By Ashley Boyle
Ever since Honey Boo Boo graced our television screens in 2012, we have questioned whether Toddlers & Tiaras is morally acceptable. Children as young as 3 can take part in pageants where they showcase their best outfits, catwalks and talents and whilst the hit American show was entertaining, it received a lot of backlash and criticism from viewers who felt that the parents were too pushy with their kids and deprived them of their childhood.
Dee Thompson, mother to 13 year old Sienna Demontis, talks about her daughter competing in pageants on a BBC ‘Inside Out’ report, which was broadcast on Monday and available on iPlayer. It looks closely at how her life has changed since becoming Junior Miss Galaxy UK. At first glance, the young girl looks like a winner: she’s pretty; slim and bears a beaming smile throughout, but is she really any different to the other pretty girls competing?
When Sienna fist took part in a photoshoot as a present for her mother, she had no idea she would soon become Junior Miss Galaxy UK and go on to compete in Orlando for the International title. This opening line is the perfect story for someone against beauty pageants and feels strongly that parents are brainwashing their kids to be the best. Her mother sources all her makeup, jewellery and outfits, however, Dee is adamant that all final decisions are made by Sienna. But, let’s be honest, what parent is going to voluntarily admit to being a pushy parent? Pageanting becomes as much of an obsession for the adults as it does to the kids. This kind of behaviour may be the result of a missed opportunity or an aspiration that was not fulfilled in earlier life, which ultimately can be satisfied by the younger and prettier versions of themselves succeeding.
Whilst support from family and friends was abundant, Sienna, like many young girls, found herself the victim of bullies. She was attacked verbally, physically with a hockey stick and told over social media that she only won because of makeup. Teenage years are complicated enough when you are developing physically and emotionally, and pageants will have a different effect on people’s lives depending on how they deal with stress. Some may see it as a challenge, something to work towards and conquer and others may feel it emotionally drains them.
Sienna, like many other girls in pageants, has found herself inundated with extra work, such as modelling jobs and television adverts, but whilst the foundations of a successful career are put in place, the underlying issue is that this may be replacing valuable school time. A premature career could cost these girls an education.
While there are a lot of girls who come out of this with a positive attitude and more confidence, for the girls who are less successful, losing could damage them greatly, especially for younger girls who cannot understand why they aren’t the ones wearing a sparkly tiara and sash. I feel younger children and toddlers shouldn’t be deprived of the opportunity, but should be less intense than that of pageants for teens and young adults.
The report certainly makes you rethink whether pageants are beneficial for the youngsters. Whilst many will criticise and speculate whether this is a force for good, the report sheds some light on how young women are challenging these ideas and stereotypes. If they work hard, enjoy the process and proceed to have successful careers and confident, positive attitudes then why should they be denied these opportunities?