Imagine if Dante had known about those mothers who put their tiny, scantily clothed daughters on the reality TV show “Toddlers & Tiaras.” No doubt at all, the poet would have ordered everybody in his “Inferno” to squeeze in and make room for some new detainees.
For those not familiar, “Toddlers & Tiaras” is this beautiful cable TV program where little girls, some just infants, compete in endless beauty pageants, the kids — not all, but some — clad in Vegas showgirl-type outfits. They bat fake eyelashes and attempt bumps and grinds to the great delight of moms and dads sitting in the ballrooms of nondescript motels. It’s must-see TV for level 3 offenders.
At age 6, Eden Wood is the undisputed champion of “Toddlers & Tiaras,” having won so many trophies and so many $1,000 prizes on the program that she has now retired from competition. Six years old and nothing more to prove in the world of underage beauty pageantry! When I was that age, my parents were excited that I finally had stopped wetting the bed!
So now, Eden’s mom, Mickie Wood, has decided on a Hollywood career for her daughter, who recently told a television interviewer she wants to be “a superstar.” When asked why, the child at first seemed confused, saying “I don’t know why”; she then looked at her mother and responded, “ ’cause I’m famous.” Mom, who describes Eden as kicking some “bootay” in winning pageants, says the family already has spent $100,000 on Eden’s career, such as it is, and they are ready for their only child to make the big leap now to music or to the movie industry. Eden and Mickie just completed an eight-week tour with other little girls and their moms in a Dodge Caravan. Eden, of course, was the star, the other girls in supporting roles. Mom told one newspaper: “Just like everybody knows who Justin Bieber is, everybody is going to know Eden Wood.” The kid has no discernible talent beyond being pretty, but in this “famous for being famous” era, who knows?
Now, if all of this suggests that Mickie is a “stage mom” living her own fantasies through her daughter, well, just forget that idea, buster. “I get so fed up hearing that,” she says. Mom insists this is all Eden’s decision, what she wants, and she can quit anytime she wants. Eden, by the way, began performing when she was 14 months old. I don’t know about you, but I think you should be at least 24 months old before deciding what career path to pursue for the rest of your life.
On “Toddlers & Tiaras” the miniature contestants often whine and rant as their moms spray and tease their hairdos and apply the big-girl makeup — apparently, this is the way little girls reaffirm their decisions to take part in these pageants. Eden recently refused to compete when her costumes did not reach the venue on time. Mickie, by one account, took her by the shoulders and told her: “We have to do what we have to do. If not, take your dress off and go home.” Mom said later: “I gave her the choice two or three times and I meant it; she wanted to stay.” Damned little divas!
How quaint we were back in the Fifties, the so-called Golden Age of Television, watching Uncle Miltie and Lucy and Howdy Doody! We had none of these cable reality shows like “Tiaras” or “Swamp People,” starring guys with half-mouthfuls of ocher-tinted teeth who capture alligators, or “Pawn Stars,” with a lovable but improbably stupid sidekick called “Chumlee,” or “Hoarders,” with mentally ill people who stock their homes to the ceilings with garbage and vermin, or “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and “Jersey Shore,” the former with middle-aged stars and the latter with … oh, who cares? Just be sure to use a capital “T” when you spell the word Trash.
But the Emmy goes to, or should go to, “Tiaras.” Besides Eden’s retirement segment, the show recently featured a mom carrying onstage her 2-week-old infant boy in a tuxedo (his older brother told an interviewer “he wants to win really, really, really badly. But he doesn’t know that yet.”) Also, there was another mom who prayed out loud to Jesus as she teases her daughter’s hair, asking for divine intervention, and yet another mom who said, on camera, that one of her twin, 6-year-old daughters was the “prettiest” of all five of her children. The other twin, she said, has a “big nose.” What if they had a cable reality show called “Real Moms Who Put Their Little Girls in Suggestive Outfits and Display Them on TV Get Flogged?” Now that would be must-see!