While browsing through the channels I happened to land onto a special dedicated to the in's and out's of child beauty pageants. Not until the untimely death of child pageant star, JonBenet Ramsey in 1996, was pre-teen child beauty pageants catapulted to the forefront of the media.
Youthful cheeks are covered in the latest colors of blush, lipstick and eye liner. Some are adorned in fake hair, fake eye lashes and some even sport fake teeth. All are covered in rhinestones and luscious fabrics. Pageants are not governed as the Attorney General of California depicts that each contestant sponsor prescribes how a pageant is managed. Usually the criteria which the girls are judged can fall under the categories of: writing abilities, interviews, personality, looks, confidence and talent. Individual beauty pageants set their own guidelines for their participants, since they are exempt from the federal child labor laws. Child pageant contestants are not considered to be "working" children although they receive money and prizes for their performances and practice for hours per week to achieve those goals.
These 'goals' all come with a price, some interviewed mothers admit that thousands of dollars have been used to fufill this indulgence. Some parents hire voice coaches, modeling coaches and for an upper hand on the competition, pageant coaches. According to several stage mothers participating in Universal Royalty, dresses for sports and formal wear can cost up to $12,000 with a minimum of $1500. But pageants do not only cost monetary funds, but also time. Preparing for the pageant requires dedication and patience, hair lasting around an hour and 45 minutes, make-up around an hour. Different performances for every pageant require some participants to practice for about 7 hours a week. But apparently the labor board does NOT classify these children as "working".
With every program as child pageants of interest, as if on cue the directors begin depicting the lives of the child as normal as possible, slowly filling in the gaps with the never ending meetings w. professionals, simply hired to further the child along in the 'pageant world'. If the goals are not easily accomplished and the child feels pressured the parent instinctively asks the child if they really want to continue in the pageant, as if almost a threat. Money is openly discussed infront of the child only further instilling guilt if perfection is not met under the scrutiny of judges and an audience of pageant parents.
The question I am left with every time I watch child pageant programs is do pageants actually instill confidence and poise into the girls or simply rob them of a normal childhood? Should 9 year olds know how to apply fake eye lashes and feel as though there are consequences to losing a baby tooth before pageant season, or acquiring 'baby fat'? Do pageants simply entice pedophiles with the advertising of a painted youthful face sometimes adorned in provocative costumes for girls of that age? Are we simply setting up these girls for shallow personalities, insecurities and failure under pressure?