Beauty Pageants: Wrong or Fun?

beauty pageant

Okay, I’ve gone a little over the top with the drama-factor in title haven’t I? But it does reflect the extreme reactions on this subject since news broke that  Universal Royalty Beauty Pageants® is coming to Melbourne, Australia. Opinions on child beauty pageants are often on either side of the spectrum: for, or against, and not much in-between. 

Personally, I was horrified when I looked at the photos on the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageants® website, of children made up to look like mini-me adults and photographs touched up so kids look like dolls.  There’s something that screams “this is wrong” in the back of my mind. 

I’m all for building a child’s self esteem and believe children should be told they are beautiful…everyday. However shouldn’t this be done by people who know and love them rather than by a panel of judges? Should children be judged by their appearance for monetary gain? It just doesn’t sit right with me: kids dressed up and holding money like fans. Doesn’t. Sit. Right.

Early Self-objectification

I invited Collett Smart, child counselor and author of  The Family Factor, to give her opinion on child beauty pageants.

“Children rely on their parents to assist them as they develop self-awareness and self-concept. The way we talk to our children about their bodies and appearances will affect what they absorb about their value in life. The focus on body appearance creates early self-objectification. This is the focus on physical attractiveness as a method of self-improvement and social success or social popularity.

This negative mindset can affect the way children approach certain situations for the rest of their lives. Children who think poorly of themselves (due to failure in a beauty pageant or holding the pageant up as a determination of beauty) will assume that they cannot succeed in other areas of their lives, such as having a successful career, if they cannot even control their outer appearances. Proven long-term effects carry over into adulthood.

Children that spend much time in the beauty pageant would tend to neglect their schoolwork and playtime in exchange for an early start into an adult world.”

Self-objectification, Self-esteem & Sexualisation

I believe there’s a real danger of self-objectification incresingly becoming the focus of self-esteem in young children because of all sexualisation our society feeds on. Our poor kids shouldn’t have to digest adult concepts and work out what they mean. Instead they should have the opportunity to grow and develop in the correct order: be a kid first and grow into an adult second.

It’s interesting, after watching far too many Toddlers & Tiarras clips on YouTube, the three main defensive reasons parents use to justify these pageants is self esteem, “it’s not sexual” and “she loves it”. 

1. Appearance is such a variable and subjective thing and if self-esteem is focused on looks, how far can you really get?

2. Kids aren’t sexual — this is true. So why then would you get them singing “shake my booty” as an exhibition in front of a crowd and have them parade in a swimsuit? Seems all kinds of wrong to me.

3. To be honest, I’m sure my Miss 5 would love dressing up for a pageant: pretty dress, hair, make-up, singing and dancing; yet it’s my role as her Mum nurture her in the right direction and for me, self-esteem is knowing who you are and what you  believe rather than being confident in what you look like. I’m sure my daughter would probably like to eat lollies everyday too but that doesn’t mean I let her.  I would never enter my daughter in a beauty pageant because franky, I don’t think it would be good for her, especially if it was a constant thing. Full stop.

I found this short documentary which echos many of my own sentiments about beauty pageants for young children.

This is my definition of beauty

A child lying on the grass after eating mulberries straight from the tree…

Child eating mulberries

A child with no make-up…

natural beauty

A child picking flowers…

child picking flowers

A little boy playing in the mud…

little boy playing in mud

Kids role playing…

Kids role playing

Kids playing dress-ups…

kids playing dress ups

Kids just being kids…

kids being kids

Ah, yes. It’s nice to look over these pictures to remind myself why I want to raise my kids simply, and truly: So they can enjoy being kids and develop into who they are rather than what society bombards them with.

Are you happy about Beauty Pageants coming to Australia?

Are Beauty Pageants plain wrong or just a bit of fun? 

Stay tuned for the another post in this series next week about where to draw the line on make-up, waxing, padded bras, plastic surgery children’s books and growing up too fast…

In the news

Little beauties set to go on show in Melbourne

ACA Story on Universal Royalty Pageant Coming to Australia 2011


The T(w)een Factor: Esteem Destroying Pageants

SuperParents: Times Square Claremont Bares All

Outdoor Advertising Should Be G Rated

Kids Free 2b Kids

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  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 11:41 am

    The word Beauty Pageant fills me with horror. OK, a little over dramatic, but it saddens me to see children made up into little adults. I have had the displeasure of watching an episode of Toddlers and tiaras. These children live a very un child like life. Fake tan, fake teeth (for when their baby teeth fall out and there is a gap) more makeup than I wear as a 39 year old, and a lack of time to just be a kid… playing, uninterrupted, un directed, un structured play.
    I do not think it’s all a bit of fun, and I am not happy it is coming to Australia.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Seems logic for me that it’s totally WRONG !!!
    Your article say everything i would have said myself, with the natural beauty of kids being kids ; )
    Hope these kind of trashy contests will never come to France !

  • Reply
    Kathryn Rodda
    March 31, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Well written Kelly! I think these pageants are disgusting! I knew they went to extremes with makeup, cost etc, but spray tans – come on! I don’t have girls, but if I did there is no way on this earth that I would enter them. I don’t even really agree with cute baby competitions etc, where there are judges choosing a cute baby. I don’t mind the ones for fun like Bonds where the public were voting, since lets face it, it’s really only going to be friends who you recruit to vote for your kid 🙂 But these pageants are just so wrong. I can’t believe they are coming to Australia, well, actually I can because we are following so many American things now.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Very well written.

    I feel SO strongly about how wrong these pagents are but can’t seem to articulate a post without sounding like I’m ranting. And saying things like PUKE!! and WRONGGG!! a lot.

    As the mother of 3 daughters I would NEVER let them be waxed, plucked or judged on how they looked in a bikini.

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:53 pm

      BAHAHA! I like you Shae. I’m kinda hoping I can see a post with all those words now. LOL

    • Reply
      April 1, 2011 at 8:59 pm

      Shae… I am with you. The word WRONG just keeps coming out in stutters as it too makes me cross. I struggle for words and all I can came up with is WRONG!
      so I think we are normal! lol

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve always been glad to live in a country without this beauty pageant obsession for kids. To tell the truth, I think adult beauty pageants are a waste of space too. So I’m horrified to read that Australian parents and kids will be lured into it. It will make a lot of money for a few people I guess, and many mums will try to live out their dreams through their young daughters, but what tangible benefit will it have? Anybody?

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:51 pm

      No anwers here…I just don’t get it. At. All.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    I love this post and your examples of “real beauty” in kids. Probably not surprising that I agree with you and your commenters. There is no way I would EVER enter my kids in anything that is judging them on the basis of their looks.

    I know I will probably lose a few friends in saying this, but I can’t even believe the popularity of something as seemingly innocuous as the recent Bonds baby search. SO MANY of my Facebook friends (including people I really love and respect) entered their kids in that contest. I was completely bemused by all the hype. Even if your baby did win, who would want to have to take them to photo shoots, modelling gigs etc, spending the time where they could be outside eating dirt or building with playdough etc…. I think I feel a blog post coming on!

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:49 pm

      @Julie, I thought about the Bonds competition too…I’d be interested in reading your post Julie.

      I don’t think the Bonds comp is on the same scale as this pageant business but I get your point. It seemed very easy to enter which would intice many. I was probably most annoyed because everyone gave free publicity to the company…and I’m not sure it was proactive. I really am interested in proactive advertising.

  • Reply
    Farmers Wifey
    March 31, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I already know my children are beautiful, I don’t need to be told by someone with a clipboard. I don’t like kids beauty pageants…saying that, my daughter dances and does wear makeup on stage..she is not being judged on how “beautiful” she is…..She is doing something she loves, when you see these little girls in pageants most of them don’t look like they are having any fun….

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:30 pm

      My daughter did ballet for a little while and she too, wore a little lipstick for the concert…this seems very different from the pageant mentality.

  • Reply
    Nicole Grant
    March 31, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I agree with the majority – it is wrong!
    When my youngest was 10 months old, a local kids fashion company sent out an newsletter which also included a request for ‘models’ for their winter range. They asked for a photo to be emailed in. Lured by the offer of free clothing in return for a few hours of our time, I sent a happy snap. It took 5 seconds by email. To my delight, my bub was selected – mainly because the clothes fit! The ‘shoot’ took an hour and involved two changes of clothes – and that was it. It was fun and I enjoyed chatting to the other mums, who had all responded to the email just like me. None of the kids were from an agency, and when I asked the organiser why they didn’t use one, their response was – “We don’t like dealing with their Mums.”
    Anyway we had a bit of fun and I got some free kids clothes, so I felt that was worthwhile. I would never put my kids forward for modelling or a contest like this in a trillion years. Like the organiser in my story above, I feel it’s the mums who are the problem. Maybe once or twice would be fun (maybe??), but a competition of this scale for a little person, I think is almost abusive.

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:37 pm

      I agree this is a very different thing. My sister has done the same as you. Her friend (who owns a shop) needed some models for her clothes and the kids got some free stuff.

      I think when it’s an obsession, or if the kids are constantly modeling or pageanting (is that a word?), it poses a huge problem.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    Great article Kelly!

    We are just about to launch a national petition and I will let you know as soon as it is ready.

    p.s I am off to add this piece to my article. It is so good to hear other mums speak up about this.

  • Reply
    Helen Thomas
    March 31, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I felt physically sick watching the video of these poor babies. I am a mum and a nanna. I have beautiful daughters and grandaughters. I have always been against our culture’s sick distorted way of sexualising adult women – let alone our precious little girls. This whole pageant rot should be banned – shame on the organisers, shame on the selfish mums and gutless dads who do this to their daughters – shame on the authorities for not banning it. God help us!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Hi everyone – I have JUST finished setting up the petition site for these pageants (as part of Collective Shout). Pop over to my blog and the link is now prominently in the article.

    Thanks for joining us!


    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:38 pm

      Thanks Collett. I’ve added a link in the post too.

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Totally agree with you. They are so wrong. I don’t understand how a Mum can not see how spending hours and hours and hours on how your little girl “looks” is not wrong!!

  • Reply
    March 31, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    I have tried to tip-toe around this subject as I own an early learning centre in WA so its always best to be impartial, but this subject irks me.

    To be blatantly honest I think it is child abuse and should be banned. Parents that exploit their own children for money should be ashamed of themselves. I cant possibly see what benefits there would be in a child being forced to pose in mature manners and wear provocative clothing? That is not teaching confidence or poise – enrol them in a drama class if thats what they’re looking for.

    I am still amazed that this continues in America and that it is actually legal – especially with all of the peadophilia in the wider international community. Think about it if someone was to take a provocative photo of a child and post it on the internet or email it, chances are they would be charged with it. So how is it that this is actually allowed. Some of the pictures I have seen of these little girls are completely inappropriate – do their parents not realise that they could end up in the hands of the wrong person? How can you expose your children like that?

    Yes, Im extremely passionate about this subject and I honestly believe that we should boycott the show in Melbourne at very least. These innocent children need to be protected, when will the Government step in and protect our children’s innocence?

    • Reply
      Kelly B
      March 31, 2011 at 10:39 pm

      Yeah, I can see it puts you in a delicate position Tina. I really appreciate your thoughts.

  • Reply
    Katrina Germein
    March 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

  • Reply
    April 1, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I have always wondered where the parents heads really are when they subject their kids to such a horrible experience. And they do it regularly. No seriously what is with that!?! No I think the photos of the kids playing says it all. Let children be children!

  • Reply
    April 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Have you come cross Collective Shout? Some very interesting stuff on kids in advertising and more.

    • Reply
      April 1, 2011 at 7:31 pm

      Hi CraftyMummy. Thanks for mentioning Collective Shout. I have my own blog The T(w)een Factor (as mentioned by Kelly) but am one of the core members of Collective Shout. The link to the petition that I set up (as part of Collective Shout) is on my site.

      LOVE the work what we get to do but it is all the members that actually make things happen 🙂


  • Reply
    Michelle Dennis Evans
    April 1, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    I follow collective shout on fb … yes they do have heaps of great arguments. such a great organisation.
    Damage is all I think when I think beauty pageant.
    God created us all beautiful – it doesn really have that much to do with looks – its internal beauty that flows externally.

    • Reply
      April 1, 2011 at 7:34 pm

      Thanks for the Collective Shout love 😉 Michelle! Please see my comment above to CraftyMummy.

      Collett (The T(w)een factor and Collective Shout Team)

  • Reply
    Kat Eden
    April 1, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I hate hate HATE these pagaents! Oh my goodness! I am still listening to the You Tube vid while I write this, and she’s talking about spray tans … unbelievable! Even the idea of making a child sit still for hair and makeup is horrifying, let alone the reasons these Mums are doing it. I would rather give away all my possessions, quit my job, and commit to not seeing my family for a year than see my daughter in a pageant one day. So so wrong and so so horrifying. Like watching a train wreck happen; I can only imagine. But still. They should be illegal!

  • Reply
    Dan O'Neil
    April 2, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Good on you! More people need to stand up and point out how awful this practice is. Getting kids to dress up as adults, not in the way where they play at being adult, but where they believe they are adults is hugely damaging.

    I’m all for pretence and imagination – it’s how kids learn, but what are we teaching them if we let tell them to wear lots of make-up and dress up in swimwear and other clothes designed to seduce???

    I read something on another forum the other day talking about how Abercrombie and Fitch (however it’s spelled) were starting to make bikinis for young girls with padded bra tops… is the world really this mad??

    On the one hand, we are more fearful now than ever in our history that our child is going to be taken and really horrible things will be done to them. On the other hand, we’re dressing them up as some kind of advert to this incredibly small minority of people and inviting them in??

    Allow children to be children – they can mess up being an adult when they are one, not before!

    Cheers, Dan

  • Reply
    Girls Growing Up: Where to Draw the Line? | Be A Fun Mum
    April 7, 2011 at 11:28 am

    […] my concern about society’s push to sexualise girls too early. Last week I talked about Beauty Pageants and the danger of self-objectification incresingly becoming the focus of self-esteem in young […]

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