IT was one of those tabloid headlines that left me gobsmacked: The story was about little Britney Campbell, the eight-year-old beauty contestant who is, apparently, the youngest girl in the world to have Botox treatments for cosmetic-related purposes.
Britney’s mum, a beauty therapist who apparently sources the Botox from internet suppliers and injects her child herself, claims that Botox and other beauty treatments including full-body waxing will enable her daughter to get ahead of the pack, stay young longer and achieve her dreams.
Everything about this seems totally wrong, but it was Britney’s own words that really made me cringe. “I check every night for wrinkles; when I see some, I want more injections. They used to hurt, but now I don’t cry that much. I also want a boob and nose job soon, so that I can be a star.”
The international headlines about Britney have been accompanied by controversy about the arrival in Australia of the American-style kids beauty pageant phenomenon in which tiny contestants are spray tanned, bewigged and bejewelled, crimped and curled, and plastered with make-up.
I’d be the first to admit there’s a lot of fun to be had dressing up your little daughter for a special occasion, such as a birthday party. It’s one of those great mother-daughter bonding experiences, though just what looks good is pretty subjective.
Already, my five-year-old likes to do her own mixing and matching; for example combining her favourite gumboots with a party dress and painting dog whiskers on her face just before we leave.
Ribbons and bows are also a thing of the past as she cut most of her hair off last Christmas, declaring it would be “less trouble”.
That said, she does have some thoughts about her appearance. At the moment, she still has a full set of perfect baby teeth, but wants to lose her two front teeth without delay because “I’ll whistle better, mummy”, and the Tooth Fairy apparently pays “big money” for the front ones.
I know this will change and that in the not-too-distant future she will be layering on her lip gloss and mascara and fighting me for possession of the hair straightener.
However, the pursuit of beauty, or at least society’s rather narrow interpretation of it, can carry too high a cost throughout the lives of many women. And that’s just not a burden I want to place on my daughter’s young shoulders.