The Dark Side of Child Pageantry


photo courtesy of pixabay

Megan Lovett, Staff Writer

Beauty Pageants date back to the 1920s and became popular in the 1930s. Over the years pageants have seen some change, however, whenever children started participating in them, that had a huge impact on the world of pageants and the problems that come with them.  According to a story by BBC news, an 8-year-old girl was taken away from her mother after she injected her child with botox to look better for a pageant. The negative effects of beauty pageants on kids are not worth any prize that may be won in return. There are physical, mental, and long-term effects to child beauty pageants. Participation in beauty pageants from a young age can encourage children to place value on how they look too much, or could even make them feel like they are constantly being judged.

Some parents have their children consume sugary snacks for lots of energy, as a pageant can be energy consuming, especially for a young growing child. The combination of sugary snacks and energy drinks can not only teach bad habits but can also lead to eating disorders. Children are often subjected to what’s called a “crash diet.” This means children are made to lose weight rapidly to squeeze into small clothing or costumes. Children are still growing, they don’t need to be encouraged to go on a risky rapid diet that teaches them bad habits. According to a BBC article, an 8-year-old girl’s mother had her go through botox because she had “wrinkles.” This furthers my point about body issues. A little girl should not be having to worry THAT much about her appearance.

According to the child abuse prevention and treatment and adoption reform act, the definition of child abuse is, “the physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, of a child under circumstances which indicate the child’s health or welfare is threatened or harmed.” Young girls in beauty pageants are often put through a long process of perfecting how they look. Some of these things include fake nails, spray tans, fake eyelashes, waxing, and sadly much more. Those things for a child are not only time-consuming but especially painful. A little girl should not be exposed to waxing the hair off her body at such a young age, or the process of tanning which can have harmful effects whether it’s spray tanning, sun tanning, or tanning beds. . A young kid requires consistency, regular healthy meals along with enough sleep and naps. When you put a child through hours of preparation while denying them sleep, feed them sugar for energy, then at the same time make them go on diets so they get even smaller, that causes so many issues which could affect their development.

Some Pageants consist of children that aren’t even 1 yet. A kid should be able to spend their development growing, thriving, and being nurtured. Whenever you put a child through this constantly over a long period of time they’re not getting that. It’s hard for some to understand why people are so obsessed with the idea of child beauty pageants.

When presented with the facts about why pageants are bad for kids, it’s easy to agree that they aren’t good. However, it’s much harder to conclude WHY parents obsess over it. I’m fairly confident that most kids aren’t enjoying their time spent being waxed, plucked, critiqued, and made to wear an obscene amount of makeup. So if the children don’t enjoy it, if they aren’t even old enough to understand what they’re doing completely, then why are they doing it? The answer is simple but sad. Parents are often the reason for their children being hyped up on sugar on a stage in high heels and being judged for their “personality” when they don’t speak. A paper written by Martina M Cartwright, titled, “Journal of the American Academy of child and adolescent psychiatry”, entails information about the different types of pageants that take place around the world, and claims that the pageants are often more about the parents than the children themselves. Cartwright, who attended two live tapings of Toddlers and Tiaras,  hypothesized that a majority of the parents on Toddlers and Tiaras are exhibiting signs of what’s called, ‘Princess by Proxy.’ This term is a parent who lives through their child and enjoys the money and social status they gain no matter the consequences it could be having on their children. Parents feeling a sense of pride over a child’s success is normal and a caring thing. However, ‘Achievement by proxy distortion’ is not.  ‘Achievement by proxy distortion’ is the act of parents who struggle to separate their own needs from their children. It’s a selfish act that often leads to abuse to fulfill their own needs. The author of this Martina M. Cartwright claimed to have witnessed this issue at the pageants she attended. Many parents neglect the needs of their children for these competitions, doing things like denying them naps that they need, giving them what they call ‘pageant crack’ also known as sugary drinks and snacks.

Imagine yourself at the age of 5, imagine what you liked to do, and how you spent your time if you remember. If you can’t, then picture what a typical 5-year-old would like to do. You likely thought of things along the lines of watching cartoons, playing outside, and not having that many worries. Now think about the troubles a typical 5-year-old would bear. In ideal situations, not anything too bad that raises concern. Most of it is learning and growing and getting frustrated with what it takes to learn and grow. Then imagine if your parents suddenly had you spending most days perfecting how you looked. Monitoring what you eat, taking away a lot of free time so that you can win what? Money? A trip? While I understand that not all pageants for children are this intense, and not all parents have wrong intentions, there’s one too many parents and pageants that are that bad for it to be an issue. Childhood should be mostly carefree and safe. A parent’s job is to create a safe environment for a child and protect them from harm.

The exploitation of children in pageants can expose children to dangerous situations such as child predators, and people with awful intentions. The consequences of this have been seen in media before, Jon Bennet Ramsey was a 5-year-old little girl who was murdered in 1995. She was extremely popular for pageants. Children, primarily young girls, are exposed and subjected to the media at ages as young as 3 or even babies under 1 in pageantry.  The show Toddlers and Tiaras is a perfect example of this. The outfits and dances that some kids are encouraged to do are highly inappropriate for their age. Parents should not be putting their little children in a situation that has so many psychological negatives. Most of the clothing that young kids, primarily young girls, are put in for these pageants is not at all appropriate for their age. For some years France has had beauty pageants banned for children under the age of 16. It’s not healthy for someone to be subjected to judgment at such a young age while piling the possibility of sexualization and predators on top of it all.

While an adult could likely handle these things better, a child is not equipped for that. Overall pageants can lead to eating disorders, insecurities, predators, objectification of kids, and many more things. More often than not it’s for the parent’s benefit. Young children should not be allowed to participate in beauty pageants as they can cause serious harm, the parents are mostly ill-intentioned.  Now that you’ve been presented with the negatives of children participating in beauty pageants, I encourage you to sign a petition to end this. The petition I signed is one towards Tv shows like Toddlers and Tiaras.

Sources for this article include the following:,esteem%20and%20poor%20body%20image,better%20in%20child%20beauty%20pageants.