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Six-year-old American beauty queen draws protests and US$77,000 payday
'Toddlers & Tiaras' star Eden Wood brings the child-beauty pageant debate to Australia
She’s only six years old, but she’s already hot property.
Eden Wood, America’s child beauty pageant queen and star of reality TV show “Toddlers & Tiaras”, is making a whirlwind tour of Australia.
More than 100 little girls paraded in Melbourne over the weekend hoping to become the Australian version of the petite blond princess. The contest's AU$615 (US$677) entry fee included an AU$50 charge to be snapped with the queen of the kids.
But instead of Eden showing up, the weekend was dominated by media fights and protests.
Little kids waiting to be snapped with the starlet weren’t the only ones queuing with checks to buy some time with her.
Eden was seen as perfect for prime-time TV. Rival evening shows have allegedly been involved in a tug-of-war over the little girl, reports Brisbane’s The Courier-Mail.
In Australia, checkbook journalism and prime time TV go hand in hand.
Channel 9’s “A Current Affair” thought they had the scoop when they paid AU$20,000 to cover the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant. But a higher bid was in the air.
Eden’s mother, Mickie Wood, told Channel 7’s “Today Tonight,” “My child is the headliner, my child is the star of this event.”
She also said that if police were there, her little girl wouldn’t show up, citing security concerns.
But maybe that wasn’t the real reason: Today Tonight had signed up the star for AU$70,000 and refused her permission to perform in the event.
Instead, Eden was hidden across the road in an art gallery and then whisked away in a car, before performing her signature hits, “Cutie Patootie” and “Underpuppy” to a small crowd at the Amora Hotel, reports news.com.au.
Mickie Wood said herself, “Her little mind can’t comprehend any of this.”
Pageant organizers are now taking aim at the mother. The director, Cameron Powell, posted on Facebook, “You did not make the ‘mummy decision’ … you made a money decision … how dare you take advantage of the good nature of Australians who have supported, defended and put their own reputations within their community under fire?”
Child beauty pageants under fire
As the beauty pageant rolled on, activists from the group, Pull the Pin on Beauty Pageants for Children, gathered in Melbourne –- as have groups in the United States -– to vent their outrage.
Psychologist Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg told the ABC: "In my view if you were to say to me that you put your child in that situation I would absolutely suggest to you that it's bordering on child abuse."
"These children will not come out of this unscarred psychologically and we're all sitting around rather like voyeurs watching it happen. There's something really quite obscene about that."
He said the sexualization of young people is associated with negative body image, disordered eating, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
But parents have come out in defense of their right to take their children –- some less than a year old –- to beauty pageants. Many have said it’s their child’s wish to compete and see the contests as innocent.
The fake tans and wigs on “Toddlers & Tiaras” were not seen at the Australian contest.
And there’s a cool AU$70,000 to say that Australians find the whole thing fascinating.
But should children compete in beauty pageants? Or should they be banned?