all photos from High Glitz by Susan Anderson, Powerhouse Books 2011
The other day Gabby asked me if she was fat. It kind of shocked me because a) my girl is long and spindly, not an ounce wasted on her! and b) she is only 7! Being mommy to three girls I try really hard to curb the self loathing comments, but as a dancer it is hard to not think about those extra pounds hanging around. I strive to teach the girls about being healthy over being thin, about taking care of your body so that your appearance doesn’t need cosmetics and other fake-ness. But… I don’t exactly practice what I preach….
I keep a stash of makeup in the car and the girls have seen me countless times hurriedly apply some tinted moisturizer, under eye coverup, blush, shadow, liner, mascara, lipstick, and gloss to my face when we park to go places. They ask me why I put on makeup and I tell them that it makes me feel pretty, which is 100% true. Sure, my plain Jane face feels great when we are home, lounging about. But get me out in public and I feel pretty naked without it. At bare minimum the coverup, mascara, and gloss go on.
Along with the makeup I also wear Spanx to slim the baby belly, a gift from 3 c-sections that just can’t be exercised away but bothers me to no end. And… we keep a scale in our bedroom since Klint and I have a weight loss contest going on. Now, I never talk bad about myself when I am on the scale- but it is there, taunting me because I ate that whole bagel with cream cheese and drank all that sweet tea…
Noticing a girl’s appearance first is almost instinctive it seems to me. Even though I read a fantastic article called How To Talk to Little Girls by Lisa Bloom, I just can’t help myself. I exclaim over their adorable outfits, their well coiffed hair, and pretty faces. I see tons of cute little girls in my dance classes daily and compliment them on their tutus and hair doodads, and see them smile with pride. Many of them, especially if they stick with dance, will begin to worry about their weight as young as 3… in fact, almost half of 3-6 year old worry about their weight. Did you know that there are blogs to encourage eating disorders in girls? Yep! They are there, cheering each other on to be so thin that they are dying…
and then you have shows like Toddlers and Tiaras. *shudder*
There is no spark, no curiosity in their eyes. Empty pretty little shells who have been tanned, poked, waxed, primped, whitened, fluffed, sprayed, and glossed over until all semblance of childhood is gone. Looking at these photos I feel so sad for these little girls, who will believe that their looks are more important than their personalities and that is all that matters in this world. Dieting, eating disorders, and self hatred are not far off, if not already a reality.
I don’t want my girls to think that their most important feature is their looks. But at the same time I want them to take pride in their appearance… so where do you draw the line? I guess that is what I am trying to figure out… When is it excessive and when is it ok to let them play with things like makeup and get their nails done for fun? I mean, I love painting my nails, getting my hair done, and once upon a time I was a tanning bed worshiper because it made me feel good inside. But how do I justify all those image-enhancing things to impressionable little girls? Is there a place for lip gloss and manicures in childhood???
I want her to know she is beautiful just the way she is...
** About the photographer:
Susan Anderson’s documentary portrait series, High Glitz, is shot on location at several of America’s child beauty pageants. Setting up her studio amidst the colorful spectacle, she captures the young girls at the height of their performance. Hours of preparation are spent on each child’s appearance, and her camera records it all in graphic detail. Children’s pageants are a fascinating subculture, but more than anything they represent a strange microcosm of America itself. Our own values of beauty, success and glamour reflected in the dreams of thousands of young girls… Anderson is a Los Angeles-based fine art, commercial, and editorial photographer specializing in portraiture, beauty, fashion, and conceptual work. After earning her BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, Anderson relocated to Los Angeles in 2001. Her editorial work has appeared in a variety of magazines including, Los Angeles, People, Glamour and Playboy. Chronicle books commissioned her to illustrate their wildly successful series of humorous trade paperbacks, Porn for Women, and the sequel, Porn for New Moms. Her fine art work is represented by PATRICK PAINTER INC, Los Angeles, and by TORCH Gallery, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.