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Juanita Scott's daughter, Maria, has won numerous crowns
Juanita Scott teaches 2-year-old Aryanna Sherrod to show her personality when on stage at pageants.
BY CATHY JETT
Beauty pageant classes at the new MJ Beauty/Modeling in Locust Grove clearly aren't aimed at the Honey Boo Boos of the world.
Owner and teacher Juanita Scott doesn't stand for the kind of rude behavior engaged in by some of the little girls on TLC's reality show "Toddlers & Tiaras," which made a star of Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson.
"TV or no TV, you don't tell me to 'shut up,' or 'You aren't going to tell me what to wear,'" she said. "I'm sorry. That's not funny to me. That's being disrespected."
Scott, whose 17-year-old daughter, Maria, has won hundreds of trophies and thousands of dollars in savings bonds at beauty pageants, focuses instead on bringing out each student's natural charm and beauty in the two-hour classes she teaches on weekends in a studio at 4444 Germanna Highway, Suite 160. The fee is $99 for six months.
Her goal is to teach aspiring beauty queens the ins and outs of winning national pageants that award savings bonds--and can possibly launch them into careers in modeling and acting. She prefers ones that emphasize a child's real appearance over what she terms "glitter"--the fake lashes, spray tans and makeup that can make children such as 7-year-old Honey Boo Boo look like miniature adults.
"If your child is so cute and so pretty, they don't need makeup," Scott said. "When they get older, like 13, they can do the makeup."
On a recent Saturday afternoon, she guided 2-year-old Aryanna Sherrod of Locust Grove through the simple steps she'll have to execute when she enters the International Prince & Princess Pageant on April 6 and 7 in Stamford, Conn. The toddler will have to walk in a straight line, stop at designated points and smile for the judges.
Courtney Marshburn, Aryanna's mom, said she decided to enroll in MJ Beauty/Modeling because her daughter was captivated by the tiaras and trophies that little girls win on "Toddlers & Tiaras."
During the class, Scott asked her to hold Aryanna's hand and walk with her through the routine. But Aryanna, whose pale blond curls were held in place by a black headband, seemed more interested in spinning around to make the skirt of her party dress flare out.
Still, the little girl was able to put her hands on her hips correctly when she had to stop, and looked charming when she cocked her head to one side and placed it on her folded hands.
"The judges are going to love her," said Scott.
Scott learned what it takes to win beauty pageants when a friend, Colleen Star of New Star Discovery, asked her to judge a pageant in 1990.
"I said, 'Sure. What do I have to do?'" she said. "Once I started, I found I liked it."
Several years later Scott and Maria, who was 3 at the time, were in Spotsylvania Mall when Scott spotted posters for a beauty pageant. People began urging her to enter Maria because they said she was so cute.
"I thought, 'Why not? I'll just try it,'" she said. "I liked it. She liked it. After she got to be 10, she liked the trophies she got a lot and she got interested in the money. She wanted to win to get all the money and then she just stayed in it."
Scott supported her daughter's interest, but her rule was no competition if Maria got bad grades at school. Maria only had to drop out of the pageant circuit once when she got a C in a science class. She's now a scholarship student at Fayetteville Technical Community College in North Carolina.
Competing in pageants can be expensive: One gown Maria wore cost $750. So Scott advises her students' parents to stick with licensed pageants because they offer savings bonds, and to line up sponsors to help cover such things as entry fees, program ads and transportation.
She also warned that pageant world isn't all smiles and pretty dresses. She said she's seen parents steal other contestants' shoes or grab their child by the arm and tell her that she's going to compete no matter what.
But there are rewards. Girls--and boys--who compete in pageants learn poise, motivation and how to perform in front of a crowd, Scott said. Some, such as All American Girl & Boy winner Joseph "CJ" Foster, go on to roles in the movies. He has been in three, including "Doubt" with Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.
"It's a lot of work," Scott said of pageants. "If you want to be in them, be in them. Don't do it halfway."
Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407