Many little girls like to put on makeup, high heels and play dress-up inside their mommy's closets.
But, on "Toddlers & Tiaras," the idea of kids getting glam is taken to a whole new level. When these pint-size beauty queens get dolled up, they're out to win -- and own -- the spotlight.
In its third season, TLC's popular reality show airs Wednesday nights, with hour-long episodes centering on families vying for sparkly crowns, major titles and cold hard cash.
ParentDish recently caught up with Tina Grande of Toms River, N.J., whose 3-year-old daughter, Mia, will be featured on an upcoming episode. An edited version of the interview follows.
ParentDish: Wow, Mia is only 3 and she's already walking the catwalk.
Tina Grande: Yeah.
PD: What attracted you to this world?
TG: I think because I had two boys before I had Mia and I was looking for girly stuff to do with her. When she was a baby and could not dance, a friend of mine told me about pageants and that is how we got started.
PD: What did you know about the pageant life before you became a part of it?
TG: I heard people say, "Those people are crazy. They put all this makeup on their kids with fake hair and a fake tan."
PD: And, yet, you entered Mia, anyway?
TG: The first pageant Mia did was a natural pageant, so she didn't wear any of that stuff.
PD: How old was Mia when she entered her first contest?
TG: Mia was 6 months old and she won for her age division.
PD: Did you get hooked when they crowned Mia the winner?
Mia Grande, 3, with mom Tina Grande, is ready for her close up, Madonna cone bra included. Credit: Hillary Kurtz, TLC
PD: How many pageants has Mia done since then?
TG: About 30.
PD: Does Mia wear makeup for some of these pageants?
TG: For some, yes.
PD: Don't you think 3 is too young to wear those fancy clothes with all of that makeup?
TG: Honestly, I didn't know how I felt about it for a while. But because I have bunch of nieces that are in dance and cheerleading, I see them perform in skimpy outfits with a full face of makeup. I honestly don't see this as being any different. Mia does not wear makeup to school or out to play. When she does wear makeup, it's for a pageant and it comes right off after the event ends. I don't see this as being a big deal.
PD: What does preparing for a contest entail?
TG: Making sure her wardrobe is together, if there are certain photos we need to bring and any other clothes she needs. Mia has a glitz dress for competing and she also has a coach that lives near us, who will work with her every once in a while.
PD: Glitz dress? Where did you find that?
TG: I do have stuff custom-made for Mia. There are also pageant vendors who sell glitz dresses and then there is my friend Robin who is a seamstress in Manhattan. She made Mia's Madonna and Wonder Woman outfit.
PD: Madonna and Wonder Woman? That sounds a tad risqué for a 3-year-old.
TG: I don't think they are. While I did take some slack for the Madonna costume, my thoughts are, it was meant to be funny. Actually, Mia was 2 years old at the time and it is not like she is 10 years old walking around outside with the cones on her. She was 2 and it was meant to be funny.
PD: Did you get a hard time from other parents about that outfit?
TG: Yes, I did. What works for some parents might not work for others. I am confident in my parenting and I know I take great care of my children.
PD: How do you know Mia enjoys doing these competitions?
TG: Mia has a great personality. She is always dancing and saying, "Mommy, look at the moves I am going to do for my pageant." You can tell, when Mia is up on stage, she just sparkles and loves the attention. Mia really does love being up there. If she told me otherwise, or I got the impression she was unhappy, I would pull the plug and that would be the end of it.
PD: Do you think these pageants put a lot of pressure on a girl her age?
TG: I think it depends on the parents and how far they take it. We try to make this fun and associate it as Mommy and Mia time.
PD: Do you go crazy if Mia loses?
TG: Absolutely not. I know sometimes she is going to be great and the judges will love her. But I also know that they may not like her and that is really OK.
PD: How do you find all of these pageants? Does Mia have an agent?
TG: They are all over the Internet. They also advertise upcoming pageants at other pagaents and, of course, there is word of mouth.
PD: What's the point in participating in all these pageants?
TG: Our goal is just to have fun. When Mia gets older she will have all of these memories of what we did together. Plus, I also think it builds confidence.
PD: What about making time for your other children (Michael, 12, and Talon, 5) since you are so busy juggling Mia's school and pageant schedule?
TG: Michael is very involved in sports. I go to all of his games and even drive him to practice. I am very supportive of everything he does. As for my little guy, he just started karate and I am always there for him, too. Pageants will never come before my family and family time.
PD: What happens when you have to jet off somewhere?
TG: We do local pageants that we can drive to. Only once did we fly to Orlando, Fla., to compete in one.
PD: Is your husband on board with this?
TG: He is not really involved with going to the pagaents, but he does support her.
PD: Do you require Mia to follow a special diet?
TG: No, not at all.
PD: How long do you see Mia being part of this world?
TG: If she told me tomorrow, "Mommy, no pageant," then we will call it quits.
PD: What about down time, or allowing Mia or participate in kid stuff?
TG: Mia just started tumbling and cheerleading and, as she takes on more activities, I am sure we won't have as much time to do pageants. The one thing I want Mia to be is diverse and have the opportunity to do what she wants.