No Charmed Life for Poor Asia Minor

Article excerpt

WHAT sort of parents name their child Asia? Do they go through a book of Christian names and throw out Afghanistan and Falkland before deciding upon it?

This was one of the mysteries in Under The Sun (BBC 2), which last night looked at junior beauty pageants.

Asia was a five-year-old getting ready to compete in the prestigious Southern Charm competition in Atlanta, and if she had any qualms about her ridiculous name she certainly wasn't showing it.

Asia was trying to win her grandmother a car, but the title of Supreme Queen was the biggest attraction. Her greatest rival was Brooke, another five-year-old, with an equally ambitious mother.

The pageant is divided into sections, including beauty, talent, Dreamgirl and Western Wear.

For beauty, the aim is to make the little girls look 50. In talent, they are required to sing (off key). For the Dreamgirl section, they must stand by the MC, Tim, who sings love songs to the youngsters (forget Dreamgirl, this was Dreamjob) while nuzzling up to them. And in Western Wear, the kiddies wear Western Wear and then take bits of it off to music.

Jane Treays, whose wonderful series about job interviewees was one of the highlights of last year, produced and directed this programme, and it was compelling entertainment.

The tone was critical, and the sight of mothers living through their children and turning them into little Barbie dolls was often breathtaking.

But as someone who spent the whole of their youth being done up to the nines (hairpiece, make-up, sequinned frocks, false breasts) for ballroom dancing competitions, I'm not sure it's quite so dreadful a thing as the programme implied. The only thing Brooke and Asia disliked was the hairspray, but at least they had their own hair. …