This three-year-old contestant is a thrill-seeker, driving a plastic car on-stage and wearing a tear-away skirt for her Lady Gaga routine, as well as going to great lengths to extract a booger buried deep in her nose, which she subsequently wiped on her shirt.
Paisley’s mom, Wendy, represents fearlessness, the parent who is not afraid to push boundaries with prostitute-inspired clothing for her three-year-old. Wendy embraces every morsel of inappropriateness from the beginning of the show, admitting she “loves living vicariously through her three-year-old daughter” and is pleased the Pretty Woman backlash made her child more famous.
The five-year-old “diva queen” maintains her eye on the prize: beating Paisley, a motif that is reiterated throughout the show over and over and over again.
Isabella’s mom, Susanna, represents the desire to win at any cost, even her own daughter’s feelings, telling her after an apparently less-than-perfect performance: “Why would you get on-stage and blow it like that, baby? What happened?”, then adding right in front of her: “…She blew the whole routine. Like, bad. Like, I watched the judges. Like, no. She blew it.”
The character of Susanna also embodies society’s obsession with getting “quick fixes,” as she pours packets of sugar down her tired daughter’s throat. Key quote: “Straight sugar to get straight energy.”
Eight-year-old Shian’s role as a grudging contestant with a crazy pageant mom is established not only by her mom’s “suggested” meditation sessions (envision “how you’re going to walk” [in the pageant] urges her mom, eyes closed), but also her confession of how her mom prepares her to compete with her slender competition: “My mom puts a girdle on me to go to bed, too.”
Shian’s mom, Trisma, takes “crazy pageant mom” to the next level when she confronts the judging panel after the pageant and accuses them of cheating.
SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
Toddlers & Tiaras: Darling Divas opens with establishing shots of New York City, providing the perfect backdrop for Paisley’s family’s MANY puns about her being a “Georgia Peach in the Big Apple.” (Ha, haaaa!) However, the story doesn’t really gain momentum until the nail-biting moment when Paisley declares she has “to go pee-pee” right as she’s about to go on-stage for the Beauty portion. “YOU CAN HOLD IT!” insists her mother. “No, I can’t! I’m gonna wet my pants!” responds Paisley. The audience follows Paisley and her father as they rush to the restroom in panic mode.
The roller-coaster of emotions continues as Shian bursts into tears because she is overwhelmed by all of the people in her space. “I was nervous and I didn’t like it,” Shian reveals in a dramatic monologue to the camera.
Shian’s nervousness is eclipsed only by Susanna’s disappointment in her daughter Isabella, as Susanna shares in her own dramatic monologue: “When [Isabella] got on stage, she was lost. I feel sad seeing her blow it. It’s like losing the World Series. So heartbreaking to me.” Susanna walks away from the camera in tears.
In the denouement, all of the featured contestants win supreme titles: Paisley wins Casual Wear Supreme; Shian wins Division Supreme; and Isabella wins Beauty Supreme. Upon hearing the results, Shian’s mom, Trisma, confronts the judging panel and accuses them of cheating by misrepresenting the number of contestants in each division. After a heated exchange, Trisma concedes it may be time to take a break from pageants. The most important take-away of the story, however, is that Isabella beat Paisley. Which is all that really matters, according to Isabella.
The theme of out-of-touch mothers living vicariously through their young, adorable daughters is carried out consistently throughout the episode.
Review Questions and Essay Topics
- If your spouse had spent $40,000 on pageantry items in the past eight months, like Isabella’s mom had, would you cut her/his credit cards up with scissors, a steak knife or a weed whacker? Describe the expletives you would choose, as well.
- Do you think the contestants’ flippers make them look like Gary Busey? Explain.
- One of the pageant moms has been criticized for dressing her toddler like Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman. If the toddler entered your snooty Beverly Hills boutique in that get-up, would you kick her out in order to let her return triumphantly in a more appropriate outfit and deliver one of the best lines in romantic comedy history: “Big mistake. Big. Huge! …I have to go shopping now…”?
- Explain the pageant crowning process. (Seriously, explain it. I’ve watched this show three million times and it still confuses the hell out of me.)