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Set Up to Fail: Child Beauty Pageants--An Editorial

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Did you read the story about the woman who’s giving her 8-year-old daughter Botox? Kerry Campbell, the mom, is injecting the toxin into little Britney’s forehead, lips and around her eyes in a bid to prepare her to be a beautiful teen. Kerry is getting Britney ready for beauty pageants and, the single mom from the U.K. said, “I know one day she will be a model, actress or singer, and having these treatments now will ensure she stays looking younger and baby-faced for longer”(Pearce1).

As a writer who covers plastic surgery, cosmetic treatments and related topics, my first reaction was to give this news a pass. The first thing that occurred to me is that other writers will be all over the subject—it being such an obvious attention-getter. The hue and cry will reverberate for weeks, if not longer. The second thing that occurred to me is that there’s so much wrong with this picture it would be hard to know where to start.

But maybe there is a nugget in here worth commenting on: the spectacle of child beauty pageants. You probably know they occur, and you might even know that even babies can be contestants. But I bet there’s a lot you don’t know about beauty pageants for children.

Kareen Nussbaum, a student at Brooklyn College, wrote a research paper a few years ago on the topic that provides some basic background. In the paper, she quoted Charles Dunn, Pageantry Magazine’s publisher, saying that more than 100,000 children under 12 years old participate each year in beauty pageants. According to Nussbaum, stage mothers commented that pageant attire can cost up to $12,000. Then there’s the additional cost of makeup and hair designs, which, by the way, can take up to an hour for makeup and 90 minutes for hair (Nussbaum1).

There’s a lot to wonder about here. For one thing, there’s the sheer waste of it all. Why would a family invest time and money in beauty pageants for a daughter instead of something of real value, something lasting? Worse is the sexualization of many young girls involved in pageants as they don heavy makeup, sport revealing clothes and strike provocative poses. If you’re not sure about this, check out this photo gallery: http://www.highglitz.com/gallery/index.html . One can’t help but think about how many pedophiles must follow the circuit or tune in to the TLC reality show "Toddlers and Tiaras".

Perhaps most disturbing of all is the lessons the girls are learning through the pageant process. These may include:

• It’s worthwhile to spend precious resources on this kind of pursuit
• When you fall short in the looks department, you’re a loser
• Future aspirations should center on beauty before other qualities

On a website offering advice for parents called Family Education, Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW, expressed grave concern for children who participate in pageants. Relating “the pain of kids (and their parents) struggling with eating disorders” and hearing “teens beg me to convince their parents to let them get plastic surgery,” Kendrick said the pageants “do a great disservice to the winners, the losers, and all children”(Kendrick1).

This is one place I fear we might be headed: plastic surgery on little ones to help them win pageants. Is it a far-fetched idea? Given the popularity of these events and the media attention they attract, and given that there are next to no controls on the industry (Nussbaum1), it’s only a matter of time.

Indeed, in the article about Britney Campbell, her mom noted that parents routinely give their daughters “an extra jab to plump her lips or lose a wrinkle.” She says, “Everyone is doing it and talking about it”(Pearce1).

What does little Britney say? “I also want a boob and nose job soon, so I can be a star”(Pearce1). Remember, the child is 8.


Pearce, Dulcie. “I’m injecting my eight-year-old with Botox and getting her body waxes so she’ll be a superstar.” The Sun. May 13, 2011. Web. May 15, 2011.

Nussbaum, Kareen. Children and Beauty Pageants. Originally written at Brooklyn College, featured by A Minor Consideration. Web. May 15, 2011. http://www.minorcon.org/pageants.html

Kendrick, Carleton. Are Beauty Pageants Bad for Children? Family Education. Web. May 15, 2011. http://life.familyeducation.com/emotional-development/girls-self-esteem/41305.html

Edited by Alison Stanton

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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