Child Beauty Pageants
Beauty Pageants: From the Title of Mini Supreme to America’s Next Top Model English 106 Cassie Robinson 3 Otober 2012 Abstract Beauty pageants have changed drastically in the past fifty years. Beauty pageants used to be all adult females who dressed in their Sunday best and walked on the catwalk at the county fair. Now, little children are decked out in glitzy outfits, have wigs that make their hair twice as long, and have teeth to make it seem like their baby teeth haven’t fallen out yet.
In this literature review, I reviewed different articles, some against child beauty pageants and some that showed a firsthand look into the beauty pageants. Based on the reviews, I have made a decision as to whether child beauty pageants are good for those involved or not. Hundreds wait in silence as the announcer walks to the stage. “And the first place award goes to…” The pause is added for dramatic effect, as if these parents and children need any more drama in their lives. Hair is pulled, tears are shed, and crowns are won.
This is just another typical weekend for those in the pageant world. The views of beauty pageants have drastically changed within the past decade. Some think pageants are used to exploit little children and are a way for mothers to live vicariously through their daughters who are winning crowns and money. Others believe they are just a more drastic way for their children to play dress up and win money while doing it. The six articles chosen for this literature review will discuss one side of the argument.
Something eye-catching in the article, “Toddlers in Tiaras,” written by Skip Hollandsworth in 2011 was the line, “And you know what I hate? All these years later, I’ve still got this anxiety about feeling like I have to be perfect” (Hollandsworth, 2011). This is how Brooke Breedwell feels about pageants now, after being a pageant queen from age three months to eight years old. After telling her mother she wanted to quit pageants and emphasizing it by throwing a curling iron at her, Breedwell finally gave up the lavish pageant life due to stress.
Even as an eight year old, the stress was too much to handle. “The promise of a tiara has always been a fast, easy sell to young girls who pine to be princesses,” (Hollandsworth, 2011) which is something all girls and their mothers want. In order to win that crown, there are many time consuming tasks that must be done before the pageant. There are layers of makeup to be put on, eyebrows to be waxed, natural hair and fake wigs to be curled, fingernails to be manicured, bronzer to be applied to arms and legs, dresses to be sewn, and dances and routines to be learned.
It is enough to stress any eight year old out. After all of this work and stress, it would be downright heartbreaking to find that someone else has beaten you for the title of Grand Supreme. This article is different from the others I chose to include in my literature review in the sense that it discusses not only the stresses that pageant girls go through, but also some of the legal situations that have been brought about thanks to the pageant world. JonBenet Ramsey is a name that is famous all around the world.
The six-year-old pageant beauty who would have gone on to be the next Marilyn Monroe who was found murdered in her home on Christmas morning. For a couple months afterwards, pageants seemed taboo, but then, even in the wake of JonBenet’s murder, pageants became even more famous. Little girls are being trained to dance provocatively and blow kisses at their judges from a young age and these videos end up online and even on TV. These videos are made to be public so others can see the awards and crowns the little girls win and anyone, including pedophiles, can access them. On TV, the shows not only give the names of these children, but they also tell you what towns these little girls live in,” (Hollandsworth, 2011) which would give these pedophiles easy access to track down the little girls. This would not be hard to do with the way our society is turning to technology. One article, “Is the Media to Blame for Child Sex Victims,” written by Mark Davidson in 1997, discusses the media’s association with beauty pageants even further. Americans support multi-million dollar activities that exploit children and promote the provocativeness of them, such as beauty pageants.
Beauty pageants, “commercially flaunt kids’ bodies, often converting preteen and preschool girls into sex puppets adorned with lipstick, mascara, false eyelashes, bleached hair, high heels, and satin-and-rhinestone gowns and professionally coached in showgirl postures and movements,” (Davidson, 1997) which leads to controversial topics like the 1996 sexual molestation and murder of JonBenet Ramsey. There are many movies, such as “Lolita” and “Pretty Baby,” that portray young girls as being involved in sexual situations with older men.
This leads to young girls growing up to believe this is acceptable. What makes this article different is that it does not revolve around beauty pageants, but around the media and its involvement in child pornography and exploitation of girls at a young age. Hollywood and the likes, “engage in massive pimping for child temptresses,” (Davidson, 1997) which intrigues young minds and makes them believe that since it is accepted in media, it is accepted in everyday society.
Only after JonBenet had been murdered did the media look for moral guidance to see if what it was displaying was appropriate. A little girl who had not even started kindergarten had to be murdered before the media questioned their morals. The press argues that, “the tiny contestants really want to participate, as if they are capable of giving informed consent to their own victimization,” (Davidson, 1997), when in all actuality, the children have no concept of what is really happening. My next article, “Toddlers and Tiaras TOO MUCH TOO SOON? written by Charlotte Triggs in 2011, is a continuation of the stresses of being in the pageant world. It is not only stressful on the children, who are the main event of the pageants, but also on the parents. These parents put their children through the pageants and shell out the money for entrance fees, homemade dresses and flippers, which are fake teeth for the girls who are losing their baby teeth. “You’re never going to win that money back, even if they win every weekend,” (Triggs, West, Aradillas, 2011) said one mother about the pageant life.
So, if there are no perks of being in pageants other than seeing their daughters win crowns, why do the mothers go through the stress and lose money to pageants? The same mother then went on to say, “But you’ve got to do it because your kid loves and excels at it and it’s something you enjoy as a family,” (Triggs, West, Aradillas, 2011). So if families are happy watching their children in pageants, then they are more than willing to put up with the stress. In addition to the stresses of ageantry and reasons for participating, things such as the confusing life moments and the decisions pageant girls go through are discussed in the article. While most girls their age are out playing with Barbies with their friends, these girls are dressed as Barbie and have a twisted view of how they should look. “Little girls should play with dolls, not be dolls,” (Triggs, West, Aradillas, 2011) said a New York-based clinical social worker. The girls are being dressed in outfits that are more suited for a stripper than a preschooler, and it can have a negative effect on them in the long run.
The girls grow up being obsessed with their appearance and may look into different ways to keep up the appearances they once had, such as plastic surgery or eating disorders. These factors will affect the young girls before they are even in high school. The next article, “Pretty Babies,” written by Rosemary Ellis in 2011, discusses the way the author viewed beauty pageants when she was younger compared to how she views them now, as an adult. When Ellis was younger, beauty pageants were only seen at the county fair, which came only once a year, in the month of August.
The fair itself was a magical time for Ellis, not to mention getting to see girls ranging from elementary to college age walk across a stage in their Sunday best and giving the judges their best smile. Today, the adult pageants are overlooked and, “the Miss America pageant has become so irrelevant that it lets ABC air the show for free,” (Ellis, 2011) because of the recent explosion of pageants for little girls. There are more than five thousand of these pageants across the country. This article differentiates from the rest in the sense that the author compared the pageants known in her childhood to the pageants that are shown now.
In the pageants now, the girls are spray-tanned and covered in makeup, and the studio pictures they take before pageants are edited so much that one would not be able to recognize the little girl if she walked up to them on a sidewalk. Ellis goes on to examine the outfits the little girls are wearing now, seeing clothing that, “gathers to suggest a bust and has slogans across the chest or rear that are more suited to a stripper than a first grader,” (Ellis, 2009). These clothes send out provocative messages not only to girls in the pageant world, but also to all little girls who see the clothing and get used to it at a young age.
Most people only see the mother/ daughter side of pageantry, never the father/ daughter side of it, which my next article, “Father Knows Glitz,” written by Joey Bartolomeo in 2010, discusses. Dads who are involved in pageants are not only single dads or gay dads; they are also just everyday, hard-working dads who love to see their daughters happy when they win an award. Not only are there soccer and football dads, but there are now pageant dads. Not all of them are dragged into it, either.
Some, like Lon Enos, a tattooed, burly man, like being the pageant dad just because “It’s fun and it’s cool,” (Bartolomeo, 2010), an opinion that would differ from the quintessential man in America who watches football or baseball on the weekends instead of competing in pageants with his daughters. Compared to the other articles, this one stands out because it gives a firsthand view from a pageant dad, rather than the typical pageant mom. Compared to pageant moms who tend to try to live vicariously through their daughters, the dads are usually more relaxed and laid back although some can be intense.
Even things such as making a dress, “I’m not spending $6,000 for a dress when it takes me three hours to make one,” (Bartolomeo, 2010) or building a new shelf for crowns and sashes become jobs for a pageant dad to do. The braver of the pageant dads will even get up on stage with their daughters and help them with their routines. “There will be enough time for them to be women. For now, let’s just allow them to be little girls,” is a quote from Staceyann Chin in her article, “Beauty and the Boob Tube,” written in 2009.
Chin came across the show “Toddlers in Tiaras” while procrastinating on a project she was working on. Much to her dismay, she was drawn in to the show, which reminded her, “of dog shows—tiny, powerless competitors trained to do as they are told, with trainers who exploit their charges to gain fame and fortune and live out some archaic dream they once had for themselves,” (Chin, 2009). Seeing the little girls being rewarded for their beauty made Chin feel uncomfortable because of an incident that happened when she was younger.
Her grandmother’s friend would have the young Chin sit on his lap and he told her if she smiled for him, he would give her a coin. Her grandmother would always take away the coins when he left, saying, “Any money you make on your back will hurt your head,” (Chin, 2009). Many of the top ranked girls in pageants receive prizes such as checks and cash prizes, signifying being paid for looking pretty. This was after they got all dressed up, went out on stage, had their eyes, hair, and legs judged by adults, and then moved their hips in a suggestive manner.
The pageant world is training the girls for a future that is not too great. Meaning, the pageant world is training them to look to others for judgment instead of trusting and believing in themselves, or that they need to look really good all the time or people will not like them. “I wanted to rush in—save these girls from an experience that would make them self-conscious about their little bellies, bottoms, and cute button noses,” (Chin, 2009) is the way most people feel while watching the show, and yet, they are hooked and cannot wait for the next episode.
It is the way the media portray the drama of the show that keeps viewers like Chin attached to the show. That is what makes this article different from the rest. It discusses the media involvement in the pageant world. Along with videos of these girls being put on the Internet, shows such as “Toddlers in Tiaras” and “Honey Boo Boo” which exploit the girls at a young age are also televised, causing the girls to live with their young pageantry for the rest of their lives, even though they may not have made the decision to participate themselves.
After walking out on stage and, “dramatically ripping off a black, sheer robe to reveal a sparkly bathing suit,” (Chin, 2009) one little girl’s mother “kept trying to make her say she loved pageants and that she was a pageant girl. The toddler would not repeat either phrase,” (Chin, 2009). Has the world of pageants changed so much that the toddlers who are the bane of all existence for the pageants do not even want to say they love pageants?
Most people believe children who participate in beauty pageants are at a higher risk of having psychological and body image issues when they get older. While most think the pageants are bad for children, there are those who believe the pageants are a job for the children and give them careers for later in life. Based on the articles I have read and reviewed, I conclude that child beauty pageants are not good for those involved. References Bartolomeo, J. (2010). FATHER KNOWS GLITZ. People, 74(16), 64-71. Retrievedfrom EBSCOhost. Chin, S. (2009).
Beauty & the Boob Tube. Advocate, (1026), 76. Retrieved fromEBSCOhost. Davidson, M. (1997, September). Is media to blame for child sex victims?. USA TodayMagazine. p. 60. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. Ellis, R. (2011). Pretty Babies. Good Housekeeping, 252(8), 21. RetrievedfromEBSCOhost. HOLLANDSWORTH, S. (2011). Toddlers in Tiaras. Good Housekeeping, 252(8), 150-194. Retrievedfrom EBSCOhost. Triggs, C. , West, K. , & Aradillas, E. (2011). Toddlers & Tiaras TOO MUCH TOOSOON? (Cover story). People, 76(12), 160-168. Retrievedfrom EBSCOhost.