Parents who promote pageants to make stars
It is natural for parents to want the best for their children. As a result, supportive parents are expected to allow their children’s talents to develop and blossom. However, when do children go from being kids to clients?
Stage parents have been a prevalent part of performing for decades, and their comical-yet-undeniably-upsetting antics have been recently exploited through reality television. On shows like Toddlers in Tiaras and I Know My Kid’s a Star, America has been able to observe just how destructive and even delusional stage parents can be. Still, reality television tends to be a lens into the most exaggerated aspects of situations, so it is difficult to tell whether these perceptions are skewed or accurate.
Toddlers in Tiaras is a reality show that follows child beauty pageant contestants and their families. The show has been running for five seasons, but controversy has been swirling around the show since its inception. As bossy and dramatic tots are covered in makeup and stuffed into gaudy dresses, audiences are appalled by how seemingly innocent children end up resembling full-grown adults. What is more monstrous, however, are the parents who support these children. Although the children are often barely of speaking age, they insist that their kids demanded to be in the pageant circuit. Also, these parents often become slaves to their children’s demands, which forced the toddlers to transform into little monsters.
However, according to Ithaca College senior and Miss Thousand Islands 2011 Morgan Bocciolatt, this perception of pageantry is false. She said, “Toddlers in Tiaras definitely puts a negative spin on pageants in general. Viewers see the parents’ and children’s behavior through a lens that is not meant to showcase pageants, but rather to highlight the worst aspects of competitive conduct.”
Bocciolatt personally attributes her parents to her success but insists that they have only been supportive throughout the process. “While my mom initially encouraged me to compete in my first pageant because of the performing opportunity and potential to win scholarship money, I was immediately bitten by the ‘pageant bug.’ … My parents have been nothing but supportive, encouraging and motivating.”
She added, “The assumption that ‘pageant parents’ are pushy and aggressive comes, among other limited resources, from a reality television show that is not necessarily credible … In many ways, ‘pageant parents’ are just like soccer moms and dads.”
Beauty pageant children are not the only kids under this scrutiny. Child actors, both for film and stage, are often thrust into the business by their overbearing parents. On I Know My Kid’s a Star, a 2008 reality television show that lasted merely one season, 10 parents and their children attempted to showcase their child’s talent in order to win $50,000 and a one-year contract with a Hollywood agent. However, instead of displaying their children’s talent, the show focused on just how extreme stage parents can become. The show did not continue for another season because instead of being entertained, a large majority of viewers were disgusted by the cutthroat and aggressive nature of these parents.
Jamie Sporn, a performer and dance teacher at Ramapo High School in Franklin Lakes, N.J., has seen the wrath of pushy parents as the result of casting choices in Ramapo High School’s intensely competitive theater program. She said, “I actually had a parent that threatened to have me fired as a result of a casting choice.”
Sporn notes that although some kids do not agree with their parents’ actions, others have fueled their pushy parents’ choice. “Some kids are embarrassed by the behavior of their parents. Others pretend to be embarrassed, but then go home and complain bitterly about casting injustice!”
After years of experience with overbearing adults and their children, Sporn has realized that this form of parenting can eventually take a negative toll on the child. “Ultimately, I believe students are held back by pushy parents and are less likely to be prepared for the disappointment in life.”
Although reality television paints a picture of pushy parenting for child pageant contestants and actors, it is difficult to decipher whether or not stage parents are as prevalent as the media make them seem. Although the presence of this assertive style of parenting has become unavoidably known, pageant girls such as Morgan Bocciolatt prove that parents can be supportive and helpful when their children decide to enter these fiercely competitive fields. In reality, even the pushiest of stage parents believe their poor actions will ultimately benefit their children. Perhaps seeing how corrupt the parents on television are will be a wake-up call for these adults.
Francesca Toscano is a freshman IMC major who will be singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for her talent. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.