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Generation Diva: Pampering could give little girls the wrong attitude


Lisa Nicita

The Arizona Republic
January 15, 2008


Little girls usually love to sparkle and shine and play pretend princess, but today's girls are taking it up a notch.

In recent years, the diva concept has made inroads on childhood standards, touching everything from clothing to dolls to parties. Celebrities demonstrating divalike behavior make big news, while new salons catering to little girls are finding success in the Valley.

Generation Diva has birthday parties that include fashion shows and makeup applications. Their dolls wear tiaras and shirts that read "Diva" in rhinestones.

The girls are introduced to the attitude at birth, gifted with onesies and bibs declaring their prima-donna supremacy. What will become of Generation Diva, which has traded Barbie for Bratz?

David Abrams, a psychotherapist and licensed professional counselor, thinks the diva influence could lead to a sense of entitlement. Kids treated like divas, or temperamental superstars, could come to believe they deserve such catering throughout their lives.

Abrams, founder of LifeWorks AZ, said beyond the diva influence is the overarching idea of consumption.

"If you think about it, the more we watch TV or watch things, it's always pushing to be happy," he said. "You can't be happy driving a Honda. You have to have a Mercedes."

Abrams said the more people look outside themselves for happiness, the less happy they'll be. There will always be a nicer car, a bigger house and a cooler Sweet Sixteen party.

Harmless fun?
It took about an hour and a half for Maya Beneke to transform from an already adorable little girl into a sparkly, temporarily tattooed preschooler.

Her hair was done up with ribbons and glittery hair spray. A pedicure left her toes a perky, polished pink. Her fingernails were accented with lavender flowers.

Even though she is just 4, Maya knew what she wanted when she sat in the pint-size pedicure chair. She wanted a full-service pedicure, and politely told her stylist so.

"I'm jealous," Richard Hippner said as he watched his granddaughter soak her feet in a vibrating tub. "She's a regular princess. We're pampering her."

Maya, of Scottsdale, nearly floated to the register where her grandmother, Judy Hippner, paid for a morning of beauty for her only granddaughter. Maya's visit to LolliLocks Kids Salon in Mesa was one stop during her day with the grandparents.

"It's for fun," said Hippner, of Chandler. "Being her grandparents is special. Everybody loves to be fussed over."

Janice Ferebee, a Washington, D.C.-based author, speaker and girls-youth advocate, just worries when fussing and pampering bleeds over to spoiling. Ferebee said there is nothing wrong with teaching the merits of good hygiene while pampering a child with nail polish and a fun hairstyle.

But makeup and clothing that isn't age appropriate should be avoided.

Ferebee said girls today are growing up in a "prefab" society with endless potentially detrimental influences, from TV to the Internet.

"We spend much too much time in fantasyland," Ferebee said. "I think we are raising girls to not have their own identity and their own ambition."

Ferebee said the diva generation is growing up as copycats. She's seen preschoolers pretend to be Jennifer Lopez, one among many of today's pop-culture divas.

"It's frightening for me to see," Ferebee said. "I think the future consequences are living in a dream world."

Getting the message
Parents might shrug off a toddler T-shirt with a sassy message, but children often pick up on messages a lot sooner than adults realize. Ferebee said much of a child's personality, who that child will be, is instilled by the time a child is 5.

"They pick up on their surroundings and how they are treated," she said.

That's why Shawna Strube, 33, of Gilbert, stays away from Bratz dolls and diva gear for her daughter, Morgan. She'll bring her daughter for a haircut and style at LolliLocks. Before dance recitals, Morgan, 7, even got a pedicure and manicure as a special treat.

"It was cool," Morgan said.

But that's where Strube draws the line.

"She likes the attention here and it's a girly atmosphere," Strube said of the salon. "I think some people go to extremes with it. She doesn't come out with sequins all over her eyes."

Strube said some of Morgan's second-grade schoolmates have highlights in their hair and wear acrylic nails.

"We're more Disney princess than diva," Strube said. "I think too many people try to get their kids to grow up too fast."

Abrams, of LifeWorks AZ, said it comes down to balance. Separating playtime diva or princess from reality is crucial, and it takes quality parenting time to do it.

Easier to give in
Rachel Grimmer, 25, of Mesa, admits she is torn when she sees her 18-month-old daughter interact with her 3-year-old son.

"There's a sass," she said.

Grimmer is torn because she owns Frills to Fairytales, an in-home party company that brings the diva dreams of little girls to life. Her parties include wigs for the girls to wear, makeup sessions, food and plenty of animal prints and sparkles.

The diva parties, just one theme Frills to Fairytales offers, include a fashion show. Grimmer said the girls change once they are in the costumes.

"They believe they truly are divas," she said.

"It scares me. I love to see how excited they get, but it's one of those things you want them to understand that it's for entertainment," she said.

Business is good. Grimmer charges about $400 for a party of 10 kids. She does a party a weekend, sometimes two.

But she can't be alone, at once grimacing at the influence and succumbing to it.

Ferebee, an author and girls-youth advocate, said sometimes it's easier to give in.

Marketing and peer pressure, on parents and children, influence parental choices, as does a lack of a sense of self as a parent, Ferebee said.

"It's very difficult to fight against," she said, "but it's not impossible."

In the end, it's important to separate fantasy from reality, Ferebee said.

"There's nothing wrong with getting dressed up," she said. "It's being age appropriate."

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