Sure, Baby Beauty Pageants Are Lame, But Are They Child Abuse?

Former beauty pageant star Brooke Breedwell (um, yes, that’s her real name) has spoken out about her pageant past. You may recognize her from this disturbing documentary, “Painted Babies.” Today, she doesn’t look back on her participation fondly. Now a sophomore in college, Breedwell claims that her mother not only pushed her too hard, the experience scarred her for life. “Pageants have put a lot of stress and anxiety on my life,” she told “Good Morning America.” “I feel the need to be perfect at everything, and I know that’s not realistic. You can’t be perfect at everything.” Is it time we start regulating baby beauty pageants? I say let twenty-something women compete against each other in beauty pageants, but let’s leave the toddlers out of it.

While I get that learning “grace and poise” and winning scholarship money is valuable, there are plenty of ways to accomplish those goals without dressing children up like adults. Sports, ballet, and theater classes are a few examples of alternatives. But talk to pageant moms, and you’ll see quickly that it’s not about the kids. Take former beauty queen Mickie Wood, mother of four-year-old Eden, who is one of the girls featured on TLC’s popular new reality show “Toddler’s & Tiaras.” Wood not only admits that she lives vicariously through her kid, she’s also open about the fact that she spends money better suited to a trust fund on their lifestyle.

“Wood says they have spent more than $70,000 on Eden’s pageant career, including weekly spray tanning, photo sessions, coaching and dresses that cost up to $3,000. Being the best doesn’t come cheap. It’s estimated that 250,000 children compete in more than 5,000 pageants in the United States each year, and pageant officials admit some families have gone into debt, even paying entry fees before paying the rent.”

Look, it’s people’s business what they do with their money, but pardon me if I can’t help feeling a little judgey here.

What about the psychological impact pageants have on the youngest of young women? Take one look at child stars like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, and you can see that the effects of a childhood denied aren’t pretty. And who can forget JonBenét Ramsey? We’d like to think we’re a nation that does its best to protect children, but pageant kids are falling through the cracks.

Little children controlled by their stage parents don’t have a platform from which to speak, but I’m glad the now-grown Breedwell came out and said what she had to say. Perhaps more will follow in her footsteps. [ABC News]