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The Misadventures of Mrs. B: I Was A Baby Beauty Queen

Cook. Writer. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Klutz.

Friday, January 14, 2011

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.

What? You didn't know that I was a baby beauty queen? Oh yes, I was, when I was 4 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.

Photo courtesy of

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 teenaged 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 4 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 4 years old.  I truly believed I was going to win from the botton 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 4 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.



Blogger Real Life Reslers said...

This may be my favorite post if yours so far! I'm not sure what I think about the kids in pagents. A lot of the ppl on that show have been here in wv. It's a little embarrassing to me hehehe. I liked your humor in this post!

January 14, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Anonymous julie said...

I have seen an entire episode of Toddlers & Tiaras. With my mouth hanging open. And y 11-year-old daughter sitting next to me saying "THANK you for never putting me in a pageant."

You had me laughing through this entire post.
Especially at the end.
Cheers to being WAY cuter than your brother.
And for being a recovering beauty pageant contestant.
And for not watching Toddlers & Tiaras.

Wise woman. Wise.

January 14, 2011 at 12:42 PM

Blogger Shell said...

I admit, I sometimes watch Toddlers and Tiaras and think it's way over the top.

Surely there has to be pics of you in that pageant, right? We need them!

January 14, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Blogger Cass @ That Old House said...

Well of course you were cuter than your brother. He is a stinky BOY after all! Ick.

As for pageants for toddlers and young children -- I just can't wrap my mind around wanting to do that to your child. At that tender age, they are given the message that they need to wear makeup, have their hair lacquered, in order to be "pretty." I truly think it's the mothers of these poor little ones who think they are up there on stage -- getting a vicarious thrill out of their daughters' competing. Sad.

Let kids be kids. When they are older... much older ... if they want to compete in these things, let 'em. but when it's not their choice? (and no 4 year old can make an informed decision about that) -- then, no.

Gee, how do I really feel? :-P

Our kids grow up too fast as it is.

January 14, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Blogger Kristy said...

Because of Little Miss Sunshine, I will forever think that pageants are not a good idea.

January 14, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Blogger viewfromdownhere said...

Personally, I think the show takes it way too far. But that's just me. That being said, pageants aren't all that bad. In fact...on tomorrow's Miss America, Miss Ohio is actually a cousin of'll have to vote!

January 14, 2011 at 8:55 PM

Blogger Kiki said...

I demand a photo of this amazingly pageant-y little girl. :) I only watch The Soup and their Toddlers and Tiaras recaps...but it's still too, too real. Those poor spray-tanned mini people.

January 14, 2011 at 9:47 PM

Anonymous Miel Abeille said...

Deep breaths. I'm taking deep breaths.

You were on Al Albert's showcase?

I'm trying to contain the vitrol. My parents wouldn't even send in my picture. (Unless they did, and I just wasn't picked. But, I'm sure that couldn't be the case. If Uncle Al had seen me, I would've taken the trophy home, I'm sure of it.)

January 14, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Blogger Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I don't have cable TV and I've never seen the show. Still, I think the pageants are pretty sick. Little girls should be allowed to run around and get dirty and spend their time however they want.

I'm sorry about your loss, must have made a big impression to have such clear memories at such a young age! Boo to that other kid!

January 15, 2011 at 8:43 PM

Blogger ModernMom said...

How amazing to have an inside peek and opinion from a real toddler in a tiara. I have to admit I have watched a couple of those shows. With a shaking head! Occasionally you see a little one there who does appear to be enjoying themselves, but most of the time it really does seem to be for the Mama's.
Love the way you write! So glad I stopped by:)

January 16, 2011 at 10:15 AM

Blogger Adrienne said...

The part about the more experienced girl comforting you was too much. Sweet thing. I want ot see some pics. Stopped by from SITS. :)

January 17, 2011 at 2:36 PM

Blogger WhisperingWriter said...

I think little girls caked in makeup and put in provocative outfits is creepy.

However, I do like natural pageants. I do think they can build confidence and that it can be done without fake eyelashes.

January 17, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Blogger LindsayDianne said...

Oh, this story just made my whole day.. But made me sad too. Poor little you!!!!

January 26, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Anonymous Jen's Mom said...

Your parents didn't send your picture in. It was your grandmothers idea. I didn't even know they were doing it. Just didn't want your readers to think that I'm one of those goofy mothers that try to dress there kids up and exploit them in pageants. Even though you were beautiful if I do say so myself.

January 30, 2011 at 2:56 PM

Blogger Ms Bibi said...

I caught few minutes here and there and I can't believe there are parents out there that would put their babies and toddlers through that.

BTW, I want to see that picture as well and I stumbled this.

February 10, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Blogger Kimberly said...

I'm now following you through SITS girls. I can't watch Toddlers & Tiaras. However, I LOVED Al Alberts!!!

I think you should post the picture too ;)

February 12, 2011 at 5:28 PM


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