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Let them be kids; a look into child beauty pageants

TW: mention of eating disorders


We’ve all heard of famous beauty pageants like Miss World, Miss Asia, Miss Universe, etc. They are competitions of beauty and confidence that focus mainly, if not only, on their contestants’ physical traits. While the entire concept of competing to see who is the most beautiful among a group of women seems problematic enough, it becomes so much worse we take into consideration the existence of child beauty pageants that have emerged as a part of this industry.


Child beauty pageants are typically set up as competitions between young children, most of which are young girls. These children compete in order to win titles such as “Miss (of something)” emulating the layout of the adult beauty pageants. Children in these competitions usually range from the ages 16 and under, with children as young as 13 months old being able to participate.


These young girls enter into these competitions under their parent or guardians name and typically center around things such as talent, stage presence, confidence, and most of all their physical appearance. These girls are made to practice and perform intricate stage routines while being caked in makeup and made to wear costumes and accessories that one would typically associate with being the attire of an adult.


These pageants have always been a controversial issue considering how these young girls are expected to present themselves. While most parents of these children support the argument that these competitions teach children traits such as public speaking, confidence, and poise. These pageants can also sometimes lead to monetary rewards and possible scholarships to fund their education. But there are several concerns against as well, such as how these competitions place immense pressure on very young children. Having to constantly practice and rehearse stage routines, these children are often left with very little time to enjoy themselves as kids. The pressure to “keep up” with a certain kind of appearance can also have very negative side effects on their self-esteem and very often lead to body image issues at young ages.



The following is a clip from the TLC show “Toddlers and Tiaras,” Where you can see how these parents speak to their children and how these words manifest into actual insecurities.





In terms of their appearance, these young girls are expected to keep up with the perfect “Barbie doll” look, which while being highly unachievable has become the standard.





These competitions also oversexualize children with the outfits they are usually put into

and the activities they are expected to perform.

These two factors make the

children seem more “adult” in a sense which makes one question the motivation of those judging them.


Here’s an example of the type of skits these girls have to perform in order to “stand out.”


It is possible that girls who part take in these competitions are more likely to suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia due to the heavy emphasis put on maintaining their bodies. Through the introduction of unachievable beauty standards at such a small age and reinforcement of the idea that they will be rewarded if they look “beautiful”, these girls create harmful associations with their bodies and how their looks get them validation.


These associations end up reinstating stereotypes of women being sexual objects and with these girls having to make alterations to their looks in order to appease to a panel of judges, reinforces the idea that they need to alter their appearances in order to be accepted.



With more people now paying attention to these competitions its become more apparent how these events have made children vulnerable to issues such as grooming under dangerous judges and coaches.






With the harms far outweighing the benefits in this case one wonders why the parents do this to their children in the first place, with possible motivations such as using their children to get prize money and of mothers living vicariously through their children’s success, the child’s interest is not always considered.



With France banning beauty pageants for all minors under the age of 16, one wonders when the rest of the world is going to step up and do the same.

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