‘I spend £500 a month on pageants’

be­lieves her tot Ruby-River’s hobby is worth ev­ery penny…

Best - - BEST FOR REAL LIFE ON PAGEANTS’ -

Watch­ing my three-year-old daugh­ter, RubyRiver, take to the stage, my heart swelled with pride.

Dressed in a pink frilly dress stud­ded with crys­tals, her hair­piece adorned with a huge pink bow, my dar­ling smiled and pouted for the au­di­ence.

As she started her dance rou­tine, the ap­plause was thun­der­ous. ‘Go RubyRiver!’ I screamed at the top of my lungs.

Al­though she’s only three, Ruby-River is no stranger to beauty pageants. In fact, she’s been do­ing them since she was a year old. In 2015, I saw an ad on Face­book for chil­dren to take part in beauty pageants in Liver­pool, not far from our home in Tyldes­ley, Greater Manch­ester. Al­ready ad­dicted to US pageant show Tod­dlers &Tiaras, I thought it would be fun to give them a go.

As a baby, Ruby-River had al­ready done modelling and TV work – pageants would be an­other string to her bow, and would also help boost her con­fi­dence. I’d been very shy as a child, and I didn’t want my daugh­ter grow­ing up to be like me.

Typ­i­cally, pageants con­sist of two main rounds – a ‘ beauty’ round, where the chil­dren wear elab­o­rate dresses, and the ‘out­fit of choice’ round, where the kids dress up in some­thing they love and per­form an ac­com­pa­ny­ing dance rou­tine.

It cost me £100 for Ruby- River to enter the pageant, and £100 for her cus­tom­made out­fit of choice, which we de­cided should be Lit­tle Bo Peep, as she loved the char­ac­ter. I also splurged £200 on a beau­ti­ful yel­low dress em­bel­lished with navy blue crys­tals from the US – it was her first con­test, and I wanted it to be ex­tra spe­cial.

In Jan­uary 2016, RubyRiver took part in her first pageant. I was so ner­vous for her, but she strut­ted her stuff in her gor­geous yel­low dress and, al­though her Lit­tle Bo Peep rou­tine didn’t quite turn out as planned, we both re­ally en­joyed the day.

‘Shall we do an­other pageant?’ I asked her on the way home. ‘ Yes, yes!’ she cried.

A week later, we did an­other lo­cal pageant – and soon, we were hooked. Now, ev­ery few weeks, Ruby-River and I travel around the coun­try to var­i­ous pageants while my part­ner, Char­lie, 50, stays at home with our son, CJ, 13.

Many of the pageants are lo­cal, but some are in Lon­don, so we have to travel down and stay in a ho­tel the night be­fore.

I don’t deny that RubyRiver’s hobby is very ex­pen­sive. Ev­ery few weeks, I spend around £750 on a gor­geous dress, and all her out­fits of choice have to be cus­tom made, which costs around £100 a time. Then there’s en­try fees and hair, make-up and travel ex­penses.

I spend at least £500 a month – £6,000 a year – but it’s worth ev­ery penny,

be­cause it makes Ruby-River (and me!) happy. Many of her out­fits are worn sev­eral times, which saves money, and I put aside some pageant funds ev­ery month from my busi­ness mak­ing baby items.

I ad­mit it could be seen as ex­trav­a­gant, but plenty of par­ents spend tons of money on their kids’ hob­bies.

And it’s not all about plough­ing money into the pageants and their tiny per­form­ers. Many of the pageants are linked to char­i­ties, such as the Na­tional Autis­tic So­ci­ety. We put on cake sales and raf­fles in ad­vance of the pageant and, so far, Ruby-River has raised £6,000. I’m so proud of her.

Look­ing the part is very im­por­tant when do­ing beauty pageants, but I’ve never gone over­board with my girl.

When she turned two in Jan­uary 2017, I bought her an elab­o­rate hair­piece but, be­fore that, I hadn’t al­lowed her to have her hair or make-up done at all, even though some of the kids at the pageants wear make-up and fake tan from a few months old.

Re­cently, she asked me if she could wear lip gloss and mas­cara, and I agreed. I won’t al­low her to wear fake tan un­til she’s five, but she’s half Chi­nese, and her skin is quite dark any­way, so hope­fully she won’t need to.

If she asks me to wear foun­da­tion, I’ll let her. I see her pageant cos­tumes as just an­other form of dress­ing up. Kids dress up at Hal­loween and paint their faces, and I don’t see what Ruby-River does as any dif­fer­ent. I’ve never been crit­i­cised for the out­fits she wears, but that’s be­cause I never al­low her to wear any­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

Un­doubt­edly, do­ing pageants has re­ally boosted Ruby-River’s con­fi­dence, but some­times the glitz and glam gets too much and she starts be­hav­ing like a lit­tle diva.

Once, she stood on the stage at a pageant, crossed her arms, pouted and re­fused to per­form.

Last year, we were at a pageant when she started scream­ing at me while I was putting on her dress.

I man­aged to calm her down by promis­ing her a bar of choco­late, but now she de­mands one ev­ery time she per­forms! If she re­fuses to prac­tise, I’ll tell her she can only have a treat once she has gone through her rou­tine.

De­spite her tantrums, Ruby-River works very hard. Ev­ery cou­ple of weeks, we de­cide on a new out­fit of choice, and I put to­gether a dance rou­tine for her to learn. She’ll prac­tise a new rou­tine for 30 min­utes ev­ery day, but if it’s one we’re re­peat­ing that she al­ready knows, she’ll only spend five min­utes a day prac­tis­ing.

All her hard work has paid off. She’s now the proud owner of count­less sashes and awards, which we have on dis­play at home.

Now, at 32, I’m well and truly hooked on tak­ing RubyRiver to com­pete in beauty pageants, and that won’t change any time soon.

Both of us are am­bi­tious and, hope­fully, she will go on to com­pete in big­ger and bet­ter pageants.

Yes, it’s ex­pen­sive, but it makes her happy and, as far as I’m con­cerned, you can’t put a price on that.

Ruby-River’s first pageant dress cost £200

She en­joys dress­ing up

How sweet!

Mum Ali is so proud of her lit­tle girl

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