If you have ever attended a child beauty pageant, or watched TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras (aka T&T), you will know this expression. Or, “Yes, MA’AM!” And you definitely will have heard my favorite grammatically incorrect phrase, “You did so goooood!”
Last night’s installment of T&T, featuring Texas’ Groovy Girls pageants, did not disappoint linguistically, or stylistically (although, I must say getting a glimpse of the infamous Makenzie, but not seeing that “hard working lady NiNi,” was a definite disappointment). We had the usual spray tanning, flippers, etc., and we saw a six-year-old getting acrylic nails.
As someone who has studied child beauty pageants, and who is currently studying the health effects of age cutoffs in organized activities (along with Rebecca Casciano), the most interesting part of this episode was the discussion of “fallbacks” in pageants. I have long been fascinated by this practice, but never seen it discussed in the popular media. Basically one of the contestants, Taralynn, was six-years-old the day of the competition. However, she was allowed to compete as a five-year-old, because on January 1, she was still five. So five was her “fallback” age and this gave her a big advantage over the younger girls she competed against. Fallbacks really matter when you are four and competing in the 0-3 “Grand Supreme” category. Taralynn ended up winning “Ultimate Grand Supreme” of the pageant.
I’ve studied a lot of children’s competitive activities and while many deal with biological age in different ways (i.e. dance competitions average the age of the participants in a routine, or soccer teams use a birth year as a determining factor), I have only ever seen “fallbacks” in child beauty pageants. Have any of you experienced fallbacks in other activities? Please tell me about your experiences!
[PS. If you’ve never watched T&T, tune in next Wednesday at 10 to see the return of “pageant supserstar” Eden Wood. Oh yes, the CUTIE PATOOTIE, Eden Wood.]