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Are Glitz Pageants Unhealthy?

Eden Wood,glitz pageants,tlc,toddlers and tiaras,
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. (Read: Pageant Question Of The Day: Child Pageants)

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?

Are Glitz Pageants Unhealthy?

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.”


I could not believe it. This woman could not possibly be five years old.

Contestant Madison,Toddlers and Tiaras,glitz pageants, healthy
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
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,National American Miss,National American Miss New York 2012,Kira Kazantsev
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

Final Verdict

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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14 thoughts on “Are Glitz Pageants Unhealthy?

  1. I personally think child pageants are a bad idea. They should wait until they are at least 13 so they are old enough to see the moral reasons behind pageantry.

    1. You cant just throw a kid in a sport and call them a star.. They need experience and practice.. Just like adults with jobs.

  2. If you look at the bad behavior being displayed in children's pageants, the same behavior is shown by dance moms and football dads. Its not the pageant that's unhealthy but the parent.

  3. If the PARENTS just allowed the contestants under 12 to look like little girls – no make-up, false tans, false eyelashes and ridiculous outfits, then perhaps the pageant industry would regain some sort of decency, however, it is the parents that have given the industry such a bad name. The kids don't want the fake tans, make-up & hair-do's it is the parents who do! They should be SHOT for exposing their kids to all this adult world at such a young age. Let them compete as children, not mini adults – then it is fine!

    1. My 3 year old BEGS for A hair piece and fake tan and makeup.. Just like dress up! Idk about you when you were a kid.. But my DAUGHTER has been raised to do whatever her heart desires.

  4. I stem saam veral die wat nie kan glo hul kinders kom nie eerste nie dan is dit die beoordelaars wat korrup is.

  5. My comment: My twee dogters 13 en 6, doen model werk. Ek weet dis baie anders as pageants, maar dit leer hul nog dieselfde ding. Selfvertroue. My 13jarige dogter was n baie skaam kind, tot sy begin modelklasse doen. Sy’s baie meer selfversekerd, en vir n 13jarige kind, baie selfstandig ook. Hul leer nie net hoe om “shows” te gooi nie, maar ook hoe om na hulself te kyk. En sekere situasies te hanteer. Pageants is anders, ek weet maar dit kom op dieselfde ding neer. Ek dink dis goed vir hul, al is hul klein. Maar die ouers moet hul ook reg leer.

  6. All the girls at the pageants we go to enjoy it. 🙂 they just light up when they get up there!!!

  7. One doesn’t need to wait until the teen years to learn about good sportsmanship, have a platform of community service and “learn the moral reasons behind pageantry”.

    Shows like Todllers & Tiaras are filmed & edited to elicit an intense response from viewers – either positive or negative. What you see on the screen bears little reality to how a pageant weekend actually goes down. Let’s get real here. “Reality TV” has precious little to do with reality.

    There are a LOT of programs that have extremely strict rules for makeup use on under 12 years old: National American Miss & Miss American Co-Ed are two that spring immediately to mind. They WILL do a backstage swab of EVERY girl to make sure she is in compliance with the rules. Other programs like Miss American Darling and Miss Heart of the USA HIGHLY discourage the use of makeup on younger girls and call themselves a “glam” event – no fake hair or teeth allowed! These four programs run all over the United States and are all centered around community service. Another similar pageant program is Cinderella. They also do not permit makeup on the smaller girls. Additionally, they require a talent to compete in ages 4+.

    As a pageant mom, I was adamant that my daughters NOT be subjected to the whole “culture” of excess that I perceived the pageant world to be part of. That is why we competed strictly natural for our first year of pageants. Our focus now is on programs that emphasize community service & academic achievement first and everything else second.

    We’ve competed in glitz for “fun” and done it our way. No fake hair or teeth because we didn’t need those, but we did tan (I did it myself) and nails (ditto). I hired a fabulous hair/makeup artist and made my daughter’s dress which held it’s own in the top 12. It was fun. Like playing dress up. And that’s the key. As long as it’s fun and doesn’t define who you are, there’s really no harm in it.

    Most of the glitz girls I know are nice kids. Backstage they are all little kids. They hit the stage and do 90 seconds or so of a routine and go back to being little kids once they get off the stage. I’m also VERY fortunate to be in a community where we have some great pageant moms. We’ve all become friends and are genuinely happy for each other when our daughters (or their friends) win. THAT is what pageantry is about.

    I’m very much an introvert and so is my middle daughter. She has blossomed by being forced out of her comfort zone and having to learn to speak to strangers in an interview setting or by giving a personal introduction. My oldest daughter is high functioning autistic and beautiful. Her challenge is to learn to be graceful and to be recognized rather than ostracised/bullied. She has gained self-confidence and become more graceful since she has started competing in pageants. It’s also taught her to be a “good loser” as well.

    I have even started competing again at the urging of a state director. My daughters and I have the best time getting to play “dress-up” and hanging out with our pageant sisters. If I had waited until my girls were in their teens to have this experience with them, it wouldn’t be *as* fun, I’m sure.

    I am your Classic Ms Heart of Central Florida, Sanford’s Heart of the USA Spokesmodel & Central Florida’s Classic Ms Heart of Christmas, Nina Suluh

  8. My oldest was on the very 1st episode of Toddlers & Tiaras.. this show was not looking to put a positive outlook on pageantry but negative & we as pageant moms let them. They interviewed my daughter & she told them about her charity pageant for the IRSF and all the other community service she likes to to do..They didn’t show any of it. But they did take her gorgeous smile & put it on another show. Both my girls are very out going, smart, & have a lot of friends. I have to say that their pageant friends behave a lot better than their school friends.

  9. So as the mother of a girl in the Miss America system and having been exposed to a lot of pageant people, I have to say that I personally didn’t let my daughter, nor do I encourage other people to allow their children to compete before the age of 13. That way it is the child’s decision. The children have time to grow up and be more mature, They are more invested in their own success and generally will defend themselves from even their own family.

    I have however seen the disgusting side of people even in the older girls. Those fake backstabbing types that think themselves nearly God like. They profess from their mouths to make it about the girls and behave in every way possible to do the exact opposite. Now there are genuinely honest and supportive people, but it is so hard to tell the ones that are real sometimes until it is too late. I have been lucky I met the best before I met the worst. I also was converted from a skeptic to a rabid fan by the best.

    I don’t agree with the glitz pageants. I worry that the young ladies are not learning how to be loving and compassionate to their fellow contestants before they become psycho freaks first.

  10. Competing in beauty pageant at 5 year old seems really inadequate on many levels. As a child why would you need to work like an adult and do what adults do? train for weeks, getting tan and nails, wake up at 5 am get on the road and compete all day for 10 hour. That’s an adult schedule, let the children be children, they have their lifetime to work after. Some (not all) of the moms motives are questionable too, some are doing this for their own sake because it makes them feel good to see their child on stage, they live what they perceive as success through their child, but not giving much thought to their children well being. Success isn’t just making money and over achieve in sports, pageant, office, etc., its also live a balanced life and just having enough time for yourself to be happy. If you are 5 year old, time for just being a kid.

  11. My 6 year old came to me in August 2015 and requested to do pageants. All that know me, know I am not now nor will I everbe the girly girl. However, I allow my daughter to make her own reasonable decisions. She didn’t win that pageant, but she placed. She earned a title to state and she wanted to do more and learn more. I allow her one 1 hour lesson a week and one pageant a month of her choosing. My daughter has perfect grades and does not act out. She loves doing pageants. She chose to do them and they were not forced on her. She has played in other sports and when she was tired of playing I didn’t make her sign up for another season. Pageants will be the same. I do however make her finish what she starts. I refuse to teach my child that it’s ok to just quit because you’re tired. I’m preparing her for the real world on a child’s level because they grow up before you know it.

  12. Are you not using the psuedo controvery of glitz to get people to read this article? My daughter has done just about every type of pageant (as many as 20 a year to as few as 1 or 2) ….she grew up on glitz (started at 5 months old), and just to name a few dabbled in Cinderella, won festivals, been involved in the Miss America program as a princess and volunteer, and is a state winner and top 5 in the Miss United States program (which is 50% interview and community service oriented…) and that’s just to name a few. We have seen some horrific behavior at all kinds of pageants by moms and daughters and we have seen some of the most amazing young women and their families at ALL kinds of pageants! If we as pageant people truly believe in empowering girls and women we will respect each others choices and hard work it takes for all kinds of pageants and stop this snobbery of one pageant being better than another. To cut someone down because they do a pageant that you think is “bad” because you have no real clue is divisive and goes against the rhetoric of women supporting women. We know lots of girls that have come out of glitz to be AMAZING title holders in other systems and succeed in other activities… and some who just do glitz – so what if that’s their thing? Most of the girls we know who grew up on glitz learned a lot discipline, patience, and other skill sets… and no the practice for a glitz routine isn’t more than a dance or cheer or swim team etc. So if we are going to talk about the cons of pageantry let’s talk about the cons of ALL types, not just pick on glitz because it’s “politically correct” and pretend there aren’t some pretty bad behaviors at other types of pageants as well.

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