‘I spend £500 a month on pageants’
believes her tot Ruby-River’s hobby is worth every penny…
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
Mum Ali is so proud of her little girl