Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen

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Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen
Directed byShari Cookson
Written byShari Cookson
Produced byShari Cookson
Jean Guest
Linda Otto
StarringSwan Brooner
Robin Browne
Michael Butler
Shane King
Leslie Butler
Distributed byHBO
Release date
  • May 13, 2001 (2001-05-13)
CountryUnited States

Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen is a 2001 HBO documentary film on child beauty pageants directed by Shari Cookson.


The documentary follows five-year-old beauty contestant Swan Brooner and her mother, Robin Browne throughout the year of 1999. The two live in Florida with Swan's half-brother, Bubba, her half-sister, Silva and her younger brother, Devon.

Throughout the film, Robin, who used to serve in the American military, trains and grooms Swan with a no-nonsense attitude for the state beauty pageants. In Swan's bedroom, various trophies and crowns are displayed, although Swan mentions she does not know what contest she won them in.

Robin takes Swan to South Carolina to compete in a national contest. However, Swan loses after nearly forgetting the words to a song. The two move on the next contest. Before they set out, Robin's boyfriend has already offered to help Robin and Swan with whatever expenses needed to cover the pageants. Robin's son, Bubba, is a juvenile delinquent, who has already been involved in fights with his peers at school and has been arrested a few times. However, Robin has been too preoccupied with Swan to attend to Bubba, although she mentions she cares for and loves all of her children.

The documentary later focuses on Alabama residents and beauty pageant coaches Michael Butler and his partner Shane King, along with Butler's seven-year-old daughter, Leslie, who has won 27 national titles in her pageant span (Butler's dad mentions that Leslie won her first pageant when she was three weeks old while she slept). Shane is coach to Leslie, Swan and various other young beauty pageant contestants. Meanwhile, Leslie is preparing to compete in the Glamour Doll USA pageant after a nine-month hiatus. She later wins the top prize.

In the Ginger Bread Pageant, Swan is crowned Miss Grand National Star Grand Supreme, winning $2500, the largest prize she has received. Leslie is crowned Overall Dream Girl, winning $500.

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