Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Amy Taylor and her granddaughter compete in beauty pageants all over Tennessee. At 11 years old, Caitlyn has dozens of competitions under her belt.

Welcome to the world of beauty pageants for kids

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Caitlyn Taylor, 11, has been competing in beauty pageants for years in her home state of Tennessee.

    < li class="mt-2 flex first:mt-0">Violette Cantin (View profile)Violette Cantin

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Saturday morning in the small town of Cookeville, Tennessee. Dozens of young girls put on their dresses and make slight touch-ups to their makeup, excited at the idea of ​​going on stage. Among them: 11-year-old Caitlyn. She put on her high heels and her long turquoise dress. A good layer of foundation covers her face.

Keep your smile. Half a smile won't do the trick, says her grandmother, Amy Taylor, as the young girl devotes herself to her final preparations before her performance.

I will do my best to keep my smile, the young girl replies in a placid tone. Then, she will stand on the side of the stage, in line behind her competitors. The pageant is about to begin.

We started entering her in beauty pageants when she was 10 months old.

Amy Taylor and her granddaughter Caitlyn share an obvious bond and love. For years, they've been traveling across Tennessee for entire weekends for Caitlyn to compete in beauty pageants. At 11 years old, she has dozens of competitions under her belt, including at the national level.

Caitlyn is the first girl in the Taylor family in almost 50 years, Amy says. We wanted to make sure she knew she was a girl and that she could do girly activities. The little one started participating in competitions on a regular basis at the age of six. She takes part about once a month.

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Amy Taylor and her granddaughter Caitlyn, 11, a regular in beauty pageants.

However, this activity can become expensive, Amy admits. But she's my only granddaughter, so she's more spoiled. The cost of a national pageant weekend can easily exceed $2,000 and each dress costs $500 to $1,000. Caitlyn has around ten.

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Amy Taylor in what she calls her “stable,” which she has set up in her backyard. Dozens of beauty pageant dresses and accessories are stored there.

The young girl says she loves this activity. Beauty pageants aren't so much about competition: they're more about making friends and having fun.

These pageants x27;helped her gain confidence and overcome the ordeal of the disappearance of her mother, who died suddenly of COVID-19 two years ago. At competitions, there are other people who are going through difficult times. I'm never alone.

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Saturday morning in Cookeville, Tennessee. The Miss Christmas Spirit competition begins.

Back in Cookeville, where the local Miss Christmas Spirit pageant is taking place, in which Caitlyn is participating. The competition promises to be fierce: she is the youngest in her division, which brings together girls aged 11 to 13. She faces six competitors, an unusually high number for a local competition.

The event is hosted by Paige Seidel, 24 and owner of three beauty pageant circuits. Today, the girls will only compete in the “beauty” category, she explains to us before the start of the competitions.

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Paige Seidel is the organizer of the competition. “To each their own activity. We don't have a problem with that one,” she responds to those who would criticize children's beauty pageants.

The day begins with the 0-23 month group. Around twenty baby girls wearing dresses and barrettes take the stage, held by their mothers.

And what should the candidates do during their performance? They're just going to walk on stage, replies Ms. Seidel. Many beauty pageants require contestants to demonstrate a special talent or answer interview questions, but that was not the case on this day.

More than two hours before the start of her category, young Caitlyn is already on site. She went to the tanning salon the day before and is now getting her hair and makeup done.

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Caitlyn in the middle of a hair and makeup session, a few hours before her performance.

The makeup will be light today since it's #x27;is a natural type competition. In addition to natural pageants, there are semi-glitz pageants, where the makeup can be more extravagant. And in glitz competitions, anything goes, including fake hair and teeth, no matter the age of the contestants. Caitlyn and her grandmother don't frequent those.

Caitlyn's father, Ryan, exceptionally attends the competition. What does he think of the makeup on his 11-year-old daughter's face? It can be a bit much, sometimes, he replies with an embarrassed smile.

Now it’s time to exercise. Caitlyn and her grandmother go outside to rehearse her performance. Keep your back straight when facing the judges, Amy repeats, while her granddaughter walks slowly, with a fixed smile on her lips, and puts on the semi-circles while holding her dress with one hand.

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Caitlyn rehearses her performance outside under the watchful eye of Amy. She admits not having exercised the day before.

Meanwhile, inside, it is the children aged 4 to 7 who are confront. For example, we meet little Carlie, five years old.

Her mother, Tara Brown, admits that she feels some discomfort when it comes to the makeup her daughter wears.

I prefer it when she's more natural, but sometimes I let her wear a little makeup. When she was a baby and until she was four years old, we didn't put them on her. But now, most girls in her age group wear makeup. I feel like she gets better results when she wears them.

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Five-year-old Carlie poses with her mother, Tara Brown. The little one won the title of “Mini Supreme”, second position in its category.

A little further away, Hope, seven years old, put on her long white dress. The little girl has a charity platform that she promotes when she competes. The platform is called Hope helps others prepare for excellence.

At first, it was just community service: she collected and distributed items to organizations like Ronald McDonald, says her mother, Kate Hensley. She now distributes clothing to underprivileged students at her school and aims to expand the program to at least five more schools this year.

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Hope has been competing in beauty pageants for a year and a half. Her mother, Kate Hensley, always accompanies her.

At seven years old, was she the one who thought of this whole project? Yes, her mother proudly replies.

It's a victorious day for the two little candidates: Hope wins the title of Grande Suprême, or first place among the twenty candidates aged 4 to 7 years old, while Carlie wins that of Mini Suprême, or second position.

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Seven-year-old Hope emerges from the competition with the supreme crown.

But how do the judges decide between the candidates? We judge from head to toe, replies Sheila Holt, one of the judges.

We evaluate how the hair, makeup, dress are. We judge facial beauty, personality and overall appearance out of 10. Everything must be taken into consideration. Is this girl a 9.9, a 9.2 or an 8.5? We watch a girl while she's on stage, it lasts about a minute. This is how we judge these girls.

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Sheila Holt and Tabitha Lancaster are the competition judges. “We don't compare the candidates to each other, we judge them one at a time,” assures Sheila.

Beauty pageants remain popular in the United States, especially in southern states like Tennessee and Texas. According to different sources, around 250,000 women and girls participate each year in the country. But many criticisms of competitions reserved for children are being heard. Many parents believe, for example, that judging a little girl based on her appearance and making her wear makeup at a young age is inappropriate.

I think it's no different than what you might see at a dance or cheerleading competition, retorts Paige Seidel. Everyone has their own activity. We don't have a problem with that one. It gives the girls something fun to do. They're not doing anything weird. And they gain self-esteem by going on stage in front of a crowd.

This is an opinion that is nuanced by Martina Cartwright, nutritionist and adjunct professor at the University of Arizona, who published a scientific article on this subject.

What I observed in many participants is that they are preoccupied with their beauty and looking perfect, whatever that means to them. Their success is based on their physique.

Decrease in their self-esteem, appearance of eating disorders… The researcher notes that beauty contests, especially those where the candidates are judged solely for their beauty and not for any talent, have had negative consequences for several ex-girlfriends. -participants.

I often hear, "Oh, my five year old loves it, my three year old loves it." But they will like everything, no matter what you tell them to like! It's part of the psychology of beauty pageants. I think many children want to please their parents.

In France, beauty contests are completely banned for children under 13. In Quebec, they are practically non-existent, but circuits exist in a few Canadian provinces.

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Amy Taylor paid for a professional photo shoot for her granddaughter. In the photo, Caitlyn is 10 years old.

Now for the 11 to 13 year old category. Amy Taylor is standing in the middle of the room, feverish. I'm still nervous about Caitlyn. I want her to do her best.

Caitlyn walks on stage, puts her hands on her hips, makes a few semi-circles. Her smile sags slightly towards the end of her performance.

Nevertheless, Amy seems relatively satisfied. Caitlyn didn't keep her smile as much as she should have, but her grandmother expected that.

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As soon as she leaves the stage, Caitlyn gives feedback on her performance with her grandmother. mother.

Caitlyn, on the other hand, is particularly hard on herself. I could have done a lot better, she grumbles, disappointed at having almost tripped on stage and having placed her hands in front of her instead of at her sides.

Despite her disappointment, the judges awarded her the prize for most beautiful eyes and first alternate, i.e. third position. Amy is pleased with the result, recalling that her granddaughter is in a new age category.

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Caitlyn wasn't very proud of her performance, but she still did obtained the title of first substitute.

Caitlyn goes to the judges' table, as she does after each competition. She asks them what she could have done better. Their answer: her hair.

Make it straighter. For me, it was a distraction, says judge Sheila Holt.

The day is now over and Caitlyn already has her eyes set on her next beauty pageant.

His goals? Keep my smile. Walk better. And have fun.

Violette Cantin is the winner of the Experiencing Journalism Abroad grant from the Fondation de l&#x27 ;UQAM.

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