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.[1] The film is part of HBO's America Undercover[2] series.

The documentary follows five-year-old beauty contestant Swan Brooner and her mother, Robin Browne throughout the year of 1999 as Brooner moves from a pageant in Cape Coral, Florida to the higher profile southern pageants.[3] The film further explore the sexualization element prominent despite pageant contestants' young age.[4][5]

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. Browne, who worked three jobs and had already spent $60,000 on her daughter's pageant career, hired Butler and King to help Brooner reach the next level of pageant competition.[6] Browne ultimately reported spending more than $70,000 despite Brooner's young age.[4]


  1. ^ Stange, Mary Zeiss; Oyster, Carol K.; Sloan, Jane E. (2011-02-23). Encyclopedia of Women in Today's World. SAGE. ISBN 978-1-4129-7685-5.
  2. ^ Edgerton, Gary R.; Jones, Jeffrey P. (2013-07-24). The Essential HBO Reader. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-4372-9.
  3. ^ Brantley, Doug (May 2001). "Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen". Out. p. 35. Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  4. ^ a b Rosenberg, Howard (2001-05-11). "Beauty, Always in the Eye of the Beholder". Retrieved 2021-12-10.
  5. ^ Schuyler, Michael T. (2011). "When Jesus, Moses and Gay Pageant Coaches Go Camping: The Function of Camp in Documentary Films". Studies in American Humor (23): 29–47. doi:10.2307/42573611. ISSN 0095-280X. JSTOR 42573611.
  6. ^ Fries, Laura (2001-05-08). "Living Dolls: The Making of a Child Beauty Queen". Variety. Retrieved 2021-12-10.

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