The vast, bizarro world of “The Cute Kid” contest
Saturday, June 20th, 2009
Candid admission: Earlier tonight, I saw the horror movie Drag Me To Hell (a smartly cheesy film about a young mortgage-loan manager cursed by a bug-eyed gypsy). I’m a little jumpy, unhinged. But even if I’d been calmer when I stumbled on The 2009 Cute Kid of the Year website, I suspect it would have unnerved me.
In its own pastel way, this photo contest is freaking surreal.
It’s like discovering a vast underworld, entirely populated by parents who are compelled to confirm that their kids are “cute.” Marketably cute. Olive-Garden-commercial cute. And are gullible enough to pay $19.95 just to submit their child’s photo. (“Never use makeup on the child, natural is always better,” urges a veteran entrant.) It’s unclear whether the parents are operating under a gypsy curse.
TheCuteKid.com appears to be largely a scam, albeit one with credible “sponsors” such as Gerber and Parents Magazine. The site claims that “not only [modeling] agents, but casting directors” will scrutinize the photos and hints heavily that a trillion-dollar GapKids contract is a distinct possibility.
And don’t forget the Grand Prize—”a cash investment worth close to $25,000 towards college tuition*”—note the asterisk after the word “tuition.” The expected footnote, clarifying this diabolically vague phrase, is nowhere to be found.
I’m now officially obsessed with TheCuteKid.com, and its seventeen sub-categories (baby, toddler, “big kid,” pre-teen, multiples, etc.) and it endless array of large-eyed pixies and smoldering twins. It’s all so very fishy.