It seems the cattiness of beauty contests has hit a new low, as a ‘cute baby’ competition turned vicious, with children being called ‘ugly’ and some branded, ‘a child only a mother could love’.
The search for the cutest baby, hosted by Bonds, an Australian clothing company, was intended to show off the faces of cute cherubic children with sparkling smiles. Instead, the contest revealed the darker, crueler side of motherhood.
Aussie mums were asked to send in pictures of their babies to the Bonds Facebook page, but what was intended to be an opportunity to share adorable photos turned into scathing commentary about the babies’ appearances.
A voting glitch on the Bonds website allowed people to vote on some babies but not others. The technical error angered mothers whose babies weren’t receiving the votes they believed they were owed.
And then things got ugly.
Pippa Taylor, was astounded when a user posted a comment about her Eurasian daughter Lilli: 'Bonds Australia, not Asia'.
'I can't believe that people could stoop to racist comments,' Taylor told Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. 'I think it's just atrocious'.
Another woman complained on the Facebook page about her daughter being called ‘a child only a mother could love.'
Another baby was called an 'ugly duckling'.
'It is meant to be just some fun and for a whole heap of mums, and fathers as well, to put their babies up because they think their babies are gorgeous,’ said Taylor. 'They are. All babies are gorgeous.'
One new mum entered her 11-week-old daughter Ashlyn, but said she was horrified to hear about the abuse.
"It is absolutely ridiculous that people would be so cruel when it is a kids contest," she said.
The competition which features a ‘People’s Choice’ voting system was inundated with submissions, with over 52,000 entries this year, up from 17,000 entries the year before.
The voting system was only able to cope with 34,000 entries, according to a Bonds’ spokesperson.
'In a 24-hour period from Sunday to Monday we had 501,000 visits to the site and that is just massive.'
The technical glitch coupled with the social networking aspect of the contest, which enabled user commentary for the first time, allowed frustrated mothers to voice their anger, however misguided.
"It's almost like an American beauty pageant where the women get their claws out," Taylor said.
Eventually the negative comments on Facebook were removed, but the damage had already been done: one mother has taken her baby out of the competition and another has reported offensive comments to police.
The finalists will be announced later this month, and from that list 10 babies will be chosen to feature in a marketing campaign.