'Ultimate Princess' Pageant Puts Tiaras on Brooklyn Toddlers
BUSHWICK — Even though she competed in beauty pageants as a child, Silka Gomez never saw herself as a pageant mom.
But Gomez, who lives in Glendale, Queens with her 9-year-old and 2-year-old daughters, said she was tempted back into the spotlight by a flyer for Brooklyn's first-ever "Precious Princess" beauty contest.
"My 9-year-old is a crown and tiara aficionado," said Gomez, who spent $400 on entry fees for her girls and got their dresses custom made by her mother's longtime seamstress for the April competition. Her 9-year-old, Laijah, won first runner-up after singing "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele and her 2-year-old, Lilah, won "Princess" of her age group after dressing as Minnie Mouse for the talent portion.
Now Gomez is prepping her daughters for their next event with the company: this fall's Ultimate Extravaganza "Ultimate Princess" pageant at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts in Flatbush on Nov. 9.
The competition is open to kids as young as a few months and as old as 16, and costs $299 a child, with discounts for second and third children from the same family.
Ultimate Extravaganza's first pageant, the "Princess Pageant," which took place in the Kumble Theater on April 27, drew dozens of girls who performed as "little Cleopatra," Katie Perry, Elmo from Sesame Street, an African dancer and a "1980s girl," organizers said.
The upcoming pageant will have "Silver Screen" theme, with acts from Pebbles from the Flintstones to Cat Woman, they said. Girls also walk on stage in gowns for the beauty part of the contest.
Gomez said she was impressed by the pageant's more affordable price and step-by-step coaching the Precious Princess' organizer Kim Sheppard. She noted that most other pageants were much more expensive and offered no help preparing contestants.
"It was extremely affordable compared to other pageants," Gomez said, "Kim helped the girls with their beauty walks and she did orientation meetings, and you could call and ask her questions."
Sheppard said she founded Ultimate Extravaganza pageants this spring as an affordable and accessible alternative to beauty and talent contests that can cost parents thousands of dollars.
"Little girls are all princesses," she said, but said the majority of competitions are too expensive for parents.
"So many pageants have girls wear $1,000 dresses.... And in most pageants you just sign up and show up and learn as you go," said Sheppard, who competed in pageants as a teen. "Areas like Bushwick, Bed-Stuy and Harlem aren't traditionally affluent areas and we want to give these girls a chance to participate in pageants."
"We help them fundraise, we give them a sponsorship letter," Sheppard noted of families who struggle to pay the initial fee.
Whether they win or not, Sheppard said contestants leave with some kind of sash or trophy, because the pageant's goal is to highlight children's unique strengths.
"My whole goal is building confidence, self esteem," Sheppard said, adding that she wants to let kids "have that fun glamorous day and putting it together in a program that will support them throughout the process."