Ethnography project

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A project for my Communication and Culture class

Transcript of Ethnography project

  • Child Beauty Pageants The label Child Beauty Pageants comes from the cul-ture itself. Emerging in America in the 1960s after the take off of regular beauty pageants, child beauty pageants judge girls and boys looks, capability, poise, perfection and con-fidence, or what judges refer to as the complete pack-age.1 Child pageants are now becoming even more popular-ly known through The Learning Channels (TLC) television show Toddlers and Tiaras and spin off series Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

    Along with competing to see which contestants have the complete package, child pageants can be used as a stepping stone for children to break into the acting or modeling industries. Monetary prizes are also award-ed to winning contestants, usually in the form of savings bonds, in addi-tion to tiaras, sashes and other items. Parents of these children say these awards help their children build con-fidence and self-esteem.


    Pageants are held all over the U.S. Most prominent in the south, pageants can be held at the local, regional, state or national levels. There are two types of child beauty pageants: natural and glitz. Natural pageants allow the girls to wear minimal makeup and are not as heavy on glittery, expensive hair-styles and outfits. For glitz pageants, girls are expected to wear full makeup, hairpieces, sometimes fake teeth and get spray tans. Both types of pageants can be found in any area of the U.S. and members often have experience com-peting in both.

  • What do members represent? Children in beauty pageants most often repre-sent a fierce sense of competition and desire to re-ceive prizes and titles at the pageants. Parents in beauty pageants can often be found to represent vicarious living and desire for their chil-dren to succeed. Parentsusually mothers find a sense of accomplishment and pride when their chil-dren win a title or prize during the competition. Judges, coaches, and stylists are usually the au-thority figures in the pageant world that represent judgment and are the ones the contestants listen to and try to impress.

    What are the members known for? Members of this culture are known for being su-per competitive and doing whatever it takes to win. Parents involved in pageant culture often find themselves gradually making concessions on what is appropriate for their children to be allowed to do to prepare for, perform, and act in and outside of pageants.

    What do members actually do?

    The pageant culture ultimately re-volves around the children competing. Beauty pageants are contests in which girls (an occasionally boys) compete against each other in various categories usually including: Beauty, Talent, Personali-ty, Head Shot Photo Quality, and special-ized outfit categories. The goal of competitors is to win the top title and prize in the pageant. This title is usually called Grand Supreme, and is awarded with some kind of cash prize, siza-ble tiara , sash and sometimes other items such as stuffed animals or goodie bags. The children involved prepare for weeks and even months to compete in pageants. The contests are usually open to children ages 0 to 17, and can sometimes include categories for mothers, or misses. Parents, coaches and stylists help the children prepare for the competitions and a panel of judges evaluates the contestants and decide winners and prizes based on the predetermined criteria of each catego-ry.


  • General Description

    Members of child beauty pageant cultures obviously in-clude children. These children usually are between the ages of 0-17and have fierce desire to win. They often can be demand-ing, have high expectations and display their emotions and thoughts freely when offstage. However, when performing, these contestants keep a smile on their face and know the im-portance of putting on a good show for their judges. The parents of the children competing are usually of middle to upper class socioeconomic status. How involved they are and their sense of competition can vary, with some mothers and fathers making all their childs pageant-wear, do-ing hair and makeup, coaching and choreographing talent, etc. In addition, some parents see pageants as an opportunity for their children to have fun, while others see it solely as an op-portunity to win . Judges are present only the day(s) of the pageant and have little to no interaction with parents or contestants. Judges are often made up of influential people in the community, adults who have been pageant winners, and previous coaches/stylists/pageant directors. Coaches and stylists are gener-ally present all along the pageant process. This can involve practicing routines and hairstyles on the girls days or weeks before in addition to the day of the competition.


    Qualifications for membership

    Membership in the child beauty pageant cul-ture is voluntary. There are fees for each pageant, so as long as the parents are able to pay the fee, a con-testant may be entered into any pageant. Only na-tional pageants with contestants chosen from win-ners of state or regional pageants have a component of exclusivity to their membership. The entry fee for a child pageant can range anywhere from $5-$500 depending on the scale and type of pageant. Girls and boys can compete in pageants, but they are usually made up predominantly of girls. Girls tend to have the most interest in winning a special title or crown and have a strong desire to be competitive and win.

  • Cultural Reproduction

    Although any child can enter a pag-eant, there are certainly specific skills, attributes and basic under-standing the contestants and parents must have in order to be an ade-quate competitor and not be shocked by the transformation these girls (and boys) undergo. Contestants are often coached and styled by professionals so they can be considered and judged at the same level as the other competitors.

    Cultural Boundaries

    It is relatively easy to enter into a pageant and be accepted into the cultureif you have the financial resources. It is not required for contestants to compete in a set number of pageants per month or year, and contestants can withdraw from a pageant at any time. Though technically the boundaries are flexi-ble, the acceptance into the culture of compe-tition can be difficult to enter in to. If a child is not successful in multiple pageants, they are not considered to be real competition by the other competitors and competitors families.


    The main roles in this culture are competi-tors, judges, directors, emcees, coaches, styl-ists and parents.

    Competitors. The role of competitors is to perform in each of the categories for a partic-ular pageant, be prepared to submit a head shot photo, and be on time and ready for each category when it is called.

    Judges. The judges role is to evaluate and score contestants for each category and tally the final scores to declare winners.

    Directors. The pageant directors are respon-sible for facilitating the pageant and ensuring it runs smoothly. Directors can also take on the role of judge at other pageants they are not directing.

    Emcees. The emcee of the event is responsi-ble for announcing names, categories and fi-nal awards at the conclusion of the pageant.

    Coaches. Coaches are responsible for prep-ping contestants before the pageant compe-tition. This involves preparing routines and working with the child so they know how to stand, pose, walk, smile and perfect other technical aspects of their performances and routines. Coaches can also take on the role of stylists.

    Stylists. Stylists are responsible for doing the childs hair and makeup before and during the pageant.

    Parents. The role of the parents is broad. Often the parent will take on the role of coach and stylist as well as being responsible for his/her child the day of the pageant.

    Hierarchy The real aspect of hierarchy present in child pag-eants comes into play at the awards ceremony that concludes the pageant. Prizes are awarded by age division and usually include prizes for superlatives (best hair, best smile, most photogenic) and then division queen. After division titles and prizes are announced, the ultimate titles are awarded. These are the highest awards for the entire pageant and can be given to a contestant from any division that did not win queen for her division. So actually, divi-sion queen is a title usually received with disap-pointment. The ultimate titles given are: Novice Supreme, Mini Supreme and then Grand Supreme. Grand Supreme is the highest title and is usually accom-panied with a savings bond ranging from $100-$2000. The winners of a supreme title are con-sidered the best of the best in the pageant com-petition.


    I dont want to be normal. This is the life I love.

    - mother, Southern Glitz Open Pageant

  • Individualism The beauty pageant culture places a high emphasis on individual accomplishment and success. The sole purpose of a pageant competi-tion is to be the best and win the highest title or prize. This emphasis on recognition and success is highly representative of pageants. Also with individualism, each child wants to feel inde-pendent of their mothers, coaches and stylistsespecially once they step on stage. The other main emphasis is on standing out and setting yourself apart from other com-petitors to ensure you will win. 2

    Other values emphasized are the accu-mulation of self-esteem and confidence in ones own abilities.

    Uncertainty Avoidance The members of this culture have a combination of high and low uncertainty avoidance, depending on the situation. They have high uncertainty avoidance between other contest-ants and judges, where they