Self-Confidence: Are Beauty Pageants A Good Idea?

by Kerri on September 22, 2011

Self-Confidence: Are Beauty Pageants A Good Idea?

by Kerri Randall

I've never watched "Toddlers and Tiaras," but I can't say I haven't seen and heard about the controversy…which was to be expected the moment the show first aired. Beauty pageants have always been under scrutiny, especially when it comes to such little girls.

I was in beauty pageants myself between the ages of 9 and 15. I loved it–I always had fun getting dressed up in a big, pretty gown and feeling like a princess. Unfortunately, I never won, but I was named Miss Congeniality one year!   I really just wanted the sparkly crown, and I had the most fun competing in the talent and speech competitions (go figure!).

Now in the pageants I was in, the younger girls could actually be docked points if we were found to be wearing any makeup other than concealer. I was never in what they call "glam" pageants. I liked that–it didn't matter to me because I personally didn't start wearing makeup regularly until I was about 15 anyway. Of course, it would seem like some girls would slide by wearing makeup and not get in trouble, and yes, I even spotted it on the little toddlers, but nothing ever seemed to happen. I wondered why, but I was never one to speak up or go and complain, so I'd brush it off.

I just loved being on stage and being the center of attention for however briefly. But as much fun as I had with the whole process, I think the end came for me when one of my judging critiques was "Put on some makeup." Talk about being confused! I also started to realize that many of these girls were much more "hardcore" than I was. I felt like I was still being purely myself on stage, and many of these girls had coaches, so I'm sure they had a certain "mode" they slipped into while I was still wondering what on earth a pageant coach did for you anyway…

On the whole, though, I had a lot of wonderful experiences in pageants. They were my first real experiences with singing live on stage with a microphone. They were my first real moments of public speaking, which I can proudly say I've never been afraid of. They were my first times learning choreographed dance routines.

They were a way for me to express the personality that many know me for today. I was a quiet child for a long time, and the stage was an opportunity for me to open up. Many people tried to label me as "shy," but I still rebuke that. I had been made fun of and excluded so often that I simply decided it was best for me not to say anything unless it was well-thought-out and potentially mock-proof.

You'd think that it would have been the reverse, that the stage would have been an even scarier place filled with even more people who could potentially laugh at me. But when I got up on stage, whether I could see people's faces or not, I took comfort in knowing that most of these people knew nothing about me. I had a clean slate to make a good first impression on, to start off the meeting by making people smile.

I'm happy that my parents let me participate in these pageants. I think they did a lot for me and my self-confidence (the pageants and my parents both!). I think it's a valuable experience that any girl could benefit from. I will note, though, that at 9 years old, I was old enough to have at least an idea of what I was getting into. I have no problem with younger girls being in pageants, too, but I do agree that the "glam" pageant version is going too far, and there are a lot of "stage moms" out there who are entering their little girls for the wrong reasons.

Playing dress up is all well and good, but the "Pretty Woman" dresses and the heavy makeup and the fake teeth are just too much. I'm no psychologist, but it's common knowledge that these girls are in their formative years, just beginning to learn about the world. What they experience at that age is what they perceive everyone's reality to be like. For example, as a little girl, I just assumed everyone's parents came to everything they participated in, every sports game, every pageant, every talent show, every school function, etc. It literally blew my mind when I got a little older and learned that wasn't the case. Tie that thinking in with pageants, and these little girls are at high risk of believing that they need all this fake stuff in order to be accepted, in order to "win."

"Natural" pageants should be the only way to go for really little girls, and personally, I'd say even up into the preteen years at best. The big, sparkly costumes and dresses can still be worn, but there's an emphasis on showing off the real "you." I could delve into the topic of the swimsuit competition for older girls and women, which I don't see as horrible but at the same time never saw the real point of, but we'll leave it at the younger girls.

Take away the false focus on "beauty" and let the girls romp around on stage, play dress up, and have fun showing off and being the center of attention. And the moment it stops being fun, let the child decide if she wants to continue playing.

What do you think? Should young girls be allowed to compete in beauty pageants? Should there be an age cut-off? Share in the comments below or on my Facebook wall!

  Kerri Randall is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, a fitness and happiness coach, and an Emerald-level Beachbody Coach. She teaches Turbo Kick, Hip Hop Hustle, and PiYo, and is dedicated to motivating others to reach their health, fitness, and personal life goals. Her passion is making fitness fun and easy to love–no secrets and no crazy gimmicks!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robert Seth September 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm

This is pretty amazing Kerri.  I don't have daughters and I don't pay attention to beauty pageants but you have made this a very interesting subject.  I'm impressed with everything you've presented here and it makes for a lot of food for thought.  It clearly is a very important topic so thanks for sharing!


Kerri September 29, 2011 at 1:23 am

Thanks, Robert! Definitely a lot of issues surrounding this subject, both positive and negative. =)


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