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Child Beauty Pageants

Child beauty pageants are beauty contests that focus on under 18-year-olds dancing and modelling a wide range of clothing including evening attire, sportswear and casual wear. Pageants have different guidelines, rating systems and themes; however individuals are most commonly judged on looks, capability and confidence. Contestants often present routines during the competition consisting of different movements and facial expressions. Extravagant hairstyles, make-up, custom outfits, spray-tans and nail extensions are commonly seen during competitions. There are no federal laws overseeing child beauty pageants so they are considered relatively ungoverned.

Although both boys and girls are allowed to participate in pageants, the majority of contestants are girls, which has been the cause of much criticism since the inception of child beauty pageants in 1921. Many claim that child beauty pageants have a very detrimental effect on children’s psychology insisting that they cause children to focus too much on their sexuality which in turn can lead to issues with self-esteem and body image thereby triggering eating disorders, dieting and struggles with perfectionism. These types of competitions that sexualize girls at a young age will cause them to judge themselves based on their appearance (American Psychological Association). Critics argue that revealing dresses, provocative dance moves, high-heels, heavy make-up and other standards that are expected to be met by the judges contribute to the hyper-sexualisation of young girls. In 2013 France banned child beauty pageants for this reason and many other countries, including Russia, are also trying to ban child pageants or enforce rules that will strictly regulate them.

On the other hand a significant amount of parents defend their decision of allowing their children to take part in pageants by arguing that they build self-confidence, develop social skills and teach children important life lessons in leadership and determination. Parents claim that their children are given a chance to socialize, make new friends, learn to set goals and overcome their fears. But these pageants are also financially problematic considering that parents pay hundreds of dollars just for the clothing, not to mention the fact that just as much is spent on the fees for participating in pageant contests.

Child beauty pageants are now a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S and it’s one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Approximately one hundred thousand beauty pageants are held each year in the U.S with over two and a half million contestants participating.