The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Pageants
Elissa Doherty from The Herald Sun had asked my thoughts on the new Kid Pageants coming to Australia. She was asking my opinion since the new company is based in my home of Texas, and as someone who grew up on TV and is now an Ambassador for Bravehearts. Here’s my thoughts on it. Be sure you check our her articles on the matter too.
When I was a kid back in Australia, and I was doing modeling, Mum had friends that had their kids in pageants.
Back then, pageants weren’t just about glitz and glamour. The pageants were a way for kids to learn grace and poise, like taking a deportment class. They were also about raising money for charities and teaching kids about philanthropy and giving back to their community. Beauty pageants were about being beautiful on the inside as well as the outside. Back then, it wasn’t always the prettiest kid who won. It was usually the one who had raised the most money for charity. Sure, this may have pissed of the parent who thought their kid should have won because she was the prettiest, but it was about the whole package.
As I got older, I forget about pageants. I see Queens and Princess all the time over here. San Antonio has a huge Fiesta celebration every year. It’s when all the rich people in town have a big party, someone get’s crowned King Antonio and there’s also a King Antonio. One year, one of the my friends who was the official photographer for the King asked me to be his second camera. I spent all week in this ridiculous cavalcade. Everyone was dressed up, and we had a police escort everywhere we went. We went to one party and function after the other, where money was presented to different charities. They said it costs about $1 million dollars to be king for the year. You also have to be a member of the Cavaliers, which is a club here in San Antonio. Rey Feo is pretty much the same deal. Last year, our next door neighbour had their daughter come home from Cornell so she could be a Princess for Fiesta. That honor cost them almost $100k in dresses and events. But, she did get to spend a week hobnobbing with all the right people…. To those outside the “inner circle” it’s just a big party, like Carnival or Mardi Gras.
Apart from Fiesta, each little town around here has a Queen and Princess. In Stockdale, where we have our ranch, we get to see the Royal court when we go to the rodeo. They aren’t wearing flash dresses, they’re normally in wranglers and cowboy boots.I’m not sure on their process to get there, but being the local Queen means you can then compete in each bigger competition, until you become Miss Texas and then Miss USA. Of course, there’s so many different competitions these days, I can’t keep up. There’s Miss Texas, Miss Texas International (WTF?) Miss Rodeo Texas, Rodeo Queen and about a dozen others.
Somewhere along the way, people worked out there was big money in pageants. Especially now that you’ve got things like Toddlers and Tiaras making a show about it.
The people behind the Toddlers and Tiaras pageant have gone a different route. They don’t raise money for charity. They don’t pick one winner who takes all. Instead, they pander to parents who think their kid should never understand losing. Every kid gets a prize. I know that seems like a nice thing, but honestly, what are you teaching your kid? That as long as you turn up, that’s enough. You’ll get a prize anyway…
Kids no longer wear a party dress. They have these ridiculously elaborate gowns that costs thousands of dollars. They wear a tonne of make-up. They are even wearing false teeth and fake tans. Essentially, they have gotten rid of everything that had to do with kids pageants, and turned it into an adult pageants for toddlers.
I’m sure that the TV show Toddlers and Tiaras has filmed and edited it to make it as dramatic as possible. They show the most outlandish parents and the biggest tantrums. They show all that is wrong with pageants, because controversy creates ratings.
However, when you take away all that’s good about pageants, like teaching kids confidence, public speaking, grooming, philanthropy and most importantly, inner beauty and replace that with creepy looking kids who are being over-sexualized and taught to win at any cost, it just becomes sad.
I know kids are pushed into many things they don’t like to do. I had friends as kids who were ball room dancers and figure skaters. Both had to practice long hard hours and wore skimpy outfits when they competed. They didn’t always want to be there. If they’d had a reality show following them around, I’m sure they couldn’t caught parents having a fit and kids throwing a tantrum too. Shit, if we’d had cameras following me around as a kid, I’m sure they would have seen me have plenty of tantrums.
I’m not defending the pageants. I don’t like where they’ve gone. I don’t like the idea of small kids thinking that the only thing that
matters in life is being fake beautiful. I say fake, because everything about them is fake. Teeth, nails, hair, tan and even personalities. Then, even after all that primping, they’re airbrushing the photos. Seriously, does a 3 year old need to be airbrushed? A kid should look like a kid, not some doll or mini adult.
They’re not competing for a good cause. It’s just for the company to raise money for itself. What is that teaching kids? Pay $300 and we’ll give you a trophy telling you your pretty? How about we just tell kids they’re beautiful. I wish I had been told I was beautiful when I was a kid.
Kids should be allowed to be kids. They should be allowed to feel beautiful as they are. They’ve got their whole life to grow up
and wear make-up. Childhood is sacred. Lets celebrate our kids, but as kids. Childhood goes by so fast, and you can never get it back again. Lets not force our kids to grow up before they’re ready.
As someone who has been working since the age of 3, as someone who was forced to grow up before my friends, and as someone who ended up as a Bravehearts Ambassador, I ask parents to really think before they put their kids into a pageant.
Ask your kids if it’s what they want to do. It has to be what they want. Just because you think they’re pretty, or because you want
to live vicariously through them, is NOT a reason to put them in a pageant. Ask them why they want to be in a pageant. If they have dreams of one day being Miss Australia, fine. If they tell you it’s because they want to feel pretty, then you need to tell them they are pretty.You need to make sure your kids know you love them and think they’re beautiful. You also need to tell them beauty is on the inside. It’s not just make-up and clothes.
Also, find a pageant that’s doing more than just making money for themselves. Do it to raise money for charity. Teach your kids there’s nothing more beautiful than helping others.
Do not enter your kids into a pageant that makes them look like mini Playboy Bunnies. It’s just creepy looking at little girls with big blonde hair, fake teeth and posing like they’re in a centerfold. It’s just glorified kiddie-porn. Don’t do that to your kids. We don’t need to sexualize our kids. We don’t need to desensitize society to that either. We don’t need to tempt pedophiles by offering them little girls dressed up as big girls.
Whether you decide if pageants are right for you and your kids or not, make sure you know your kids are beautiful.What you tell them as children will stay with them forever, or at least take a lot of counseling to get over.
Back in the Hey Dad days, I asked my Mum once if I was beautiful. I needed her to tell me I was. She told me no. She said I was pretty, but only grown ups could be beautiful. As those of us who are grown up know, we never feel like we’ve become an adult, so I never felt like I grew into being beautiful. No matter if anyone else told me I was beautiful, I never believed them because the most important person, my mother, told me I wasn’t.
Your kids don’t need a pageant, they just need you to tell them they’re beautiful.
Here’s a link to a new article.