The organizers and participants in Sunday’s “Little Miss & Little Mr. Macon” competition held at Theatre Macon want to emphasize that their pageant is nothing like an episode of “Toddlers & Tiaras.”
No one there was looking to be the next Honey Boo-Boo, the well-known “Toddlers & Tiaras” contestant named Alana Thompson, who has spun off into her own sometimes-controversial reality series with her family on TLC and their adventures in McIntyre.
“This is a natural competition,” Miss Macon Executive Director April Montgomery said. “We want the kids to look their age.”
The contest was open to girls ages 0 to 12 and boys ages 0 to 9.
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Going all the way back to the murder of child pageant contestant JonBenet Ramsey, and continuing with TLC’s reality series, “Toddlers & Tiaras,” some critics have associated such types of child pageants with a certain unseemliness.
But Susan Langley of Woodstock, whose 12-year-old daughter Mikaela competes regularly in beauty pageants, said contestants in natural competitions -- where items like glitter, false teeth and other artificial enhancements aren’t allowed -- get unfairly painted with the same brush as those who compete in “glitz” competitions.
“These girls are getting a very bad rap because of things like ‘Toddlers & Tiaras,’ ” Susan Langley said.
She noted that her daughter not only is in the gifted program and a straight-A student in middle school, but that she already has paid for her first year of college through the scholarships she’s won in competitions.
“(Mikaela) already has taken to college classes at Georgia College,” her mother said. “She got a gold Presidential Medal for doing 260 hours of community service.”
Mikaela Langley said she enjoys the competitions. She’s made a lot of friends over the years among her competitors, and she’s developed more confidence for speaking in public.
“It’s a real confidence boost to go out there” on stage, she said. “I get to make a bunch of new friends, and it’s a confidence boost to speak to people in public.”
Langley said she’s met Gov. Nathan Deal and worked as a page for state Sen. Chip Rogers, so competitions can open doors for the contestants as well.
Jennifer Stackhouse, whose 7-year-old son Ernest and 2-year-old daughter Raegan both competed Sunday, said it’s the first time she’s entered her children in a competition, so she didn’t really know what to expect.
“We heard about it on the radio, and Raegan likes attention, so we thought it was the perfect time to try out,” the Warner Robins resident said. “I like the fact that it’s a natural competition.”
Ernest Stackhouse is autistic, his mother said, and she hopes being on stage in front of a large crowd can help stimulate his social skills. Jennifer Stackhouse said she was impressed with the way the competition is run, because organizers allowed her to go on stage with her son.
Of the 39 competitors Sunday, a good percentage had previous pageant experience.
Kinley Pridgen, 9, of Warner Robins, already has held the titles of Little Miss Warner Robins, Little Miss Dogwood and Little Miss Cotton. She said she works on her competition skills Mondays through Fridays.
“She just does it for fun,” her mother Paula said. “She does it to have fun and make friends. ... Once she goes home, she takes off (the evening gown) and will go out and shoot baskets.”
Kimberly Sheheane of Macon already has had her daughter, Addilynn Safewright, in four pageants at the ripe old age of 2.
“I want her to build self-confidence,” she said. “She won’t be scared to get out in front of other people. I hope she continues with it. She loves it.”
Proceeds for Sunday’s event go to the Miss Macon Scholarship Fund. The organization has been around since 1921 and is back after taking last year off to re-organize, Montgomery said. The Miss Macon competition will be held in October, she said, with competitors hope to be named the next Miss Georgia and compete in the Miss America pageant.
Sunday’s winners were: Baby Miss Macon: Addilynn Denise Safewright; Baby Mr: Cameron Glasgow; Teeny Miss: Reese Fleming; Tiny Miss: Kelsie Morath; Tiny Mr: Lochlan Scott Keefer; Little Miss: Caitlyn Banks; Little Mr: Ashton Paredes; Petite Miss: Mikaela Rose Langley; Talent Winner girls ages 4-8: Teegin Sage Key; Talent winner 4-8 boys: Ashton Paredes; Talent 9-12 girls: Mikaela Rose Langley.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.