Little Miss America

March 13, 2010
By , Greenville, PA
Everyone has heard about the child beauty pageants where young girls dress up like princesses in designer gowns and parade down a catwalk competing in dress, dance, and talent to be the best. Perhaps some of us have even partaken in these events. To many, it seems harmless and maybe even fun for young girls to dress up and learn new talents so they can be crowned “Miss United States” or “Miss America,” but what does participating in beauty pageants really do to young girls? Does it give them the confidence and self-esteem boost so many people believe it does? For 18-year-olds Asia & Brooke it did. Jane Treays interviewed these two Southern Charm beauty pageant goddesses thirteen years after filming them in the pageant itself to find out what they thought about the pageants. To Jane’s surprise, both girls had grown up to be well-rounded and mature young women (Traeys 2, 3). The things that had caused strife in their lives were regular, everyday things that we all struggle with such as a parental divorce. Unfortunately, this is only half the story. Despite the possible positive outcomes of these events, research shows that child beauty pageants still often have the potential to destroy a girl’s self-image and cause upheaval in a young girl’s life which leads one to wonder if these beauty pageants ought to be reconsidered.
Young girls in beauty pageants often receive ungodly amounts of pressure from their moms to look and be the absolute best when they are only five or six years old. Between the ages of five and twelve, which are the primary ages for competing girls, so much criticism from a mother can be harmful. Many of the girls participating in beauty pageants are still very attached and connected with their parents, which makes consistent criticism a harmful thing to the mother-daughter relationship.
“We are denying some of these children their childhood, which is something you can never get back,” says Macia Summers, an educational psychology professor at Ball University. “At age 20 you can’t get together with a bunch of friends and play in the dirt or play cars. You’d look and feel pretty silly (Ransford 1).” This is where the problems with child beauty pageants can be found. With so much work and effort required to be considered even remotely good in these pageants, a young girl must work extremely hard almost every day leaving her with little to no time to be a kid. If child beauty pageants boost confidence and self-esteem, then they also destroy childhoods.
Beauty pageants became a part of American society during the 1920’s and child beauty pageants began taking place 40 years later in the 1960’s. Most child beauty pageants consist of modeling sportswear, evening attire, dance, and talent. Children partaking in these events are judged based on individuality in looks, capability, poise, perfection, and confidence, or as the judges call it, “the complete package (Nussbaum 1).” Originally developed by an Atlantic City hotel owner in 1921, beauty pageants were used as a marketing device and quickly became a popular part of American society. As time went on, beauty pageants started offering scholarships, helping beneficial programs, and even making a racial break-through in 1983 when Vanessa Williams became the first African-American to be titled “Miss America.” Unfortunately, with no law to govern how these pageants operated, child beauty pageants quickly began to get a little out of hand with the mothers of participating girls becoming increasingly controlling and critical of their child’s mistakes. For this reason, child beauty pageants have recently been linked to child abuse.
According to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Reform Act, child abuse can be defined as “the physical or mental injury, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child under circumstances which indicate the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened (Nussbaum 3).” In the case of child beauty pageants, a good majority of these things are present. In her article “Children and Beauty Pageants,” Kareen Nussbaum argues that traveling, stress, and competition are everyday aspects of an adult’s life, but for an eight year old girl, worries about body ideals or sexuality, modeling, competition, and trophies should not be present in the mind. Unfortunately, in child beauty pageants, organizers are only concerned with making money and therefore, the well-being of their participants is left unattended. The absence of attention to the well-being of participants leads to an excessive emphasis on hair, body, and makeup which girls between the ages of five and twelve do not need.
Throughout the years, child beauty pageants have become one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Kareen Nussbaum, among many others, believes that the U.S. government should regulate the enterprise to provide safety for the many thousands of children who participate in the events each year. Overall, child beauty pageants could offer young girls a valuable experience, but there is a lot of work to be done before the pageants become a safe environment for young girls to be in without being exposed to competition, sexuality, and disappointment early in life.

Works Cited
Nussbaum, Kareen. Children and Beauty Pageants. A Minor Consideration, 17 Mar. 2006. Web. 30 Jan. 2010
Ransford, Marc. Ball State University News Center. Ball State University, 17 Feb. 1997. Web. 30 Jan. 2010.
Traeys, Jane. New York Times. New York Times, 25 May 2008. Web. 30 Jan. 2010

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This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

JustBeingME said...
Jan. 6, 2011 at 6:01 pm
Thanks for the great article. I agree with everything you said. Child pageants can be really damaging and can take way a childhood.
magic-esi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm
This is very true. Child beauty pageants are an outrage and a form of child abuse. You write about this very well and while I already knew much of this, it would be extremely informative and useful to someone who hasn't. Great article!
megz0913 replied...
Apr. 8, 2010 at 12:14 am
Thanks for your feedback!! This was an article I wrote for English class. At first I didn't know much about the topic, but as I started researching it, I found that I was strongly against the idea. In my opinion, kids (girls & boys) deserve to have a childhood and these pageants take that away.
MarinaOreo said...
Mar. 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm
I think this was a very well written article and I have actually seen an episode of Little Miss Perfect, and I find it disturbing to say the least. It's very scary how strict and mean the mothers are to their own daughters. In my opinion, little girls should not be wearing that much make-up and it doesn't look good. I've never seen five year-olds look so fake. Yuck.
megz0913 replied...
Apr. 8, 2010 at 12:17 am
I agree; five year olds should not be wearing make-up or be concerned with looks & fashion. They're five years old for pete's sake!! The scariest thing to me is that a lot of the time, these beauty pageants can result in eating disorders which further hurt not only the child, but their family as well.
kfrog575 replied...
Aug. 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm
This was really good! I agree.. a few days back I saw something really disturbing: a three year old little girl sitting in a MAC store, getting her makeup done by a professional. :O whyyyy
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