions -- baby parades and better baby contests -- which rewarded children for their looks and their costumes. The historic Asbury Park baby parade was arguably the most famous of the baby parades and contests that started at the turn of the twentieth century. It was the first baby parade ever held on the East Coast and in its heyday, in 1893, it drew 30,000 spectators. It was so popular that Thomas Edison made one of his first movies of the event, on September 12, 1904.

The fame of the Asbury Park Baby Parade set off a string of imitators in Hoboken, Jersey City, Newark, Long Island, and, of course, Coney Island. Coney Island started its famous baby parade in 1906. The Coney Island baby parade had 1200 participants in its first year, 600 of whom competed for the title of "most beautiful baby."

Coney Island's parade continued to thrive into the 1920s. The 1923 and 1928 events boasted around 400 entrants who won in a variety of get-ups. A three-year-old girl won in a harem costume, a two-year-old won as a "Vanity Girl," and a six-year-old won dressed like a "Show Girl." Clearly, children dressing up like sexual adults started long before the twenty-first century. And in spite of, or perhaps because of, these little nymphs, audiences turned out in large numbers. The New York Times reported that the 1929 Coney Island Baby Parade had 500,000 spectators.

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