If you've ever been intrigued by the world of Toddlers & Tiaras, or even just tempted to enter your baby and her winning smile in a Baby Gap modeling contest, should you think twice? Whenever the topic of children's pageants and professional modeling comes up on Circle of Moms, there are passionate defenders and detractors. Here are the highlights from some recent debates, including some front-line wisdom from moms who've been intimately involved in the strike-a-pose-world, as either pageant parents or former participants.
Con: Pageants Create Image and Self-Esteem Issues
"As a little girl, for years, I participated in pageants," shared Shelby H. "My mom and dad drove me up and down the East Coast as far and as often as I wanted to go, I sang, and pranced around, I did swimsuit competitions, and sang in my swimsuit from as far back as I can remember...I know my parents only did what they did to make me happy. On the other hand, I also remember what it felt like to lose. How miserable that feeling was to be 'not pretty' enough...To this day, my mom blames my self-esteem on those pageants." Shelby is one of numerous moms who argue that pageants can negatively affect a child's self-esteem and lead to image issues.
Con: Modeling is Work, Not a Hobby
Many moms express a different concern: that pageants and modeling put inappropriate demands on children. As Lucy F. puts it, "Having to 'perform' to order, wait around on set, work with impatient professionals, cope with rejection at castings, and fit in to the schedule of an industry that is not built around the needs of children is a big ask for a little one."
Pro: Pageants and Modeling Could Help Fund College
"My roommate from school was able to pay for college and most of medical school on scholarships garnered through pageants," shared Emily C. Numerous Circle of Moms members, including LaCi W., a mother of one son, believe that money earned from child modeling could be invaluable later on: "The opportunity to set aside money for college (or anything he wants later) that he earned himself…it's just not a bad thing."
Pro: Many Children Truly Enjoy Pageants and Modeling
Several Circle of Moms members assert that pageants can be positive experiences. "Kids that compete at state and nationals LOVE this hobby and it shows," shares Patrice R., whose 13-year-old daughter participates in "glitz pageants", where the girls wear heavy makeup and grown-up gowns and swimsuits. Megan C. in Wyoming recalls that her childhood friends loved participating in pageants: "I always wanted to be in them when I was little, and several of my friends were. They had a blast!"
To detractors who believe that pageants create image and confidence issues for young girls, Kristyn J. in Kansas City counters that "I was in pageants as a child and it did nothing to dampen my self-esteem."
Where Do You Draw the Line?
As a parent, knowing where to draw the line seems to be the key. Rebecca F. says that allowing young children to model is fine if the child truly enjoys the experience: "I feel that it is important to encourage and support a child's interests...If she understands that this is for fun and as soon as it's not fun, she is allowed to say so, I don't see a problem with it."
And many moms admit that while they'd prefer their child avoid pageants altogether, they might compromise with a kid who really wanted to participate. As Cassie C. shares, her solution would be avoid the glitz pageants and participate only in natural pageants: "There are natural pageants where the child wears normal clothes, no make-up, and normal hair. If our daughter did come to us in a few years wanting to do a pageant, we would only allow a natural pageant."
Interested in discussing children's pageants and other hot topics?
Thousands of moms belong to Circle of Moms' active debating communities. Whether the topic du jour is ear-piercing, sleep-training, or a potential circumcision ban, communities like Debating Mums and Parenting Debates and Hot Topics are excellent places to hear a wide range of views.