Living Dolls Defended in High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants

All it takes to transform a cute, clumsy toddler into a robotic symbol of all that is wrong with society is a rhinestone-covered cowgirl dress, heavy eye makeup, and an overbearing parent. From documentaries, reality television shows, and The Soup, we've caught a glimpse of how truly terrifying child beauty pageants can be—the tacky, oversexed clothes, the scary hair routines, the mothers pushing their little girls like pack mules. But there is a good side to these events—bizarre and obscure, for sure, but still good. Written and shot by Susan Anderson and published by Powerhouse books, the coffee-table volume High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Beauty Pageants is a loud, proud, unapologetic look at the glamour of pre-teen pageantry that finds everything that's good with this uniquely American subculture. Here, Anderson's big, bright photos celebrate the final product of all those hours of walking in heels and teasing hair. With its full Technicolor portraits of glamourpuss competitors, it's hard not to see the fun in the madness of it all. Maybe Simon Doonan's book forward, "In Defense of Child Beauty Pageants", won't convince you that child pageants aren't evil. But, thanks to Anderson's absurd images, at least you'll walk away with a big, tacky smile.
Above, from left: Christy, age 8, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2006; Allison, age 10, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.
Above, from left: Ashley, age 8, Nashville, Tennessee, 2008.
Above, from left: Sara, age 5, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2006; Jacklyn, age 7, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2006.

More from Politics

R29 Original Series