Don’t Judge Me, I’m A Pageant Mama

I’m a glitz pageant mama.

I will hardly admit this publicly, and when I do so, it’s always with hesitation. There are many critics of children in pageants because of the way children’s pageants have been depicted on television.

My oldest daughter, Anna, is five years old. She saw a reality television show when she was nearly three years old that featured glitz pageant girls and their mamas. She was hooked. She would watch, and then proceed to bother me for days after to do a pageant.

I resisted for nearly two years.

We tried other activities such as ballet and swimming. She hated them, and it always came back to, “I want to be in a pageant.”

When she was four years old, I thought, “I’m going to make her a dress, she’s going to hate being on stage and she’ll get over this.” At her first pageant she didn’t do much on stage, but she sure looked cute. She won fourth runner up in her age division, but she didn’t care. She got a crown and some trophies. She also got a huge dose of self-esteem.

Anna has competed in eight pageants as of February 2013 and will do many more this year. She loves it, and I love it by proxy. We only enter her in pageants where every contestant receives a crown.

We hired a wonderful coach for her who encourages all of her students to have friendships with their “pageant sisters.” Anna has not only been coached in how to move on stage, but she’s been coached in friendships. She cheers for her fellow contestants and (usually) wins or loses with grace. She’s always telling the other girls, “I love your dress.” or “Great job on stage!”

She’s never won a “grand supreme” anything and she doesn’t seem to know the difference— and if she does, she doesn’t seem to care. Although, we did have a day where she was very upset she didn’t win a doll like another contestant did. Her father took over in the parenting department and said, “If you cannot be nice about this, we just won’t do any more pageants.” That was the end of her being upset over the doll.

As for the comments like, “She’s just a baby, why would you put make up on her?” and the kicker “You’re sexually exploiting your child for your own benefit,” I’ve heard them, and have even been accused of exploitation by one person. I will tell anyone that Anna does not do sexy routines or wear sexy outfits. That is one place where we draw the line.

Yes, she wears makeup, a hair piece and bronzer. I don’t see where that’s wrong and I’ve yet to see the supposed “damaging effects” of children wearing makeup for one day a month.

I’ve heard things like, “You’re telling them their natural beauty isn’t good enough.” I’ll be the first to admit for a glitz pageant, which is heavily based on the “show” aspect of performing, natural beauty is not enough. These girls are in costume. Anna knows this isn’t real life. For everything else, her natural beauty is just right.

I’m also constantly telling her things like, “It doesn’t matter how pretty you are if you have ugly behavior.” I want her to be pretty on the inside AND the outside.

I spent six years of my life dancing ballet— I wore make up and costumes. I do not see the difference. The only time I’ve witnessed what I considered to be exploitative behavior was on television. I’ve never seen it in person, which leads me to believe that the reality television shows aren’t rooted in much reality at all.

I’ve come into contact with many women who competed as children. I find them to be no more shallow or “sexualized” than the regular population. In fact, I find them to be less so. They seem to put just as much emphasis on inner beauty as outer beauty. In every pageant paperwork I’ve come across, there is a behavioral clause that pretty much says that bullying won’t be tolerated and the contestant will lose any titles and prizes if he or she is caught bullying.

As for the monetary issues with pageantry: It can be very expensive. We spent approximately $2,000 last year and plan to spend about $3,000 this year. I’ve seen parents go money-crazy with dresses, costumes and props. That’s a personal decision, and I’m not in a place to judge them on how they choose to spend their money.

When the day comes (and it will come) where Anna no longer wants to be in pageants, she can do whatever she wants instead, within reason. She can dance, swim, play soccer, softball, whatever!

But for right now, this makes her happy and gives her something to look forward to. I enjoy making her outfits and traveling to different places.

I don’t have any visions of “fame” in her future (or mine). We wouldn’t do a television show unless they were willing to pay for Anna’s first semester in medical school.

I just don’t want to hold her back. If she wants to be famous, then I’ll do everything in my power to help her reach her goals. But as of now, she wants to be a doctor and I am more than fine with that.

4 Responses to Don’t Judge Me, I’m A Pageant Mama

  1. I love your honesty. And so long as your daughter enjoys it and it doesn’t cross any lines that make you or your husband uncomfortable, then why not? As mamas, we all do plenty of things we’d otherwise like to avoid to make sure our kids are happy and to cater to their wants. Especially things we swore we’d never do before we had kids. :-)

  2. i went to high school with Bonnie, and we’ve been facebook friends for many years since. it makes me so happy to see her posts about Anna and the pageants! Bonnie is always so proud of whatever latest costume she’s created for her and after the pageants always posts pics and lets us know how well Anna did (regardless of how high she ranked), and in every picture of Anna in her pageant stuff, you can see the glow of self esteem washed over her tiny, beautiful face. i feel like such a sap, because it actually brings me to tears to see such a happy, self confident little girl. i’ve yet to have the privilege of even meeting Anna, but have followed her antics and shenanigans for the past few years through Bonnie’s facebook posts and have come to view that child as a tiny kindred spirit. Bonnie is a kick-ass mom who does everything for the benefit of her children. never would she take advantage of or exploit them for her own gain and the fact that even one person accused her of such a thing infuriates me! i say keep it up Bonnie!! you’re doing a wonderful thing.

  3. I admit, after seeing the “reality” shows about pagents, it’s hard not to judge, but this gave me a different perspective. I’m glad not all pagents are like those on TV, and think they can be a valuable tool in developing social skills. Thanks for writing this!

  4. It’s nice to get a real glimpse of what child pageants can really be about instead of just the exaggerated tv versions highlighting the worst examples.

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