TLC Show To Feature ‘Pageant Prince’


TLC beauty pageant series Toddlers and Tiaras will feature its first pageant prince tonight, when Brock Ritter, a 7-year old boy who hopes to perform on Broadway when he grows up, joins the show.

While it’s fantastic Brock’s parents are so supportive of their tap-dancing son, and his presence on the show will help open people’s eyes to bullying based on perceived sexuality — Brock’s mom says he’s been picked on since he was in kindergarten — I find the entire concept of this show — grooming children to be beauty stars — to be completely problematic and more than a little exploitative.

But, then again, it was Brock’s decision to get into the business, and if it makes him happy, that’s wonderful! I am, in a word, conflicted.

What’s your opinion on this, reader: is Brock’s rise to fame a blessing, or a curse? Should children, male or female, be enrolled in beauty contests?


  1. Hue-Man says

    I have to go back and watch “Little Miss Sunshine”. No, I don’t – it’s perverse for parents to impose the Barbie and Ken plastic universe on 5 year-olds. Childhood should be a time of play and fun (and dressing up in your mother’s clothes, makeup and shoes) not pretending to be a miniature adult. If he wants to go to Broadway, he should study a musical instrument, voice, acting, dance and get adopted by NPH and/or Hugh Jackman.

  2. Russell says

    These things come down to the parents, don’t they? Some parents treat their kid like a chihuahua in a dress, others are responsible and supportive. With the appropriate support system, kids with the performing urge will fulfill their own potential and have wonderful lives. Brock is probably straight, based on statistics, but who cares? It’s the parents that resolve the conflict, IMO.

  3. Conrad says

    The pagaent programs are gross and it is a way for parents to push their dreams on their kids. But if an enthusiastic, talented boy wantst to use an existing system to showcase his skills, good for him. Justin Timberlake was a pageant prince. It was one of his few outlets when he was very young.

  4. Nat says

    Child beauty pageants tend to evoke a visceral response; every time I think of one, I go back to those nauseating 90s-era images of Jon Benet Ramsey. The Botox-injecting Mom may have been a hoax, but it doesn’t seem that far off from some of the reprehensible things these parents do.

    I guess the question I have to ask child beauty pageant supporters is this: what’s the purpose of dressing little girls (and boys) up to look like adults? Is it supposed to be cute? Is there ever a worry about sexualizing children?

  5. Rin says

    As a mom of two girls and watching how they are told so early on by society that beauty is everything…I cannot support this. I’m sorry he is bullied and I’m happy he is building self-esteem, but there are other ways.

    There’s children’s theater, for example.

    That documentary on the pageant circuit was brutal. I could never do that to a child.

  6. Codswallop says

    Please. The mothers ALWAYS say “Oh I don’t push this at all! Little Tyffyny/Brock is the one who wants to do the pageants!” Ummm, BS!! Sure, little girls and some little boys like to play dress-up. But NO kid wants to sit through fittings, endless make-up sessions, being plucked, prodded, and poked, and practicing those silly-@ss routines over and over. All you have to do is look at the kids’ rictus grins onstage and the misery on their faces when the judges aren’t looking.

    ALL of this is the parents, almost always the mother, living their own dreams through their kids. As someone else said, if you kid wants to be onstage then enroll them in community theater classes.

    Speaking of Jon-Benet Ramsey, not long after that whole story broke I saw an interview with a casting agent for commercials who’d interviewed Patsy and Jon-Benet. She stated unequivocally that pageant kids are USELESS for TV shows and even commercials because they’re like little robots, all spontaneity trained out of them, all personality gone.

  7. says

    though not a fan of child pageants, my basis for that is due to the huge amount of controlling parents who literally force their kids into it. If the kids want to partake on their own, then that’s a different story. This kid wants to – so he should have every right to. I hope he kicks their little asses !!

  8. Ian says

    For a site that seems to be fascinated with posting multiple stories from the garbage show “What Would You Do?” I find it puzzling that they would find THIS show problematic and exploitative. Both are exploitative garbage reality shows and are equally disgusting.

  9. MadM@ says

    honestly how is it any worse than forcing a kid into little league?

    I’m a fan of T&Ts and on the show they display a decent range of people- some parents obviously forcing kids, some seeing it as an opportunity to spend a saturday with their kid and get them more comfortable getting up in front of crowds, which is a life skill, unlike batting. They also show a mix of the natural girls (no makeup, hair done by mom) and the.. I think it’s glitz girls (kids done up like adults). The former is really no more noxious than a flower girl at a wedding or dressing up for first communion… the latter is, to me, exploitative. However, I don’t think the whole pageant system is robbing children en masse of their childhood (which has only been around since modern times).

  10. Tone says

    It’s so complex when dealing with kids. You want to model good decisions to them, but on the other hand they may really go for this pageant gig, and you don’t want to hold them back either. Loving selfless parents who know their kids will find the balance easily. I’d try and find less exploitative outlets for my child’s creative yearnings though.

    If the boy truly enjoys the little prince scene then more power to him. I wanted an Easy Bake Oven when I as five but because I was a boy I couldn’t have one. I’m glad those days are nearly behind us.

  11. Brian in Texas says

    The pageant scene is NO DIFFERENT than fathers and mothers who played sports as children and then push their kids to participate in it at young ages. The child sports leagues are brutal these days. I see this as no different. Sing and dance on Brock!

  12. Gary says

    Children are incapable of making decisions that are in their own best interest. That is the job of the parent. Then again, alot of parents aren’t capable of making decisions that are in the best interest of the child either. I say no to child beauty pagents. Unlike other competitions where you’re being judged on a skill, “Beauty” is waaay to vague and personal a concept. No one adult or child should be judged on Beauty.

  13. Thomasina says

    “But, then again, it was Brock’s decision to get into the business…”

    @Andrew: This kind of logic is bizarre to me. When I was seven years old, it was my “decision” to eat chocolate ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but my mother said NO, and that was that. Good parents say no to their kids when the kids want to do something that is bad for them, because the parents are (theoretically) more mature and experienced than the kid. If the point is that this boy is drawn to things that are traditionally “for girls,” it’s great that his mother supports him–but pageants are terrible for children, no matter what their gender-identification or sexuality is.

  14. Paul R says

    Andrew, I defended you earlier against unfair criticism, but you hardly need to end posts with “What’s your opinion, reader?” Towleroad readers are hardly a recalcitrant bunch.

  15. TyInTenn says

    Being a kid isn’t easy. Being a parent isn’t one either. Opinion only here, contests like these are crap but they are growing into the next reality series (there’s a new one coming on with some truck-driver looking dance teacher….). I can’t remember at age 7 knowing what i wanted to do – or at age 30 for that matter. Both of my kids wanted to be one thing one day and another thing the next. Let the kid be a kid before he ends up in rehab like all of the rest.

  16. Paul says

    Let the kid do what he wants to do. The parents are supportive, they clearly love him…that is all that really matters. He will grow up to be a super cool kid with great parents. Some kids play on motorbikes, some play with fake guns, some are raised with the bible, some are raised learning to tap dance. The little fella has a big grin on his face so i suspect he is a boy destined for bright lights and big city so let it will be.

  17. Nat says

    “The pageant scene is NO DIFFERENT than fathers and mothers who played sports as children and then push their kids to participate in it at young ages. The child sports leagues are brutal these days. I see this as no different”

    It depends on the sports league and the level of play. Frankly, kids who don’t exhibit early talent have a great time, because the competitiveness never transitions from them to the parents. It’s the kids who display a modicum of skill from the get-go that are then molded by coaches and parents and experience all the demands of success.

  18. Bravo says

    Hmmmm… well, dressing your kids up to look like playboy centrefolds sounds like child pornography to me. Perhaps all these parents should be arrested.

  19. Ben says

    Regardless of how you feel about pageants or the parents or how ridiculous this show is…the mom of Brock was incredibly supportive and it was heartwarming and encouraging to see how positive his home environment was. He wants to be a diva? Mom loves him. He wants to be Dorothy for Halloween for years in a row? Mom loves him. Brock is in a positive environment and that environment includes him feeling good about his accomplishments at pageants.

  20. says

    Hmm… Brock surely isn’t the first boy on the show (there was at least Peyton from season 1, episode 8, who was 6 and whose father wanted him to retire so as to not become a florist). However, I have to give TLC credit for highlighting the aspects of bullying and competing on the same ground as the other girls.

    Shows like toddlers and tiaras come off as seeming exploitative, but what I see are some parents realizing their dreams through their children (isn’t that why we have them?) and some parents who are at their child’s every whim. Just a great study of generational power struggles, y’all.

  21. Mark says

    Even if parents making their kids do sports are living out their dreams through their children (just like parents making their kids do pageants) there is a big difference: a kid playing sports doesn’t look like a miniature stripper for strangers to stare at. I am very uncomfortable with seeing children parade around looking like that. Although I do give credit to this boy’s mom for being so supportive of his “non-traditional” interests.

  22. RyanK says

    No. These shows creep me out, big time.

    Mostly because you have self-deluding parents saying “X loves it”. When X is a five year old girl who’s just suffered the misfortune of having her eye brows waxed.

    Surely there should be a period in your life when you aren’t aware and don’t have to worry about appearance. When you’re five your biggest concern should be custard.

  23. Rowan says

    The mother is a faghag you dweebs, she isn’t frigging supportive! But then I’m sure most of you had women in your lives who you think/thought adore for you, when really they just love ‘gay, gay, gay!’

    Oh, how we ever stop being a product in society when most gay men see themselves that way so much that they approve of child abuse because ‘it’s FABULOUS she let her son play dress up’

    Someone mentioned Justin Timberlake. That made me laugh, why didn’t you mention Britney Spears? Or while we are at it, wasn’t the Jackson 5 put out to work early too? Heck why don’t we talk about the R.I.P Corey Haims of the world? Or Macualay Culkin?

    All those wonderfully adjusted adults who were put out to work since they were frigging 5 years old because ‘Mommy!! I want tooooo! PLEEASE?’

    I agree with THOMASINA. I tried to jump off a 2 storey building because I wanted to be ‘tough’. I also wanted to join a gang at one point. I also NEVER wanted to do my homework. I one point I was convinced the only thing I wanted to do was sing and join the circus.

    Thank god my mother-who wasn’t great-told me to shut up and go play outside.

  24. Rowan says

    We don’t have children because we care, we have them because we are narcissists who crave to indoctrinate another being either through our own miserable childhood, abusive behaviours, crippling insecurities or ideology.

    Children must be the only sub group in society that is treated like scum. It seems that something happens to adults as soon as they leave being a teenager where they simply can’t connect with what it is to be a child.


  25. Paul R says

    @Rowan: I’m sorry that your mother wasn’t great, and I know that childhood and adolescence can be difficult (believe me). But some children are actually happy, not treated like scum, and not created to fix the psychological failings of their parents.

  26. Paul R says

    OK, I hadn’t watched the clip. That woman is essentially one of my sisters-in-law. Desperate for a gay child (don’t ask) or *possibly* a daughter her husband doesn’t want to have because she’s nuts and they’re divorced or on the road to it.

    How many boys that age even know the word diva? I just hope he’s telling the truth when he says he has real friends. I’m happy if he’s happy, but it seems like he’s going to have a hard time for the next, say, 10 years. Going to pageants will make it even worse. This publicity will hardly help.

  27. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    The whole “pageant”-thing should be banned for children of any sex before they’re 16 or 17….for the children’s sake. This is just dress-up-dolls for parents. There are plenty of dance and drama outlets for younger children with talent and a desire to perform.

    Little League Parents are bad enough….

  28. Justin L Werner says

    I think any parents that put their kid through beauty pageants do not have their child’s best interests at heart. It’s at least distasteful and possibly flat-out wrong to teach children how to become objects rather than real people.

  29. Kerry says

    I agree completely with Ben. I watched this episode last night (ok I watch every episode, don’t judge) and I love this kid and his Mom! He’s allowed to be whatever and whoever he wants, he’s allowed to express himself however he wants and he’s supported the entire time. He’s going to grow up to be a well adjusted child who is comfortable with themselves and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Those little girls were thinking “First the gays take our men, now they’re taking our crowns!” lol

  30. Rin says

    There is a really good book, the Tao of Equus that explains women form a sociological/behavioral standpoint. There are others that go into our brain chemistry and how it impacts our outward mannerisms, and group behavior.

    Essentially, we are like horses in many ways that deal with herds and acceptance.

    These women you believe just like: gay, gay, gay…and are overly –whatever– aren’t in love with gay, gay, gay. They are trying to overcompensate for society and draw you into our group and world.

    Do you think that we women don’t hear what straight men say about gay men? We hear the nasty comments and our natural instincts, right or wrong, is to protect you from the “stallions” of the herd.

    Perhaps, it is wrong how many go about it, maybe you feel diminished, but that is how we interact with each other. These women you know…they are kicking it up a notch because they want you to have a place to go, be their friend…not because women LOVE gay men–we love guys that can “put it on us” and will–but because we are socially and biologically pre-programmed to form herds.

    Why am I so involved in gay equality in my state, why do I have so many gay friends? It started because I saw that it was needed (equal rights) and because I saw those kids (now men) being picked on. NOT because I appreciated being called “faghag”, which I don’t. NOT because I have to collect gay friends like purses, because that’s not cool. NOT because I think all gay men are FABULOUS, because they aren’t.

    It’s just the right thing to do.

    Would you all prefer that this mother told him that he needed to man up and play baseball?

    Sheesh. I swear, there is this weird misogyny vibe that comes out a lot on here.

  31. Paul R says

    @Rin: there’s also a whole lot of racism. Comments on this site and many others (gay or straight) should not be read as being reflective of gay men. Your support is greatly appreciated.

  32. Nat says

    “He’s going to grow up to be a well adjusted child who is comfortable with themselves and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Those little girls were thinking “First the gays take our men, now they’re taking our crowns!” lol”

    Dude, he’s still a child. He’s years off from figuring out his sexuality.

    I know a lot of gay men have positively responded to the ‘born this way’ mantra with stories of their ‘fabulous’ behaviour as children, but frankly that’s retroactive determination. I suspect there were and are many many straight boys who wanted to play with dolls and own easy bake ovens etc. Hell, my brother was like that when he was little. He only started playing with action figures to emulate me.

  33. Ashton Grey says

    I have watched Brock dance with my niece for years. This is who Brock is…his parents are supportive and he wants nothing to do with baseball or other ‘traditional boy’ activities. Those are available to him, but he chooses not to partake. While I don’t care for this show in general, if you have watched this episode, Tori is the first non ‘psycho’ mom I’ve seen on the show, and it truly does a great job of showing that this is Brocks choice, it makes him happy and that is all that really matters. His parents should be lauded for their support of their son. Many people say that he is gay…it’s too early to make that call folks…he’s only 7, but when he hits puberty that could very well be true, and he has many of us that support and love him no matter what…because he is Brock! I can’t wait to see him on Broadway!

  34. NorthoftheBorder says

    So I watched this episode last night. How many of you did? Brock’s inclusion was interesting to watch. The whole pageant thing, personally, for single digit aged children is kinda off ( i mean.. spray tans, fake eyelashes and mini skirts on a 5 yearold?) but Brock’s inclusion was more about him wanting to be on stage and performing, than about pageantry. His mother (and I suppose his father too) are huge supporters and ought to be commended for this support. They’ve allowed their son, who is clearly different from other 7 year old boys (including smarter) to be broadcast across the nation.. and supported him fully in the process. They didn’t try to make him different than he is, nor scold him for being a self admitted Diva. His mother was also very clear in indicating that anybody who can’t accept him for who he is, isn’t worthy of his friendship. He clearly loved the attention, and definitely has dance (and likely Broadway) in his future. More parents should be supportive of their children’s uniqueness and not try to cover up the fact he likes girl crowns as well as boy crowns by forcing them into baseball or hockey or something else so.. typical.

  35. dplummer says

    I actually saw the episode last night (while channel flipping) and while I normally think kid pageants with the accompanying parental pressure is gross, it was clear that this little boy was WAAAY into it AND that he was actually an amazing dancer. Kudos to his Mom for letting her boy live the dream. I was proud of her and him.

  36. mp says

    The parents of pageant kids always say “it was his/her decision.” What happened to parents making decisions for their children?!? I agree with Bookman: death to beauty pageants!

  37. chris keck says

    you stated that it was BROCK’s decision… this is the problem. kids should take direction from the adults…assuming they are making sound, adult decisions…..not the other way around….enrolling him in a dance/theatre type class would be more suitable…but the pageant circuit is a big NO

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