Little Miss Minx by Dorothy Snelson

This must count as one of the strangest assignments she had been on.

‘I thought beauty contests went out with the Ark’ she’d said, when her editor told her she was to cover the Little Miss Minx contest at the Victoria Hall.

‘Ah, but this is a beauty contest with a difference, ‘ he’d said. ‘The contestants are aged five to ten.’

‘You must be joking!’

But he wasn’t and here she was, mingling backstage , with what seemed like hundreds of tiny tots , and frantic mothers.

She had already seen front of house. It was packed with assorted relatives, and friends . The stage had a set of stairs for the contestants to appear at the top, and traverse to the bottom, under the probing gaze of the audience and judges. A dazzling blue carpet covered the stairs, and was lined on each side by rows of teddy bears, a nod to their tender years . She vaguely wondered how some of the younger contestants would manage to negotiate the stairs without falling headlong, but Marian, the organiser, had read her thoughts.

‘The mothers help the youngest down the stairs. Don’t worry. We’ve been risk assessed. Health and Safety is our number one priority.’

Here, backstage, the atmosphere was febrile. Frantic mothers primping and preening the little girls, who stood there patiently . Make up was being applied liberally, and tiny girls stood around with hair curlers in, or with mothers applying crimping tools to shiny locks. Pretty dresses , fur stoles , velvet capes and even a feather boa were hung or draped from every conceivable nook or cranny. Velvet slippers adorned with sequins and pearls for the little ones, and killer heels for the older ones, stood atop suitcases that had been used to transport the whole paraphernalia of this beauty contest with a difference.

This was outside her comfort zone. As a mother of two herself, she was not entirely happy with the idea of vulnerable children being exposed to scrutiny by strangers. What would it do to their esteem or self worth to be ranked in order of their supposed good looks? Would it lead to years of problems with body image later in life? It just didn’t feel like a healthy lifestyle for children so young.

Marian had run through the logistics of the contest with her. The enrolment fee was a modest £5 for each contestant, and prizes were equally modest at £50 for the winner, £25 for the second and two runner up prizes of £10 book tokens. The entrance fee on the door was £5 for adults and £2 for children. All profits beyond room hire and incidental expenses such as advertising went to charity. This was a local charity, set up only a year before by the parents of an eight year old girl ,who had tragically died from leukaemia. The family were well known locally, as the little girl had been a keen gymnast, and all proceeds raised by the charity would help fund the children’s hospice who had cared for the child at the end of her life. It all sounded very worthwhile and helped ameliorate some of the concerns she had .

Now to interview a couple of contestants, or mothers, for her article. She looked around and chose one of the youngest, an adorable moppet ,who was a Shirley Temple look alike. She turned out to be Sophie, aged just five. Her mother was fiddling with a huge satin bow to top the abundance of golden curls. After ascertaining that they were fine with being interviewed, she turned her attention firstly to Sophie’s mother . She rattled off Sophie’s activities including ballet lessons and gymnastics. She would soon be taking drama lessons and was registered with a modelling agency who were hopeful of finding some work in advertising for her and maybe some TV commercials. Sophie herself seemed equally enthusiastic about it all and quite sure that she would be amongst the winners at today’s show. It was all running true to form and what she would have expected.

She looked around to find a suitable candidate for the older girl slot. This was going to be a very boring, run of the mill article . Just when she was beginning to think she might manufacture some sort of incident, perhaps by shouting ‘Simon Cowell has arrived’ and see what happened, something did happen.

Up ahead there was some kind of confrontation. Voices were raised and people were looking in one direction. Two mothers appeared to be having a heated argument, both red in the face. Their daughters stood silently by , as harsh words were exchanged. Marian, the organiser , appeared , drawn by the commotion.

‘Ladies, ladies’ she pleaded. ‘What sort of example is this to these girls? Please sort this out or I’ll have to disqualify Melanie and Cindys. This is a charity event. A bit of light-hearted entertainment, not the cut throat world of modelling.’

The hum of conversation resumed and things returned to normal.

‘What was all that about?’ I asked Marian. She laughed.

‘Fisticuffs at dawn. Melanie and Cindy had both chosen the same dress and the mothers were fuming. Not much you can do about it though . It happens. They very often use the same websites to order their outfits.’

‘How did you manage to resolve it?’

‘I suggested they go on together and I’d introduce them as our lovely little twin minxes. After all, Melanie and Cindy are the best of friends in reality. The girls were up for it, so the mothers had to back down.’

It looked as if that was as exciting as it was going to get so I resigned myself to one boring article, unlikely to enhance my reporter status.

Suddenly there was a blood curdling scream. What now; a broken fingernail, a wardrobe malfunction, or something to blow boring out of the water?

Published in Issue #26

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