For over 75years beauty contests and pageants have been a popular activity in the United
States. These contests are so popular that they have been made into major productions and are
televised on an annual basis. Millions of viewers watch as women representing their respective
state compete for a title and monetary reward. Emulating these national contests an industry was
born in which children as young as 6 months old participate. Annually 3 million children
compete in these pageants with the majority of these children girls (Shultz and Murphy).
This participation by children have had unintended consequences. Overzealous parents, intense
competition and time intensive pageants, have resulted in children suffering emotional,
psychological and in some cases physical harm. Regulatory oversight and guidelines need to be
established to protect children that are not in a position to advocate for themselves.
Beauty pageants are by nature contests. Contests create a level of stress for those who
participate in them. When children are the competitors, those children are exposed to the stress
of not only the competition but often the unrealistic expectations of their parents. Those in
favor of childrens beauty pageants suggest that exposing children to competition is beneficial.
Advocates for this activity believe these contests provides an opportunity to develop
coping skills. This being said, William Cromie asks in his Harvard Gazette article “The Whys
and Woes of Beauty Pageants” “Does exposing a two year old little girl to the rigors and stress of
intense competition cross the line”(Cromie)? Over exposure can create a level of stress that can
result in emotional harm.
Hiillary Levey, an undergraduate student at Harvard University attended several of these
pageants involving children. Levey observed a girl in a pink sequined dress began to cry ( qtd. in
Cromie). The tears carried streaks of mascara down her face (qtd. in Cromie). Her mother
grabbed her and tried to get the girl to stop crying( qtd. in Cromie). When she didn’t stop, her
mother dragged her off the stage by the hand ( qtd. in Cromie). A child breaking down in tears
on stage without any apparent antecedent is a manifestation of stress. Levey then poses the
question, “You have to wonder if that kind of thing is right,"( qtd. In Cromie)? Parents often
have unrealistic expectations of their childrens tolerance and stamina. To expect young children
to hold up to the rigors of a pageant as compared to an adult is unreasonable.
Many critics of the pageant industry have concerns about the emotional stress that is passed
from parents to children (Shultz and Murphy). The pageant mom phenomenon are mothers who
aggressively market their daughters ( Schultz and Murphy ). In the process of this aggressive
marketing some mothers lose perspective in...