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MOTHERS START GRINDING THEIR teeth when Alaska Scott enters the room—technically, a convention hall inside the Radisson Hotel, furnished with a modest stage and about a hundred wounded chairs from basement storage. These women rubberneck to the main entryway, suspending any last-minute preening of their own darling daughters: the slouched hairdos or mascara clumps. An apple juice stain soon to be remedied with Kleenex and spit. That paradigm of glamour and grace, Alaska Scott—she stands poised while the rest of the mini princesses wrinkle their gowns and eat boogers off French manicures. Not one of them will incur the standard smack on the hand because, as any of these mothers would admit, “Better she eat a little snot than cry all that makeup off.”
For the past many hours, these girls have been confined to tiny chairs while hot irons caressed their scalps and pulled on cowlicks and soft shocks of hair. Singed and pulled, over and over again as moms fastened additional sheaths of flaxen blonde and wheat. They used heated glue or clips, bonding pre-existing hair to retail extensions of Venetian, white sand, and honey. Bales of these were layered on while another person—usually an aunt—secured them with bobby pins and Aqua Net, spraying point-blank at the roots then moving outward for wider coverage.
Mothers and aunts, they have all been hovering over some little girl sob-coughing in a too-small hotel suite, saying, “You’re going to be so beautiful, darlin’,” delivering curling iron burns and spraying, stealing the air out of the room.
Applying more glue. Applying glamour.
Singe. Pull. Glue and spray.
Every pageant mom knows you always do the hair before the makeup. Top-to-bottom. “Otherwise, first blister-burn they get and it’s Niagara Falls,” they’ll tell you. “All that makeup turns to mud.”
These preparations seem to matter little now, considering the reputation of Alaska Scott and all that precedes her: the cash and crowns and all those magazine covers—most notably, the December issue of Pageantry Monthly, featuring an article in which she’s aptly described as “too perfect to be normal.”
It makes these moms wonder if she’s ever complained about those common pre-show afflictions, the scalp-bubbles and respiratory problems from sucking in all those airborne polymers—if she’s humanly capable of throwing a “royal shit-fit,” as they call it. While these other princesses pick at their hair scabs and scuff shoes, Alaska effortlessly carries five pounds of lustrous Texas curls, stacked sky-high like tiers of wedding cake. Neck straight and posture perfect. She’s smiling, pacing heel-to-toe in enamel Mary Janes with her mother looming close behind.
Madison Scott escorts her daughter through the center aisle of the convention hall, dripping diamonds from her ears and wrist. Her neck. Real gold and gemstones draping fake tits, the adverse of these other moms with their Silpada pseudo-regalia on double-D floppers. Madison perches a spray-tanned hand on Alaska’s shoulder, steering her through the crowd of white-trash mommies and grandparents hooked up to portable oxygen tanks. Past the drunken dads in the audience, babysitting diaper bags and faux designer purses. These matriarchs watch their doom parade by in the form of a five-year-old blue-eyed angel that is Alaska Scott, always smiling and posing—even when she’s off-stage. The pair approach the registry, checking in with the pageant director with only moments to spare.
The Little Miss Galaxy Princess competition is about to begin, and all around the perimeter it’s more hairspray or a final touch-up of eye glitter. Another diaper inspection as one of the mothers says, “You’ll just have to go up there with shit on your ass. No time to change you now.”
Already, the judges are taking their seats front-and-center while the emcee does final sound check, tapping on the microphone a couple times behind the podium. Once satisfied, he shuffles through a stack of numbered index cards containing each contestant’s information: their name, age, eye and hair color, and then a miscellaneous item known as “the fun fact.” This is a little tidbit of personal information such as favorite food or TV show. Favorite hobby. It’s yet another area in which Alaska Scott eclipses the competition. Her sophistication, her éclat, as it were—it extends far beyond the childish indulgences of tater tots and Sesame Street. She doesn’t finger paint or eat TV dinners or play in ball pits. She doesn’t fart.
As her mother once said, “Winning means sacrifice. Alaska just doesn’t have time for little things like making mud pies or whatever it is these country girls do.”
From behind the podium, the emcee advises the crowd to take their seats so the competition can begin. Most of them comply. A few ignore the request, opting to go over the routine one more time or they’re in the midst of stifling an emotional outburst. After a full day of priming and primping, some of these girls reach their breaking point in the 11th hour, either too tired or uncomfortable to keep it together. The moms placate them with candy bars or sugary sodas—anything to keep the waterworks at bay, sometimes going as far as to deliver false promises.
They’ll tell them, “You be a good girl and we’ll go to Disneyland right after this,” even though this particular competition takes place about eighteen interstate hours away. These kids have no concept of geography or the art of bluffing. They don’t know that this pageant isn’t really about them, but rather, how a mother lives vicariously through someone younger, someone more beautiful than they ever were. The child may wear the crown, but it’s these mothers who never made it beyond the borders of their upbringings who take all the credit.
Like the saying goes: “Anyone can crap out a daughter, but only a mom can make a princess.”
This is why the Scotts are regarded as pageant elite. Granted, Alaska has all the basic tools: the looks, a refined set of motor skills, and that rare yearning to impress perfect strangers without reluctance. All things considered, her natural abilities are only slightly more advanced than these other girls. Madison, however, is an architect of proficiency and means. The driving force. It is her firm belief that for every facet of pageantry, there is room for improvement, whether it be the routine, the attire, or the girl herself. There’s always going to be something better, something in need of enhancement.
Silk instead of satin.
Diamonds over Swarovski stones.
It’s the difference between “good” and “good enough.”
Per the interview with Pageantry Monthly, Madison said, “I know that not everyone can buy their kids jewelry from Tiffany’s, but come on—at least get them some decent makeup.”
As the first girl takes the stage, Madison scoffs and rolls her eyes from the front row. This little girl, contestant #12, goes through her simple routine of walking one foot in front of the other, posing, quarter-turning and smiling her unevenly-spaced teeth. Behind the podium, the emcee is rattling off age, hair color, eye color, and her favorite flavor of ice cream. With tiny fingers pinching Easter green gown fabric on either side, she crosses ankles and dips into a shaky curtsey. A whimsical soundtrack playing over the speakers. Contestant #12 waves at the crowd, smiles, and exits stage-right.
Moms clap affably—encouragingly, even.
All of them except Madison Scott.
True to form, she offers “critiques” of their attire or accessories. She spouts off-hand remarks about their smile being “distractingly crooked” or the hair looking like “a rat’s nest covered in cheap hairspray and glitter.”
Regarding contestant #34 from Spirit Lake, Iowa, the emcee says, “Kelsey is looking beautiful in her beautiful pink dress. She has pretty brown hair and brown eyes, and she loooooooves Sponge-Bob!” This tiny princess daintily approaches the front of the stage, smooching the inside of her fingers and turning her hand palm-up. She blows, sending the audience into a full-blown swoon, hearts aflutter. Anyone within the first five rows can hear the distinct usage of the word “tramp” coming from behind the judges. Kelsey has no idea what the word means or where it came from, but her mother is staring daggers at Madison Scott.
This process repeats for the next fifteen minutes or so: mini princesses walking the stage doing hair flips and glamour poses—anything to capture the attention of the judges. Hip cocking and eyelash-batting. Making flirty kissy-faces behind the veil of foundations, blush, and eye shadow. They toe the line of grown women with their spray tans and movements that—unbeknownst to them—are well beyond their chronological years. Adult gesticulations of children.
Madison said, “It’s bad training—plain and simple. Even the toddlers act like escorts. The God’s honest truth is that most of these girls will end up on the pole before they’re twenty.”
Though the interview was originally slated as a simple puff piece, this was when the journalist from Pageantry Monthly asked, “And how, Miss Scott, do you respond to the allegations regarding your own training methods?”
Alaska doesn’t cry. She doesn’t respond to the duress of her beautification’s physical stimuli: the poking and prodding and all those hours under white hot curling irons, caged in sticky air. She sits stoic. Calm. Even in the event of a burn or poke to the eyeball with a mascara applicator, Alaska smiles right through it without so much as a flinch. She’s a living doll. A champion mannequin. Although one would never consider Madison Scott particularly loquacious, these abnormal behaviors beg the question, “What is the secret to your success?”
At first, this was a simple inquiry. Ninety-nine crowns later and the Scotts have found themselves the target of wild accusations: mothers speculating the difference between “good” and “too good.”
In her few yet prolific years on the circuit, Alaska has never lost. Not once. If she claims Little Miss Galaxy Princess, she’ll have accomplished a benchmark winning streak. It’s the reason Madison has been especially vocal towards the other contestants today—has spent more money than usual on the jewelry, the dress, and has opted for even higher quality makeup and hair extensions.
On-stage, the emcee announces contestant #76, and Alaska ascends the platform to a moderate level of applause—by way of the fathers who’ve gotten in the habit of clapping or the mothers who’ve already accepted the inevitable loss. Most of the audience scowls at the little girl covered in bright white gemstones and celebrity-standard cosmetics, gliding and turning. Posing. The emcee says, “Alaska is wearing an ice blue Chanel cupcake skirt with shoes by Burberry—both custom designed.”
From the card, he reads, “The diamonds are from a private collection out of Antwerp, and Alaska’s favorite food is … um, cream brewlee?” He pauses. “Cream brewl?”
“That’s crème brûlée, you cretin!” Madison shouts.
Alaska pays the interaction no mind, smiling—always smiling; she walks to the tune of camera flashes bouncing off gemstones and white gold. From the rear-left side of the stage, she approaches front-and-center toward the judges, one foot in front of the other, stepping left then right then left twice.
She clutches her leg and Madison yells, “Quit screwing around up there!”
Super miniature princess Alaska Scott, her leg has locked up and the smile has turned into something else. Something out of character and mutilated, a facial tic: one eye blinking twice as fast as the other. One corner of her mouth rapidly draws outward and retracts, repeating, and then more flashes as moms quickly break out cameras and cell phones to capture the moment. Alaska is twitching and crying; the makeup turns to rainbow muck as Madison shouts at the audience, “Stop! Stop it! Put those goddamn cameras away!”
Then Alaska, trembling arms wrapped around her midsection—her tiny stomach pulses, spine hunched and doubled over, hot sour pushes up and up until she bursts vomit on-stage. Covering the dress and the diamonds, the first wave of glop is an oatmeal color accessorized with little chunks of raisins or berries. Tiny pieces of food matter. She keels over, neck bull-frogging again, hacking—coughing a small puddle of what looks to be blood onto the white tarp.
From behind the podium, the emcee says, “Parents, we’re going to take a brief intermission so we can get this cleaned up. Please refrain from taking pictures.” He runs off to find a janitor while the rest of the crowd continues to click and flash.
Zoom. Target. Click and flash.
Madison storms past the judging table to retrieve her daughter, locking hand around a trembling wrist. She drags her through the vomit, the blood—Alaska’s body limp, it smacks against the convention hall floor when she’s pulled past the edge of the stage. Only one of Alaska’s legs makes an attempt at walking as her mother yanks her along—knees and elbows rubbing against the carpet, blooming wet burns. Alaska doesn’t feel these either as she’s hauled off down the center aisle, past the fat country moms and their sloshed husbands. Shriveled grandparents and junior royals watch the Scotts exit the convention hall, a din of concerned murmurs swelling to a fever pitch.
Their eyes shift away from the Scotts to a table of coronals—small and medium tiaras for the princesses and queens, an oversized silver and crystal crown for the ultimate grand supreme. The winner. The champion super princess that won’t be Alaska Scott. Perhaps never again after such a spectacle. These moms revel in this new-found hope as the pageant director speed-walks along the edge of the room, stepping over beauty bags and meandering toddlers to catch up with the Scotts who’ve just entered the main hallway.
Crying and twitching, Alaska convulses as her mother props her up by the neckline, fist balled around silk and lace trimming. She snarls, “What the hell is the matter with you?” backhanding her all knuckles and wedding ring. Seven carats carve into her lip and hot blood dribbles, drops onto the blue Chanel frock and designer shoes. Dark spots stain the green and beige hotel carpet. Madison squeezes her daughter’s neck, manicured nails digging into her skin, telling her, “Stop it! Stop shaking! You’re embarrassing me!”
Madison clutches harder and harder.
And Alaska stops trembling.
It’s not until the April issue of Pageantry Monthly that people finally start to get answers about what really happened—the fall of a champion, as it were. Alaska’s on-stage denouement followed by her mother’s subsequent meltdown was the topic of much speculation and rumor. That is, until the pageant director finally agreed to go on record and discuss what she saw out in the hallway that afternoon.
“I’ve seen girls get nervous and throw up on-stage before. It’s rare, but it happens,” she said. “This wasn’t nerves, though. Something was medically wrong with her.”
Over the span of many pages, glossy photos of Alaska Scott chronicled her meteoric rise in the world of pageantry. Photos from other magazines and all those grand supreme titles. Photos of triumph. Perforated circles and arrow-tipped lines pointed out changes in cheekbone structure or a chin condensing. “Before” and “after” shots. Lips got bigger; a couple years later they plumped up a little more. These little adjustments were necessary in Madison’s mind.
They were the difference between “good” and “good enough.”
A representative from child services would later report, “Alaska had been subject to multiple cosmetic surgeries: collagen injections, chemical peels—you name it, she had it. Regarding the incident in question, it all made sense once we got her blood work.”
Unlike every other mom on the circuit, Madison had no limits when it came to training Alaska. That was the real trick to winning: the ability to control a child’s mental state without the threat of a tantrum. Hair and makeup is a shaky house of cards when it comes to a five-year-old. It only takes one outburst to ruin everything.
Madison explained this once, saying, “So many of these kids end up losing simply because their mothers don’t know how to keep them from falling apart.”
Alaska’s detached nature, “the living doll state” as some have come to call it—doctors surmised it was mostly attributable to the drug cocktail kicking around her system: Lexapro, Cipralex, and Entact. Happy pills. Pills to keep her numb. Child-size doses of Dexedrine that Madison cut into her afternoon snacks of low-fat yogurt or diet pudding. This finally manifested itself in locked joints and involuntary movement. Facial ticking. The doctors categorized it as an acute case of dyskinesia; however, that term was much too cumbersome for the pageant moms and their rudimentary tongues.
The Little Miss Galaxy Princess pageant quickly became known as ‘Alaska’s Last Stand’ since nobody actually won. After the police and ambulance left, the director insisted it would be in poor taste to continue on and the event was canceled. Parents and daughters went back home. The hotel manager never scheduled another pageant again, citing, “There’s just too much risk involved.”
Madison Scott was eventually reached for comment on the issue, media outlets seeking an explanation for all those years of abuse and the state of her affairs in the wake of losing Alaska. She confessed to nothing, always redirecting the conversation to that day—her daughter’s final walk across the stage in the blue Chanel dress and the diamonds. Those little Burberry shoes.
She said, “I heard they cancelled the pageant, y’know. So she’s still never lost.” On the other end of the line, Madison sighed, crying and swelling with pride in her little orange jailhouse get-up. Fingernails unpainted and plain. Face: au naturel.
Madison smiled and said, “No one could ever beat my little Alaska.”
About the Author
“Ultimate Grand Supreme Super Sexy Baby” is a short story from his Vanity collection.