Grooming a child to face the competitive world and coaxing a child to join the bandwagon of beauty pageants are two different things altogether. Let us take into consideration the pros and cons of child beauty pageants and whether these competitions serve any purpose other than showcasing the beauty of a child.
A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. ~ Rachel Carson
Shockers in Beauty Pageants
JonBenét Ramsey was only 6 years old when she was brutally murdered in 1996. She was a child beauty queen who had participated in several beauty pageants at her tender age. The news of her cold-blooded murder was flashed on every news channel in America. The death of JonBenét led to severe criticism of child beauty pageants and debates on whether such pageants should be banned or not.
The ‘Most Beautiful Child’ contests were already being held all over America in the 1920s, until an organized beauty pageant was held in Atlantic City in 1921 by a hotel owner as a means of boosting tourism. The first child beauty pageant known as ‘Little Miss America’ started in the 1960s. Today, these pageants have become commonplace and are gaining popularity with every passing day. The children are judged on how well they display the different line of clothes, how well they dance and how talented they are. They are pitted against other children and expected to rise above the rest. Therefore, parents must be aware of the various pros and cons of child beauty pageants before enrolling their children into such competitions.
All That Is Good About Child Beauty Pageants
Overcoming Stage Fright
Participating in a beauty pageant helps children overcome their shyness and stage fright. It also gives them an opportunity to showcase their singing, dancing, and communication skills.
Children learn how to maintain cordial relationships with fellow pageant contestants and understand the importance of friendly competition and cooperation. It teaches them to be graceful winners and participants.
So many contestants end up becoming close friends, and even though they may not win a significant place in the pageant, they take home the everlasting gift of friendship and wonderful memories.
Pageants aren’t always as venomous and dangerous as they are portrayed in the media. The parents of the contestants often go out of their way by helping other contestants in their last-minute preparations.
Not all pageants make the participants wear clothes that are inappropriate for their age. Many allow kids to dress and act according to their age.
Parents are constantly watching over the safety of their children and are as concerned about their well-being onstage, as they are in their ordinary lives. Therefore, the decision of parents to initiate their children into such competitions is strictly a matter of personal choice.
Most child beauty pageants are well-organized and cater to the needs of children by arranging recreational activities, games, and snacks at the backstage.
Parents often enroll their children into beauty pageants in order to encourage them to dream bigger, want and expect more from themselves. It is also meant to make the children realize that there is a lot of competition in the world and they must be prepared to face the challenge in order to succeed.
Exposure to Diversity
Since these pageants are open for participants hailing from diverse cultures, it makes the parents as well as children step out of their comfort zone and become more open-minded and helpful.
The winner of the pageant is usually given an academic scholarship, which minimizes or refunds some of the expenses of the child’s academic year. Most beauty pageants also contribute towards community service and help in generating funds for charity.
All That Is Bad About Child Beauty Pageants
The competition is tough. The contestants have to walk the ramp to showcase their looks, poise, and confidence in different types of costumes. Looks being the prime focus, the face is caked with foundation and fake eyelashes are stiffened with mascara. Bright lipstick shades are used which are unfitting for a young child.
Demanding Practice Sessions
The training program and subsequent practice sessions to enter a pageant are grueling as well. The child has to spend several hours practicing and rarely ever gets a chance to play and have fun.
It is believed that, many parents live vicariously through their children so as to accomplish the things they couldn’t achieve in their own lives. For many mothers, it is a way of reliving the past through their children. Watching your child being admired and adulated is a definite ego boost for many parents.
Age of Participants
Children as young as 18 months are forced into participating in beauty pageants, because parents think it’s the right thing to do for their child. Children who can barely form a proper sentence, are made to memorize dialogs and songs for appeasing the panel of judges.
The clothes that the participants are expected to wear are not meant for children. Revealing swimming costume such as bikinis and evening gowns are inappropriate for children. Such clothes are meant to be worn by adults only.
The parents pressurize their children to act and look like Barbie or Ken. The children are made to undergo preposterous sessions of grooming, wherein their eyebrows are plucked in order to be shaped, their hair is styled and colored, and their teeth are bleached! The child’s natural beauty is often hidden and her/his innocence marred
beneath plastic smiles, tanned skin, and false eyelashes and teeth.
The cost of entering a beauty pageant is quite expensive. The expenses include fees for participation, training programs, accommodation, and hair and make-up services by a professional. The irony of the situation is that these parents prefer spending money on designer gowns rather than on the child’s education.
There is a lot of pressure on the children to perform according to the standards set by the parents and the pageant. The frustration of not having won or losing several times can lead to depression and other psychological complications. The effects of which can be disastrous on the child’s body and mind.
Participating in such competition deprives the children of their childhood and makes them eager to grow up. This urgency, can make them imitate the habits of adults and act inappropriately for their age. These children grow up with the misconception that the only way to be successful is to be beautiful.
Initiating Sociological Problems
Children who participate in beauty contests are also more likely to act snobbish and superior with other kids of their own age group. They may begin to look down upon their classmates and other contestants, who they believe are less attractive, talented, and ‘less special’ than themselves. It can also cause children to harbor hatred and jealousy against the other contestants.
On the flip side, these kids may begin to feel inadequate and unattractive in case they are not chosen for the next round or are defeated by another contestant. This can lead to several behavioral changes such as overacting for gaining attention, acting aloof or aggressive, wanting to be left alone, and feeling depressed.
Children who participate in such pageants are more vulnerable to sexual predation because of the unnecessary attention that is drawn onto them while they are onstage, as well as the coverage that such events get from the media.
A child’s wish to participate in such a competition can be influenced by having seen other kids on the television. Parents should be the ones to decide whether or not it is safe for their children to participate in a beauty pageant.
The norms of a beauty pageant are framed by the promoters and do not have any set laws that prescribe the manner in which such pageants must be held. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of the parents to ensure that their children are participating in a secure pageant. For those who vehemently oppose this practice, there is little one can do except take a personal stand against initiating your own child or family member into such beauty pageants.