Child Beauty Pageants

Hilary Levey Friedman

in Childhood Studies

ISBN: 9780199791231
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Child Beauty Pageants

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Child beauty pageants are one of the most controversial and vilified of all children’s activities. While adult and teen beauty pageants are often looked at disdainfully, child beauty pageants produce an even stronger negative response. Many critics liken them to child abuse. Opponents of child beauty pageants say they prematurely sexualize young girls and place too much focus on beauty and appearance at an early age. Proponents say they build confidence and are a family-friendly activity. What is a child beauty pageant? A child beauty pageant is an event created to reward children for their appearance and personality. Every competition has the beauty competition: from that, child pageants can take a variety of shapes. Most have a photogenic component, some have an interview, and others have a talent competition. One of the most unique parts of a child beauty pageant is the modeling. Instead of a typical runway walk, child pageant modeling is a set routine, choreographed with facial expressions and spins. At many pageants a “grand supreme” title is decided based on the highest score for the entire event or for an age group, such as zero to six. An age division winner typically receives a trophy, crown, and age-appropriate prize. Overall winners, or “supremes,” usually receive cash or a savings bond. For the purposes of this article the term “child beauty pageants” only refer to those events that resemble this description. While some teens and (rarely) adults take part in these pageants, most of the participants are under age eight. Traditional teen pageants, such as America’s Junior Miss, are not included in this discussion. While child beauty pageants have existed in the United States for decades, they were thrust into the media spotlight after the 1996 death of JonBenét Ramsey. Since then, pop-culture attention has intensified as documentaries and television series have focused on the American subculture of child beauty pageants. Conducive to visual media, several child beauty queens have become media starlets even amidst the maelstrom of parental criticism. Much of the negative press is based more on common sense and opinion rather than on scholarship. Little academic research has been conducted on the impacts of child beauty pageants on children. Popular writers and television producers have filled the void; they sometimes produce insightful work, but other times the final product is biased or unrepresentative, especially among self-published work.

Article.  5128 words. 

Subjects: Development Studies

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