Pushy pageant mum makes sisters compete against each other for beauty crowns
Keetra Barnes, 31 forces her young daughters to compete against each other in children's beauty pageants - despite the competitions causing constant tears and trauma.
Eager to make her girls "tough," Keetra puts seven-year-old Kylie up against her five-year-old sister Karley in beauty pageants across their home state of Georgia, USA.
The family also includes dad Matthew, 31, and sons Keegan, two, and Kolby, one.
While Kylie was once the family champion, Karley has now become her mum's pageant darling, and the competing can cause the girls to have massive rows, leaving Kylie in tears.
But Keetra, who spends thousands of pounds each year on the girls' pageants, insists it is in their best interests: "Karley is my supreme queen. She's younger but has taken 30 supreme titles - the most coveted prize in the pageant circuit - and more than 100 prizes in total. Kylie only has eight supremes and has never beaten Karley.
Some people might say it's cruel to make them compete against each other, but I think it's good for them. It toughens them up and drives them to be better.
"And at the heart of it, they always enjoy themselves in the end and want to do more. If they ever said to me they didn't want to do pageants any more, we'd stop.
"I didn't know if they were enjoying it or not as babies, so I decided to wait until they could tell me if they liked it."
Kylie, who started competing aged two, had been successful in her own right, scooping her first win in 2008 after 18 months of trying. Karley, the more outgoing of the pair, also started competing at two years old, but won almost immediately.
In November 2009 she took her first Supreme Queen title at the Miss Southern Harvest pageant in Sumner, Georgia, winning a five-foot trophy with an angel on top and a seven-inch silver tiara covered in jewels.
Kylie won her division but took home only a small trophy.
"Kylie was upset and cried because Karley's trophy was bigger," says Keetra. "She asked why Karley's crown was bigger than hers. I told her it was Karley's turn to win and maybe she'd win next time."
But the girls have since competed against each other nearly 70 times. They compete in local pageants up to four times each month.
"I tell them competing against each other is their chance to see who is best," says Keetra. "It can cause fights. Karley goads Kylie saying 'I'm going to win' or 'I always beat you' and Kylie lashes out. Sometimes Kylie cries after losing to her sister. But she's more disappointed in herself than anything else. I tell her maybe next time she'll be Supreme Queen.
One of the reasons I put them both in pageants is because it will help them to become models, singers or actresses - what woman wouldn't want that?
"Kylie is very good, but Karley has that something special. She has a certain charm that melts the judges.
"Even before they started competing against each other, Karley was getting more
prizes. A couple of years ago Karley won an MP3 player and Kylie was very jealous. I made Karley share her headphones so they would stop fighting."
Other prizes have included toys, bouquets of roses, sashes, and of course, the highly-desired tiaras.
The girls share a bedroom where all their prizes are stored. Karley's 30 Supreme Queen trophies are enough to over-fill two cabinets while Kylie's eight only fill a shelf.
Keetra insists they both love competing, but occasionally they have tantrums when they don't want to practice or compete:
"Sometimes I bribe Karley with chocolate milk. And if they' are sleepy, I use my secret weapon - 'Pixie Sticks' - which are packets of sugar candy. All kids eat candy and this is something lots of pageant mums do."
Keetra stays up late to tailor expensive dresses costing £1,000 each once the £300 of Swarovski crystals are glued on.
"They hate practice," says Keetra. "But I make them stay until we get it right. It can take hours. I don't feel bad. They know if they agree to a pageant and I pay the £200 application fee then they are doing it no matter what."
In 2010, Keetra once outrageously dressed Karley as Reese Witherspoon's sexy character from Legally Blonde wearing a revealing low-cut pink one-piece with bunny ears.
In July 2011 the girls wore two-piece bikinis in a 'Girls of the Summer' pageant round.
"I worry about what paedophiles might think if they saw them," says Keetra. "It horrified me to think they might look at my girls in the wrong way. So I only use what they would wear on the beach in public. I know not everyone sees it that way - but I really think I'm doing something positive for my girls."
What do you make of Keetra's pushy parenting, pitting sisters against each other?
Isn't a mother's role to cherish her children's differences and teach them to recognise their own talents?
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