So what DOES her mother have to say for herself She’s only four, but this week Ocean strutted down a catwalk in full make-up and a swimsuit to win one of Britain’s first US-style child beauty pageants
10:53 GMT, 5 September 2012
Cleansed of mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick and the body glitter used by her mother to make her tender young skin sparkle, Ocean Orrey looks like any other little girl.
Yet a shiny pink sash hanging in her playroom, adorned with the words 'Most Beautiful', serves as a reminder of the four-year-old's triumph at the Miss Glitz Sparkle 2012 beauty pageant on Sunday.
Two days after parading down the catwalk in a glittering pink swimming costume, her hand placed jauntily on her hips, Ocean is blissfully unaware of the wave of controversy sparked by the competition.
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Princess Ocean Orrey, four, relaxing with her mother Bianca Alsop, 26, at their own in Boston, Lincolnshire, last night
On parade: Ocean, four, struts with a toy in hand
Instead she plays happily in the spacious garden of her parents' 250,000 detached home in Boston, Lincolnshire, with her 18-month-old twin brothers, Madrid and Milan.
In the days since the competition, children's charities and experts have spoken out against the event, claiming that it encourages the sexualisation of children.
Ocean was among dozens of youngsters, one aged just 20 months, who were made up and dressed in spangled costumes to compete against each other at a Lincoln hotel.
She took part in a beauty round, a talent round, a formal-wear round with interview, and a 'Hollywood star' round in which she dressed up as Tallulah, the provocative nightclub singer from the film Bugsy Malone.
While pageants have traditionally been a purely American phenomenon, with competitions across the States regularly filmed for downmarket reality shows such as Toddlers And Tiaras, they are becoming increasingly common in Britain.
What to wear Ocean Orrey contemplates what to put on as she stand beside her wealth of frilly dresses and colourful shoes
Twirl: Hollie Young, aged 20 months, smiles on stage at the Glitz Sparkle 2012 competition
Some of the contestants at the Glitz Sparkle 2012 competition – one of the first American style beauty pageants to be held in the UK
Winner Dyamond Donovan, 4, poses at the Glitz Sparkle 2012 competition
Furious at the criticism of the
pageant — and of the parents who let their children take part — Ocean's
26-year-old mother, Bianca Alsop, insists that far from damaging her
daughter, entering the pageant has been a positive experience.
'I think my daughter is beautiful,
and she enjoyed it,' she says of the little girl she likes to refer to
as 'the Vivienne Westwood of the toddler world'.
'I didn't do it for my own benefit.
It's confidence-building and it's showcasing her beauty,' she says.
'It's more about social skills than bikini-clad toddlers with lipstick.
'People take it far too seriously —
it's just a bit of fun. She wasn't wearing false eyelashes or false
nails or fake tan or hair extensions, like some of the other girls. I
was so proud of her. And she was proud of herself.'
Bianca spent 500 — in her view 'not very much' — on outfits for Ocean and her twin boys, who also competed in the pageant.
She says she does not approve of the extremes to which American pageant mothers go.
'I would never give Ocean a padded bra or a fake tan — that's outrageous,' she says.
Yet she insists that wearing make-up is harmless.
'What little girl doesn't go in her
mother's make-up bag' she says. 'It's just one day when a little girl
can be like her mum. She felt like a little diva. She felt good about
herself. I like making her happy.'
But given this week's reaction, there
is no doubt the pageant phenomenon is one which raises deeply
unsettling questions about the over-sexualisation of children.
Alexia Bates is judged at the Glitz Sparkle 2012 competition and was later crowned overall winner
The director of children's charity
Kidscape, Claude Knights, warned yesterday: 'These children are so
young, it's impossible for them to be giving their consent to wearing
swimwear and pseudo-evening dresses, as well as fake eyelashes and spray
Responding to such criticism, Bianca
says: 'The idea of sexualisation does not cross anyone's mind in that
room. Ocean wore a one-piece sailor costume with full make-up for a
dance show last month — but because that's on a stage, no one seems to
think it's a problem.
'When she's on a catwalk with her hand on her hip, there's a frenzy of criticism. I am gobsmacked.'
What Bianca perhaps fails to grasp is
that in a dance show, children are not being judged on their beauty.
But while it would be easy to dismiss her arguments as those of just
another uneducated, fame-obsessed mother, Bianca is intelligent and
She was bright enough to win a place
at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School in Alford, Lincolnshire, and left
with a clutch of A and B grade GCSEs. She went to Spain to study Spanish
before returning here to work as a clerk for HSBC.
She is now a sales manager for a
company which sells electric car charging stations, and lives with her
partner, 34-year-old Lee Orrey, a general manager at a local electrics
company, who says he doesn't mind his daughter wearing make-up as long
as it is just for competitions.
Judging by the three Audis parked on
the drive outside their home, one of them with a personalised number
plate, the hard-working couple are doing well for themselves.
Showing off: The young girls, including Hollie Young (right) enjoyed themselves at the event
Why, then, does Bianca believe in
placing so much emphasis on her infant daughter's appearance 'Looks are
important,' insists Bianca, a striking-looking 5ft 11in blonde. A
former dancer, she has also dabbled in modelling, taking part in a
fashion show for a hairdressing salon.
She admits to having a breast
enlargement operation at the age of 20 after being teased at school for
being flat-chested. She also has botox injections to smooth away the
tiny lines appearing on her forehead.
Despite her daughter's new 'Most
Beautiful' title, she points out that Ocean has ears which bend slightly
forward, which will be fixed 'as soon as she's old enough'.
'I will be getting them pinned back. Anything which makes you more confident is a good thing,' she maintains.
'If two people with the same
education turn up for a job interview and one is well turned-out and the
other isn't, the second one wouldn't stand a chance.'
Her argument is that the earlier a
girl accepts that looks matter very much indeed, the better. 'We are
always faced with this idea of perfection,' she says, 'so we can't run
from it. It's always going to be in every magazine.
'Actually, I think there is too much pressure on girls, but we might as well conform and try to look our best.'
The root of the problem, she believes, lies not with pageants or pushy mothers, but with Disney.
'Disney rules,' says Bianca. 'From
about the age of two, little girls see Hannah Montana and all the Disney
princesses everywhere. Television is dominated by this perfection. It's
part of kids' everyday life.'
It is certainly part of Ocean's
everyday life. At home, on a rail, hang a series of dresses, copies of
those worn by Disney's most famous princesses — Snow White, Belle (from
Beauty And The Beast), Cinderella — with sparkling shoes to match.
Bianca will not be persuaded by the argument that parents can choose whether or not to buy into this heavy marketing.
Proud parents: Twins Stella and Starr Moss with mother Roxy and father Simon at the competition
'If you stop them doing normal
children's things like dressing up and watching Disney programmes, you
single them out,' she says.
Perhaps most bizarrely of all, she insists that it is Ocean herself who is orchestrating this pink and glittery childhood.
'She has her own ideas,' she says.
'She chooses her own outfits. She doesn't like school uniform because
it's too grey, and she won't wear jeans or even trousers unless they are
'I love buying her clothes. I love her looking her best.'
Sadly, Ocean's mother is not alone
when it comes to buying into Britain's image-obsessed society. TV, the
internet and magazines are dominated by the fake-tanned stars of
scripted reality TV shows such as The Only Way Is Essex and Made in
Chelsea, not to mention the ubiquitous footballers wives.
Intelligent female role models are few and far between.
It's hardly surprising, then, that
mothers like Bianca believe there is a direct correlation between their
daughters' future happiness and their looks.
She says her own role model is
businesswoman and former Birmingham City FC managing director Karren
Brady, because 'she is a working mother who always looks immaculate'.
'You are always going to get ahead if you look good,' she adds.
Ocean was just six months old when her mother signed her up to a modelling agency and enrolled her on the web site Star Now.
'When she was born, she was, in my
eyes, perfectly proportioned,' says Bianca. 'She had lots of hair, and
people said I should get her into modelling. You just go with the flow.'
The Miss Glitz Sparkle pageant on
Sunday was Ocean's first stage competition, but because of the backlash
this week it may also be her last.
Bessie-Sue Elder, 4. wears a glitzy swimming costume to compete
The youngest of the group Hollie Young, 20 months old wears flowers in her hair
In preparation for the show, Bianca
transformed part of the downstairs of her home into a catwalk for three
weeks so she could teach Ocean to strut and pose with her right foot at a
90-degree angle, and toes pointed. On the day of the competition, she
spent an hour and a half tonging her daughter's blonde hair and applying
concealer, bronzer, mascara, lipstick and body glitter.
Ocean wore three outfits during the
competition — a white tassel dress from High Street store H&M for
Tallulah in the 'Hollywood' round, a pink swimsuit and a blue and pink
Yet Ocean's outfits paled in
comparison with the ensembles worn by other contestants. Three-year-old
Tia Wilkinson wore a red and blue bejewelled bikini for the pageant —
which is the 14th she's entered in the past 18 months.
Oddly, Bianca insists that despite
her decision to enter Ocean into pageants and launch her career as a
child model, she would be horrified if her daughter were to become a
model when she was older.
Alexia Bates, 11, from Dudley at the event showing off her best cheerleader moves
Alexia Bates performed a dazzling dance routine for the crowds
The panel of judges at the Glitz Sparkle 2012 competition – one of the first American style beauty pageants to be held in the UK
Hollie Young, 20 months with mother Christine Greenhow at the competition
'I would absolutely love for her to
be a businesswoman or a vet,' she says. 'But the pageant has helped her
have confidence in herself.
'She possibly would have been upset
if she hadn't won anything. However, I am a great believer in healthy
competition. We all have to lose at some point.'
And Bianca insists that her
daughter's life is a well-balanced one. She attends gymnastics and
dance classes for two hours a week, learning disco, tap and ballet, and
has swimming lessons.
She is thriving at school, and she is read to every evening, with The Gruffalo one of her favourite bedtime stories.
'I don't want to be seen as a bad parent,' says Bianca.
'All my children are loved and happy and well-fed.
'Ocean got lots of cuddles and kisses after the pageant, but she got the same when she learnt to swim without her armbands.'
Perhaps most striking about Bianca's defence of her mothering is when she utters the simplest — and most poignant — of phrases.
'I think she's lovely as she is,' she says.
It's a sentiment worth a hundred
sashes, sparkly tiaras and spray tans — and surely it's the only one
that an impressionable child needs to hear.
Madrid Orrey giggles during the competition and wears a little dickie bow for the evening wear round
Ocean Orrey, 4, from Boston prepares with some pampering compliments of her mother
20 month old Hollie looks perplexed on the stage as she sucks a dummy
Little Chloe Graves, 7 months was helped on stage by her mother at the event where she wore a green fairy costume
Wade Edwards, 5, was a cool dude in the swimwear class at the Glitz Sparkle 2012 competition as he skated on stage
Bessie-Sue Elder, 4, performs a dance routine in a shocking pink tutu
Tia Wilkinson from Burnley waits for her hair to curl before her appearance on stage
Pride: Rowen and April Bates from Dudley beamed as winner Alexia held her trophy
The entrants pull their best pose for the judges as overall supreme winner Alexia beams with her trophy
Oh I do like to be beside the sea! Tegan Hughes in swimwear round…
And taking on Calamity Jane…