Problems, Dangers and Realities of Children's Beauty Pageants: Don't Be Silent

One out of every three girls suffers from some sort of eating disorder, whether it be bulimia or anorexia, this usually directs to the stress of beauty pageants. Beauty pageants are notorious for sexually exploiting young girls, along with the pressure and need for perfection that comes with it. Children who participate in beauty pageants can be as young as 18 months of age to around 16 years of age. Over 250,000 children participate in these beauty pageants and the numbers increase each year as the beauty pageant business is one that’s constantly growing being worth around 5 billion dollars. Beauty pageants for kids became the ‘thing’ after immunization was more well known and parents became more educated on the topic, whilst immunizing their kids. It was then later realized that children were able to stay in large groups without becoming sick. 

Beauty pageants have been around since the ancient Greeks, but were formally introduced to American society by a man named Phineas Taylor Barnum, who actually put together one of the first modern pageants in 1854, but was shut down due to protests of “ill-modesty”. However, it wasn’t until 1961 when child beauty pageants came back into the light and became extremely popular amongst mothers and young girls especially. During the 60’s, as that was during a time where there was harsh discrimination against African-Americans, they had separate beauty pageants called Miss Black America, though they were more used for as a political statement more than beauty because of the discrimination they were facing as a means to state that black women shouldn’t be stripped of the right of participating in beauty pageants. This was especially important to young black girls, as a lot of them wanted to be in the pageants but couldn’t due to the racism they faced back then. 

Today, there are many different types of beauty pageants that children can participate in such as the Little Miss Beauty pageants or even the very popular pageant which was made into a TV series that majority of us know called Toddlers & Tiaras. Many people have a decent idea of what goes on behind the scenes of child beauty pageants, but there is a much more darker twist of what actually happens. It starts off with the emotional and psychological damage. Pageant kids tend to feel the need of being perfect by not just the judges but also their pageants mothers who see their children as objects for people to glorify and judge. There are long-term psychological effects for kids in pageants that could have disastrous results for them in the future. Pageant kids spend hours trying to look beautiful to be the winner. Pageant kids are not going to win every pageant and the feeling they have when they lose the competition can be devastating. Losing a beauty pageant after all the effort they put in can be traumatizing as they may start to have low self-esteem and feel unattractive. Next it’s putting young girls on extreme diets. 

Most children that participate in pageants are on some type of restrictive food plan. Some parents put their children on ridiculous meal plans that restrict them from so many different types of foods. Pageant moms put their children on such fad diets to help them lose weight quickly before a pageant. This is extremely harmful to a young child’s health. Sadly, most of time these young girls grow up to have eating disorders that can sometimes affect them for the rest of their lives. A lot of these things are extremely dangerous to a child’s wellbeing such as sleep deprivation, pageant juice otherwise known as ‘Go-Go juice’ which is a mixture of Red Bull and Mountain Dew which is the equivalent of having two cups of coffee each day, the young girls participating most of the time aren’t doing it by choice, the disoriented parental love shown by parents as they are psychologically abusing them and covering it up by buying material items for the kids, the inability to have a normal childhood instead of the constant judgement and mental damage by strangers and their own parents, and last but not least the consistent exploitation of children which has been happening since child pageants were even created. 

Although the media may exaggerate the reality of child beauty pageants, there is a lot of truth to the unbelievable actions of the parents and children that are being shown. Pageants are shown to cause bodily dissatisfaction, pose health risks, and create high exposure to sexual predators. It’s been proven by multiple health professionals that children who go into these beauty pageants at to young of an age, they can suffer poor self-image, low self-esteem and even eating disorders, not to mention the mental or in some extreme cases physical abuse. There are many questions circulating, if all of these horrible things are happening, how come no one is doing anything about it and why does society keep pushing the beauty pageant ideal? 

It’s hard to solve this kind of problem especially because the parents brainwash their kids into thinking that if they are the most beautiful pageant queen, then they will be loved by everyone, get gifts or praise. Of course since young girls don’t know any better, they are going to listen to every word that their parents tell them no matter the abuse that comes with it. There are natural beauty pageants where the kids aren’t put into heavy makeup, wigs and scantily clad outfits. The main focus is more on natural and internal beauty than external. Many natural pageants even have a system where everyone is the winner which actually boosts self-esteem and positive body image, where each girl leaves with an award. But the problem is that natural beauty pageants are one thing but they aren’t as popular as the glitz and glamour pageants that most people are familiar with. 

There options of even banning beauty pageants overall, as there have been many petitions made to ban certain pageants in different states and even countries like France and Argentina banned beauty pageants altogether. Usually this kind of thing can prove to be difficult though. What is possible to do is just educating ourselves, others and even young children of the realities of what happens in beauty pageants, the dangers it can lead to and the life-long suffering from the after effects of it all. Other than educating, we as a society can take it a step further and use it as a means to for activism. Those with larger platforms especially on social media, can use their platform to bring the issue to light and educate others on the realities of beauty pageants. Overall, it’s fair to say that a lot of us don’t have a huge platform and are just regular, average people but even if it’s just educating your parents, or even your neighbor on this topic, just the hope of even telling someone of these tragedies, we can hope for a better society.     

01 August 2022
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