The tension is building. It is almost time for her to go on stage. Everything, from head to toe, is double checked to make sure it is perfect. Her make-up is flawless. The foundation covers any unevenness in skin tone, while the blush gives her cheeks a nice rosy glow. Eye shadow, mascara, and false eyelashes have been applied. Lipstick and lip gloss contribute to the pout of her lips. Her hair has been curled, teased, placed in an upswept hairdo, and heavily sprayed with hair spray to keep the hair in place during her performance. The costume is custom made with lots of sequins and beads to catch the light and sparkle when she performs her dance routine. Her name is announced, and the four year old child struts out onto the stage, smiling and swinging her feather boa to the tune of some sexually suggestive song. All little girls dream about winning a beauty pageant and wearing a tiara, but have child pageants exploited that dream?
Beauty pageants began in the 1920’s, however, child beauty pageants did not emerge until the late 1960’s (Bowling, 2006). The child pageants have increased in popularity through the years and today there are more than 16,000 pageants with over 250,000 contestants a year (Bowling, 2006). Beauty pageants are a $5 billion-a-year industry (Bowling, 2006). While participation in the child pageant industry has grown, the controversy surrounding the effect these pageants can have on the contestants has also grown.
Effects of Child Beauty Pageants
Children are entered in these pageants for a variety of reasons. The potential prizes awarded to the winners tempt many parents to enter their child. Awards run the gamut from trophies...
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...red to as natural child beauty pageants. Heavy make-up, fancy hairstyles, and elaborate costumes are not allowed in this type of competition (Bowling, 2006). Points are even deducted if make-up is detected (Bowling, 2006). The natural style pageant “allows the child to have fun without the pressure of pretending to be an adult” (A. Willett, personal communication, July 8, 2010). Prizes and awards may include scholarships, television appearances, and cash, just to name a few.
While there are no black and white answers to the effects of child beauty pageants on the child, the decision to enter a child in a pageant should be carefully weighed. Each pageant, pageant style, parent, and child is different. However, parents would do well to examine some of the research relating to child pageants and the use of provocative costumes and performances.
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