CHICAGO (CBS) — Trophies and tiaras at very young ages; kids’ pageants have become very popular, but if your daughter wanted to be in one, would you say yes? Should you say yes?
CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman takes a look.
With her own dress rack and a corner of regal bling, 4-year-old Alyssa Seyller is a three-time pageant winner.
“They’re really fun,” Alyssa said. She said she always comes in first place, “because I really do really good.”
Seven-year old Averyona Williams has some hardware, too, including best personality and most photogenic.
She’s been in only one pageant, but said she sees more tiaras in her future.
“A lot more,” she said. “Because I want to be a star.”
CBS 2 met both girls at an entry-level mall competition. Their moms said a show gave them the beauty pageant bug.
“She watches ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ all the time,” Averyona’s mom Gina Hill said.
Alyssa’s mom, Cherie Seyller, said “she really liked it and she said ‘How do I do that? I want to get a trophy.”
In the TLC network’s ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ pageant world, kids are dolled up, even spray tanned for beauty pageants. They are coached to look and move – in some cases – like miniature women.
Asked if she thinks children’s beauty pageants sexualize children, Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant owner Annette Hill said, “of course not. … I think if you are looking at a child in that way, in a sexual way, then something is wrong with you.”
Some of Universal Royal Beauty Pageant’s contestants have been on “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Hill said she doesn’t think viewers get the real picture.
“You don’t see all the camaraderie, the patting on the back, good sportsmanship,” she said.
Seyller said “the pageants that we go to are nothing like what you see on TV.”
In the one our Hill and Seyller chose, girls walked and modeled on stage.
“It was wonderful. … Her turns were perfect,” Hill said.
As for makeup and clothing, the local pageant was more conservative than those seen on “Toddlers and Tiaras.”
“Just fun lip gloss,” Seyller said. “The level that we’re on is just for fun. It’s to boost self-esteem.”
“I wouldn’t dress her in anything that would degrade her,” Hill said.
Northwestern University psychiatry professor Dr. Mark Reinecke watched video of the mall pageant. He said, from what he saw, he’d still recommend parents proceed with caution.
“The underlying message to the young girl is that your value to others is based on your appearance,” he said.
Reinecke pointed out, even though everyone got a prize, “the one who looked like a regular kid did not win.”
If parents really want to go forward with something like this, Reinecke said, “Let a little girl be a little girl.”
Reinecke said everything in moderation; and he also said the mother/daughter time from beauty pageants can be positive.
Both moms said, when their kids say “no more pageants,” that’s fine.
The contests cost. Entry fees can run in the hundreds for state pageants. National pageants can be more expensive. Tack on dress, travel, and hotel costs, and expenses can outweigh winnings.