With the advent of the controversial “Toddlers & Tiaras” television program, children’s pageant have soared in popularity. In the world of children’s pageants today, it is common to see images of small girls wearing adult stage make-up, elaborate hairpieces, false eyes lashes, fake teeth, spray tans and expensive custom-made stage dresses.
However, what the general public and press are often less aware of is that children’s pageants fall into two very different categories: glitz pageants and natural pageants. And these types of children’s pageants are as different as if they were two sports…let’s say baseball and basketball. They possess similarities, but in reality they are very different sports.
We believe that it is important for parents to understand the differences between the two types of pageants before entering their daughters into competitions.
So what are the differences between glitz pageants and natural pageants for children?
- External beauty is highly emphasized in children’s glitz pageants.
- In glitz pageants, children of all ages are expected to wear makeup.
- False eyelashes, hairpieces, bouffant teased hair, heavy theatrical makeup, fake teeth (“flippers”), acrylic nails, dark spray tans, colored contacts, and teeth whitening all all the norm in children’s glitz pageants.
- Many glitz pageants offer a swimsuit competition in which very young girls compete onstage in swimsuits and make-up. The poses little girls make in swimsuit competitions often are criticized by critics as being inappropriate for little girls.
- Formalwear in glitz and “high glitz” pageants is often custom-made, and bedecked with sequins, crystal and other decorative effects. Glitz dresses tend to be extremely expensive.
- Hairpieces and full wigs are allowed and big hair is the rule.
- Photographs submitted by contestants for the “photogenic” competition are heavily Photoshopped, with eyelashes and makeup Photoshopped on and features improved until the resulting contestant’s headshot almost resemble anime characters or Barbie.
- An OOC event (Outfit of Choice) encourages contestants to come up with a costumed theme (western, Hollywood, etc.). This event has led to several now infamous moments where parents have dressed their 3-4 year-old daughters as Dolly Parton in a catsuit (complete with heavily-padded breasts and buttocks) and Julia Robert’ prostitute character in “Pretty Woman” (complete with over the knee boots, mini skirt and bare midriff).
- Glitz pageants often include swimsuit competitions, where it is fairly common to see young girls posing suggestively, hands-on-hips, leading some critics to criticize glitz pageants for sexualizing little girls.
- Glitz pageant contestants often perform highly “Proam” routines complete with splits, flips and cartwheels.
- Glitz pageants attract child contestants and their mothers who travel extensively to compete, often spending tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Natural Pageants for children
- Child contestants under age 13 are not allowed to wear makeup. If some make-up is allowed, it must be light and “age-appropriate”…usually a touch of lip gloss and mascara.
- Natural pageants do not allow “flippers”, fake teeth designed by dentists to fill in gaps where children have lost teeth.
- Most natural pageants for children do not include a swimsuit competition. If a swimsuit event is included, contestants are instructed to wear age-appropriate swimwear.
- Wigs and hairpieces are not allowed.
- Children compete in interviews which emphasize their personality.
- Children are encouraged to look and act like children. Essentially, little girls are expected to look like little girls attending church or a birthday party.
- Pageant directors work to create a family-friendly event where the entire family is a part of the activities.
- Natural pageants are keenly aware of the criticism of glitz pageants for sexualizing little girls, and they strive to design their events to be as wholesome and family-friendly as possible.
- Examples of natural pageant systems for children include: Young American Miss International Pageant, The Glass Slipper Natural Beauty Pageants,
In addition to pure glitz pageants and natural pageants, a wide range of pageants are offered which blend elements of glitz and natural pageants. Many systems now offer natural and glitz events where contestants can compete in either one event or both.
There also are “high glitz” pageants, where advertisers emphasize that “anything goes.”
Both glitz and natural pageants charge entry fees, which can range substantially. Many children’s pageants are fundraisers where the contestant pays a nominal entry fee and donates food goods for local charity drives. Other pageants, usually major glitz systems charge substantial entry fees which can run in hundreds of dollars.
Read more about the difference between natural pageants versus glitz pageant for children
- Protecting Girls From Negative Media Influences, With Family Expert, Dr. Tim Kimmel
- Four-Year-Old Girls Wears Padded Breasts and Buttocks on Toddlers & Tiaras. Tell Us What You Think!
- Uproar over the Pretty Woman Scene on “Toddlers & Tiaras”…Tell Us What You Think.
- Miss Pacific Palisades Weighs in on Botox Mom
- Toddlers, Tiaras — and Debt: the Costs of Child Beauty Pageants