There is a new coffee table book out that could shock some of your guests. Then again, considering 100,000 American girls are involved with the tome's subject matter, others may find nothing wrong with it. The book in question is called "High Glitz: The Extravagant World of Child Pageants," and it's about just what you think: competitive child beauty pageants.
These pageants have been around forever, but they landed in the national consciousness when JonBenet Ramsey was brutally killed in 1996. Made up to look like a miniature adult at age 6, her pageant pictures disturbed many.
And that "adult look" with its heavy glam and makeup is just what "High Glitz" captures. Photographer Susan Anderson had these little girls pose for her after undergoing hours and hours of hair, make-up, and even spray-tanning sessions. According to publisher powerHouse Books:
“High Glitz” is a subgenre of child beauty pageants characterized by couture “glitz” costumes and a broad array of cosmetic preparations including, among other tricks of the trade: glamour makeup, elaborate hairstyles, and “flippers” (false front teeth veneers). Anderson’s stunning visuals are complimented by a “High Glitz Style Guide,” defining and providing examples of the following categories: Beauty/ Formal Wear, Western Wear, Sportswear, and Swimwear, with a special section on hairstyles such as the "Barbie" and the "Up-do."
The publisher's Web site goes on to say as many as 100,000 girls under the age of 12 compete in pageants nationwide in what has become a billion dollar industry.
The images Anderson captured are certainly compelling. But are they appropriate? Even disturbing? Should little girls be made up to look like adults? People who are involved in the pageant world defend it as fun, healthy competition between little girls. But others criticize it as reinforcing the negative stereotype that beauty is all that matters.
The publisher may not share that viewpoint:
In seeing how our society’s values of beauty, glamour, and celebrity are reflected in the hopes and dreams of thousands of young girls, we come to see that these pageants are a reflection of American culture itself.
There's also the matter of pedophiles. New Rochelle, N.Y. police detective Mark Gado said while there is no evidence pedophiles attend child beauty pageants to scout out potential victims, the images that result from them are coveted by these people. He told ABC News that JonBenet's photos were a goldmine for pedophiles.
"I would venture to guess that her image is certainly in a lot of collections across the world," said Gado.
Indeed, this book could be a similar attraction to pedophiles -- not the intended audience of the photographer.