“A dolla makes me holla Honey Boo Boo”. This phrase is more common among millennials, due to the popularity of reality television shows. This phrase is a direct quotation from Alana Thompson, a well-known child beauty queen. Toddlers and Tiaras, starred Alana Thomson. The reality show follows the lives of contestants in child beauty pageants and their families. It first aired on January 9, 2009. Toddlers and Tiaras caused controversy when it first aired. The show has been viewed by millions of people worldwide. The video portrays Alana “Honey Boo Boo”, a troubled teenager, and her actions towards pageants. June Thompson, her mother, is depicted as controversial and unethical. Through the words of young Alana and her mother, the video reveals various flaws in child beauty pageants. The video encourages important conversation and a message that’s often missed by those who watch “Toddlers and Tiaras”, a show featuring child beauty pageants. The majority of people see it as any other reality television show: entertainment. The clips featuring Honey Boo Boo are a stark reminder of the reality of child beauty pageants. They show the worst and most harmful aspects. Child beauty pageants are a lucrative business that can bring in monetary and sometimes even confidence-inducing financial rewards. However, they are unprofessional because they sexually abuse girls from a young age.
The idea of child beauty pageants is not new. The late 1800s was the year that the first child pageants were established in England. Their popularity has grown rapidly over the years, with reality TV series like “Toddlers and Tiaras”, and Alana Thompson’s spin-off show, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo Boo”. They are known for their unique appeal due to the confidence boost that they offer young girls. Child beauty pageants are favored by those who believe they help young girls develop stage presence and self-esteem. In some cases, young girls can win titles or trophies. The reward of feeling proud and happy is enough for anyone. Jena SIMS, Miss Teen Georgia 2007, organizes the “Pageants of Hope”. To boost confidence and self-esteem, these pageants were focused on children with cancer. “Sims along with other Teen USA representatives [visited] hospitals for the pageants, [where they] [gave] runway instruction, makeovers to every participant, honoring everyone for a particular characteristic” (PRNewswire – 2007). Pageants for Hope award rewards for each participant based on different characteristics of the young girl. These pageants are not for everyone. These pageants are not the same as regular beauty pageants. They do not offer the same environment and attitude of equality and acceptance. Although winning titles and trophies can improve self-esteem in young girls, it is not common for them to win them. A very small percentage of selected girls are awarded trophies or prizes. This can leave the girls at the pageant feeling insecure and depressed. These girls are being judged based on their outer appearance. This sends a message to them early that they’re not beautiful, happy, or good enough. Alana Thompson (aka Honey Boo Boo) is an excellent example of how child beauty pages can impact young girls’ confidence, happiness, and self-esteem. In the YouTube video’s beginning, Alana states that she is Alana. She’s six years old and is a beauty contestant. She continues confidently boasting that she is going to beat the other girls in the pageant. Alana, who is now in the same interview position as before the pageant, has a completely new attitude. She says, “I feel ….sad” to the camera. The judges saw my stomach. These clips are effective examples of the other side that children experience in beauty pageants. They don’t return home feeling glamorous or confident. Instead, they feel unworthy, defeated. Beauty pageants are a great way to show your child that beauty is not always a good thing. These children feel defeated, and they have a strong desire for perfection. This is often what their parents do to them. In order to enter pageants at a young age, these parents often put their children through a lot of emotional and physical suffering. These are just a few of the many instances viewers see on Toddlers and Tiaras. Some parents make children wear fake breasts or wax their body hair in order to appear “glowing”, while others force them to get spray-tanned before each competition. Children are forced to sit in chairs and wait in long lines for their makeup, or painstaking hairdos. They also have to practice their routines or walk in them. These children are being deprived of their childhood and free time. A child should not worry about anything as a young child. Beauty pageants are a way for young children to show their talent and be admired by judges. Parents who are too strict in their parenting of children competing in child beauty pageants push their children to achieve success from a young age. Toddlers and Tiaras focuses on one father, who is seen “while sewing her daughter’s gowns and teaching her dance moves, and storming off when he’s unhappy with the results” (PR Newswire – 2008). Clips from the YouTube clip show Alana Thompson’s father Mike warning her not to move or he will stick her. June Thompson, Alana’s mother, presses Alana to move on the stage. Many children participating in child beauty pageants are not interested. You can see them screaming at Tiaras and Toddlers about being forced to compete. In a YouTube clip, Alana Thompson says to the camera “Beauty can be so boring” and “I don’t want it.” These children are being treated as objects by their parents and thrown onto the pageant scene.
Modern society has seen the “sexualization” of young girls reach disturbing levels (Lumby 2010,). Unsexy child beauty pageants are a controversial issue that has been discussed in recent years. Child beauty pageants focus on outward beauty. Gender socialization at its most extreme is child beauty pageants. These pageants have been held up to an extremely high standard for beauty standards by very young girls. Prepubescent girls are required to wear full makeup, with long eyelashes and full lips. The judges love to see these girls perform provocative and seductive dance moves and make them smile with flirtatious expressions. These are things that are required to win the ultimate prize at beauty pageants. June Thompson, six, shouts at her daughter June to “shake her stomach”, while her daughter dances in a croptop with a mini skirt. Toddlers and Tiaras portrayed a mother with a three-year-old daughter who dressed up as ‘Pretty Woman’ to represent her daughter. She was competing in the pageant “outfits and choices” category. American Psychological Association published a report about the sexualization in girls. The report found that girls are more likely to be exposed to hypersexualized media content. The sexualization of young girls is harmful to their mental health and that of the children who see them on television. It also reinforces gender roles and sexist behaviors.
The negative effects of child beauty pagesants outweigh any positives. The YouTube video “Worst Mama of the Year Toddlers Wearing Tiaras” and “Toddlers and Tiaras,” both depict the tragic reality of the beauty-pageant world. Today’s young girls are being forced into the twisted world of glamour, glitz and sexuality at an early age. Their beauty and physical appearance are what judges use to measure their self-worth. They are made to feel like they belong in a society where women are still not treated equally. We need to get away from entertainment and show like “Toddlers and Tiaras” and concentrate on the real issues. Children and young girls should learn that self-worth doesn’t depend on appearances or money. This will benefit society and help ensure their future.