Eden Wood, made famous on the TLC Series "Toddlers and Tiaras" returns to the show to serve as a judge in a November 2016 episode. Photo: TLC
It is one of the most passionately debated topics regarding pageants. Glitz pageants started in the 60s and have involved into a booming industry. Part of this boom can be attributed to the series, "Toddlers and Tiaras." The show infamously followed the lives of pageant families as the child prepares for and competes in a pageant, usually one classified as "glitz." The series contained no shortage of temper tantrums, screaming mothers and expletives. The behavior has drawn harsh criticisms of glitz pageants and calls into question the negative long-term effects on the young contestants.
Honey Boo Boo did not help much, either... With that said, the question of the decency of this sport comes into play. Do these elaborate shows demoralize young girls and teach them false realities?
I will never forget my first encounter with the glitz world. I was going to watch my former sister queen compete when I stumbled upon a room of extremely glamorous, yet vertically challenged women. I thought it was odd but dismissed it. Then it was show time. The same divas I saw in the dressing room appeared on stage. Suddenly, over the loudspeaker, I heard, “Angelina is five years old and has brown hair and blue eyes. Her favorite things to do are playing with Barbie’s and teaching her little brother to read.” What..... I could not believe it. This woman could not possibly be five years old.
Contestant Madison, featured on the TLC series "Toddlers and Tiaras", before and after getting ready to compete. Photo: DCL
This is the world of glitz pageants. Contestants, starting as young as a few months, go all out with levels of fake eyelashes, spray tans and flippers seen at an international Miss pageant. Parents can spend upwards of $2,000 on a fully rhinestone-encrusted cupcake dress. The contestants hit the stage with elaborate routines all in hopes of winning a title. People Magazine famously tackled the topic with its cover story in 2011. To this day, the article still gets buzz. The piece questioned the morality of the sport, the participants and their intense mothers.
The cover of People Magazine's November 2016 issue criticizing the TLC Series "Toddlers and Tiaras." Photo: People Magazine
People from all over the country weighed in. Those who had been exposed to the beauty pageant world vouched for its ability to increase confidence and stage presence. Others thought it was distasteful to allow young girls to parade around in revealing outfits. “Little girls are supposed to play with dolls, not be dolls,” said New York-based licensed clinical social worker Mark Sichel in the article. “These are just costumes. The kids are fully clothed. What girl doesn’t want to play with Mom and do dress-up?” said Annette Hill in the article. Hill is the director of Universal Royalty, a Texas-based “glitz pageant” that has been featured on "Toddlers and Tiaras."
But there's more...
What has always bothered me about this article is it fails to explain that glitz pageants are just one section of child beauty pageants. But what people need to realize in this debate is that glitz pageants are only one section of beauty pageants. There are many systems, like National American Miss, that forbid makeup on younger contestants. Instead, NAM prides itself on the importance of community service as well as "celebrating America’s greatness and encouraging its future leaders."
The system also awards one million dollars in cash, scholarships and prizes each year. Many respected national titleholders have emerged from the National American Miss Program, including Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev and her first runner-up Miss Virginia 2014, Courtney Garrett. Miss America is the largest provider of women's scholarships in the world.
Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev got her start in pageants with National American Miss Pageants. She won National American Miss California Pre-Teen in 2004. She went on to also win National American Miss California Junior Teen. Here, she is pictured after winning the title of National American Miss New York in 2012. Photo: National American Miss
The answer is yes and no. It all comes down to the experience the child has. For example, a helicopter parent trying to live vicariously through their child is not healthy. Children are not meant to be put on diets to fit into a dress or have to practice routines every day until they are perfect. Kids are meant to be kids. (Read: How to Decide if Your Child Should Compete in a Pageant)
However, those who use glitz pageants for what they are, fun, and as an opportunity to bond and create new memories have nothing to worry about. As long as the child is happy and enjoying themselves, there is nothing wrong with playing dress-up and performing for an audience. (Read: How Young is Too Young for Beauty Pageants?)
This can be a hot-button issue for some people. Many are adamantly against everything glitz pageants are about while others embrace it. Where do you stand on the issue? Comment below!
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