By RODNEY HO/ firstname.lastname@example.org, originally filed Tuesday, October 4, 2016, AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
The child pageant reality show "Toddlers & Tiaras" has been around since 2009, providing solid ratings for TLC but a fair share of flak as well for turning little girls into mini adults with showy outfits and oodles of makeup. (IMDB.com viewers gave the show a stunningly low 1.8 out of 10.)
Now the network is trying a spin-off called "Little Miss Atlanta" for four episodes starting Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 10 p.m.
"Everyone knows that Atlanta is the black Hollywood mecca," said Jasmine Crowe in the opening moments of the show. "Now I'm trying to make it the black pageant mecca, too."
She and Kim Anderson this year created the national Little Miss Black US Pageant after doing a state version in Arizona since 2007. The four episodes follow some of the contestants as they compete.
And naturally, the tensions mostly revolve around the zealous moms, similar to "Toddlers & Tiaras," "Dance Moms" and "Bring It," to name a few. Some get into verbal fights with rival moms. Others overspend, much to their spouse's dismay. "Mama drama" is how Anderson dubs it.
Kelsey, one of the contestants at age seven, does a nice imitation of the parents arguing in the debut episode. "I want to take the pageant trophy and spank her," she said, of her mom. (The kids are largely adorable.)
Organizers Anderson and Crowe met in Arizona around 2008. Anderson is the pageant pro, having won Mrs. Black Arizona in the late 1980s and working in the pageant world ever since. As coach and emcee, Anderson deals with the contestants and their moms directly. Crowe is the logistics person, setting up venues, judges, marketing, hotels and food.
"We don't always agree on everything," Anderson said, "but we agree on one thing: what's best for the girls."
Crowe didn't grow up in pageants but she saw her sister in one where very few of the contestants were black. She thought this pageant would be a great way to lift the spirits of little black girls.
"We want to expose the magic that is within each and every one of the girls," Crowe said. "They need a place where they can come and be celebrated."
One thing Crowe wanted to emphasize: these are not "glitz' pageants where the primary focus is on primped-up looks. "If they come to our pageant with fake teeth, a spray tan, lots of hair and a face full of makeup and eyelashes, she won't win the pageant," Crowe declared.
The pageants require talent and a question-and-answer section.
"We want to give each girl the opportunity to have her own voice," Anderson said. "Children think we don't listen to them. We want them to have this platform where the things they say are important to us."
When Crowe came to Atlanta a few years ago from Arizona, she got to know the community first before starting the pageant. She began setting up charitable events for celebrities for a group she started in 2011 called Black Celebrity Giving. She said she has worked with the likes of T.I., Kandi Burruss and Future.
Here's the trailer:
This is not the first pageant for black girls. The Little Miss African American Pageant has been around for 23 years.
"Little Miss Atlanta," TLC, Wednesdays, starting October 5, 2016, at 10 p.m.