-These are interviews of beauty pageant participants.
READINGS AND RELATED LINKS:
- 50 Debate Prompts for Kids
-Your Kind Ought to be in Pictures: A How-To Guide for Would-Be Child Actors and their Parents
“The Transformation of a Little Girl into a Beauty Queen” Slideshow By Zinzi Williams
“Do Pageant Children Behave Differently than Other Kids?” Podcast By Zinzi Williams
Beauty Pageants and its Effect on Children
LAST UPDATED: 12/6/10
We all remember the tragic story of Jon Benet Ramsey in the mass media over a decade ago. A beautiful 6 year old girl who competed in many pageants was kidnapped and brutally murdered. One question that stems from that tragedy is have parents learned anything about letting their children compete in beauty pageants and what precautions should be taken when competing?
While the debate on child beauty pageants benefits and risks is getting hotter day by day, one can imagine the intensity of the destruction this could do to a child's self-esteem. What does a child need? Independence of eating and standing on his/her own and confidence that her parents love them. From birth, many children ages 0 to 18 compete in pageants that judge them on appearance, apparel, personality, interview, and talent. Parents, in most cases, sign their children up for these competitions. Pageant organizations are mostly ran by parents. There are many different views and perspectives on this subject.
Beauty pageants started in the 1920s in Atlantic City. The business owners needed a way to keep tourists there past Labor Day so they introduced pageantry. It began with a swimming suit competition and then more was added later as the decades moved on. Miss America was introduced in 1921. Pageantry eventually became really popular in the 1950s, as it was aired on TV. As the years went by, some people began to believe that beauty competitions have a negative connotation. This started in the 1970s; beauty competitions received negative press due to the Feminist Act (History 1). Children have been involved in pageants for nearly 50 years (History 2).
WHAT IS A PAGEANT?
I believe that costumes still play a big role in pageantry. One big misconception is that pageants are only for women and girls. Men and boys compete all the time, especially through the newborn to grade school ages. At the younger ages the competition is pretty much the same as the girls. Every pageant is independently organized and rules are specifically developed for each one. This variance in rules and guidelines allows an opportunity for anyone of any age to enter into beauty pageants.
PARENTS INVOLVED IN PAGEANTS:
There are very few children who engage in pageantry without their parents being involved also. Many of the parents are on committees. The role of the parent is very important. They have the money and the connection into the “pageant world.” There are a lot of generations of competitors; grandmas, moms, kids, and grandkids. Pageant promoters have the power to influence the way pageants are perceived but many of them don’t take advantage of this. It is said that the mothers of children in pageantry live vicariously through their children. Could it be that they are the ones who want all the attention? Is there something mentally wrong with these parents for wanting and sometimes forcing their children into pageantry? I couldn’t find any direct information relating to the parents of children in pageants. However, I do believe that most of the mothers are living vicariously through their children. Maybe they have low self-esteem and want better for their daughters. One an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras,” a mother explains that she forced her daughter into pageantry because she didn’t want her to be a tomboy like most of the women in their family. But does that really justify forcing your child do something? Do these mothers really hate themselves that much? Forcing someone not to be like you is promoting self-hatred in my opinion. This really contradicts what pageants are about. Aren’t they supposed to uplift the contestant and give them confidence?
WHAT GOES INTO A “SUCCESSFUL” PAGEANT?
For the most part pageants are and can be a very expensive habit/lifestyle for families. There are the costumes, hair-dos, lessons, sign up fees, travel cost, etc. Before signing your child up I would research this thoroughly.
In many pageants there are different categories. The categories help show how “well rounded” each contestant is. The most common categories are: interview, swimwear, talent, and beauty. Each child competes in all these categories while the judges tally up scores from each. At the end of the competition the contestant with the highest score wins. Each category calls for a costume change. Parents spend literally thousands of dollars on costumes for these pageants. Most of them are custom made while very few thrifty parents sew their own. Purchasing a costume for each category is very expensive and a costume for every category is very time consuming. The pageant dress shown below is a dress typically worn during the “Beauty” portion of the competition.
COST (SIGNING UP AND FEES):
The cost of entering a child beauty pageant is quite expensive. The cost includes entry fees, training program, accommodation and hair and make-up services by a professional. The fees for pageants are expensive. For example the Universal Royalty entry form includes all personal information about the child and their parents, but it also includes a separate sign-up for each category and the cost. A contestant has the choice of which category they want to compete in but each category has a fee. Most parents make payment plans because each competition can cost up to a grand. When you click on the Universal Royalty link above it will show you the cost of an average beauty contest.
EFFECTS ON CHILDREN:
Beauty pageants for children have many pros and cons. Many people believe pageants give children self-esteem and confidence. Others tend to believe that pageants are somewhat ridiculous and that parents live vicariously through their kids. The debate continues on whether children actually enjoy doing pageants or if they are forced to. Also, most beauty pageants involve a lot of makeup and expensive clothing and hairstyles. Is it worth it? And why? There are several TV shows, such as “Toddlers in Tiaras” and “Little Miss Perfect,” that showcase children in pageants. As viewers, we get to have an insight on what exactly goes on and if the child is actually happy. Many of the episodes include kids who truly do not enjoy pageantry. Most of the time they did not like the practice time and the hair and makeup that they endured. Their parents blatantly bribed their children with candy and/or toys just to get them to cooperate.
THE BENEFITS OF COMPETING IN PAGEANTS:
The competition is tough. The child contestant has to walk the ramp to showcase her looks, poise and confidence in different types of costumes; formal wear, sport wear and casual wear. Looks being the main focus, the face is done up with cakes of foundation and the fake eyelashes are stiffed with mascara. The lips are colored with bright lipstick. According to Buzzle.com, “The training program and subsequent practice sessions to enter a pageant are grueling. At a very young age the child learns discipline, patience and confidence. The pride of standing and modeling in front of an audience instills self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. An organizer of child beauty pageant states that pageants should be treated like extracurricular activities, and should not interfere with academics. The winner of the pageants is usually given a scholarship for college.” Many of the beauty pageants take part in community service, delivering a social message and help in bringing up funds for charity.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
‘‘People are sick if they can see anything sexy about a
little girl.'' Vanessa Woods
“Child beauty pageants facts are sometimes more horrifying than the most horror movies.” says Buzzle.com The mothers pressure their children to work on their appearance to look like a Barbie doll. A child's innocence is stolen by fake plastic smiles, false eyelashes and a polished appearance. During the pageants the contestant wears a ton of make-up and their hairstyles contains loads of hairspray. After the transformation from little girl to “beauty queen,” the children are hardly recognizable. Take a look at these pictures.
The irony of the situation is that, parents prefer to spend money on designer dresses than on the child's education. Instead of being able to play afterschool or even focus on homework, these children work hard practicing modeling walks and poses for the upcoming competition. This is total betrayal of the trust the child has in her parents to provide a secure future. That leads me to question if children who compete in pageants behave differently than kids who don’t.
The lifestyle of a child beauty pageant contestant can be very stressful which eventually leads to mental issues that last a lifetime (Negative 1). There is a lot of pressure on children to perform on the stage. If the child happens to lose, frustrations creep in. The frustration leads to depression and other psychological complications. Child beauty pageants effects can be disastrous on the child's body and mind. Children grow up to think that the only way to earn money is through exploitation of their bodies, which is not true. Children develop eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia to make their bodies look perfect. According to the American Psychological Association, children as young as toddlers have thoughts about body image.
“Only in a country that represses the evidence of the senses could child pageantry grow into an 85 billion dollar industry without anyone noticing. Only in a nation of promiscuous puritans could it be a good career move to equip a six year old with bedroom eyes.” –Richard Goldstein
There are so many possible resolutions to this issue. Abolish beauty pageants altogether; not likely. But we can educate children and parents about pageants and continue to raise awareness of all the risks taken. I realize that for the most families this is a generational tradition, but not following tradition is also tradition. Children need to be asked if they want to participate. They CAN think for on their own and should NEVER be forced to do something they don’t want to. Some pageant parents may rebuttal, “They will appreciate it when they are older.” Well I am pretty sure they will not appreciate you ignoring and neglecting their feelings or the baggage of issues they may carry for a lifetime.
REFERENCES AND WORKS CITED
JonBenet Ramsey: Are there lessons to be learned from her tragic story http://blogs.webmd.com/healthy-children/2006/08/jonbenet-ramsey-are-there-lessons-to-be-learned-from-her-tragic-story.html Aug. 16 2006
The Fascinating History of Pageants: http://pageantcenter.com/history.html 1998-2010
The Negative Aspects of Child Beauty Pageants: http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/903049/the_negative_aspects_of_child_beauty.html
The Pageant that Guarantees you Cash and Prizes www.universalroyalty.com
Pageant Mothers: What are they Thinking? http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-inner-bonobo/201005/pageant-mothers-what-are-they-thinking May 10, 2010
Richard Goldstein, Village Voice, 24 June 1997