Adv English III
20 November 2012
Beauty Pageants and Their Affect on Child Competitors
“Little girls are supposed to play with dolls, not be dolls,” insists social worker Mark Sichel (Triggs2). All around the world, little girls are practicing and preparing to get on stage and be judged on their looks, capability, poise, dance, and talent. And after all that preparing and money spent, one little girl will be told and be given a trophy for being prettier, having a more expensive dress, a better spray tan, or maybe even for having a better on-stage artificial and practiced personality, than all the other girls. Should little girls be rewarded for being prettier or richer than others? Not only does it teach the contestants that beauty and money can get you popularity, but it also sets them up for other issues down the line, such as, bulimia, anorexia, depression, the need to be perfect, and the need for attention. Toddler pageants are warping the mindset of our children, and therefore should be more regulated, and have an age restriction of eighteen set.
To fully understand these competitions, we need to take a look at where they came from. Beauty pageants began in Atlantis City in the 1920’s as a marketing tool by a hotel owner who wanted tourists to stick around town longer. They were then discontinued until 1932 due to the Great Depression. Children's beauty pageants did not begin until the 1960’s (Nussbaum1). Though pageants had been around for awhile, not many people knew about them until the JonBenet Ramsey tragedy.
Despite being murdered in 1996, JonBenet remains the most famous pageant girl in the world. It wasn’t until then, did most of the world discover the existence of these competitions. Karen Steinhauser, the chief deputy district attorney for Denver at the time of the murder, told reporters, “It’s impossible to look at these photos and not see a terribly exploited little girl.” Many people blamed the murder on her being a pageant girl. They claim her parents were exploiting her and therefore asking for it. A CBS evening news reporter saw the footage, and compared it to “kiddie porn” (Hollandsworth3). So why did competitions that used to outrage and shock most Americans turn into a popular TV show called Toddlers & Tiaras?
There are two types of pageants, glitz and natural. Glitz pageants mean the whole "nine-yards". Fake nails, hair, tan, teeth, eyelashes, and also expensive dresses and complete makeup. University Royalty Beauty Pageant owner, Annette Hill, provides 12 to 15 high-glitz pageants a year culminating in a national pageant that give out $75,000 in cash in prizes, including $10,000 to the winner. When questioned about glitz pageants she made the statement, “When we talk high-glitz, we mean the glitzier the better, and we make no apologies for it. We love the beautiful dresses and the big hairstyles. We love the bling and the makeup. We love our girls showing lots and lots of style and we love seeing them sparkle,” (HOLLANDSWORTH3).
All little girls love to dress up, but when they’re constantly dressed up with extreme fake features, will they be able to feel beautiful without it all? University Royalty Beauty Pageants is just one company, there are an estimated 5,000 pageants yearly, and an estimated 250,000 children competing under the age of fourteen annually (HOLLANDSWORTH2). When did the world suddenly become okay with this sexualization of our young girls and why? Some argue against this and say pageants give competitors a variety of benefits; such as, recognition, personal development, communication skills, confidence, and the ability to handle stress, pressure, and disappointment (Nussbaum1). Pageant girls, now more than ever, are getting more and more recognition due to the new TLC show, Toddlers and Tiaras. There are some girls shown regularly on the show and one of the competitors caught the television networks attention so much, she was