Natural Beauty Pageants: Just As Bad As Glitz
If you’ve ever tuned in to TLC’s hit show, Toddlers & Tiaras, chances are you’re somewhat familiar with the pageant industry. While the TV series mainly follows glitz pageants and their participants, many people do not know much about the other type of beauty pageant: natural pageants. Everyone hears about how bad glitz pageants are for girls, and how they can cause body image issues and eating disorders later on in their life. However, because natural pageants do not receive the media attention that glitz pageants do, people are unaware that natural pageants cause the exact same problems for girls. In some cases, natural pageants are worse than glitz pageants because they promote more of a “total package” rather than just outer beauty like glitz pageants.
Glitz vs. Natural
For those of you who aren’t as up to speed with the pageant industry, there are tons of differences between glitz and natural pageants. In glitz pageants, girls are expected to have caked-on makeup, spray tans, flippers (fake teeth to hide imperfections of baby teeth), risqué costumes and routines, and huge hair. Girls are so “made up” in glitz pageants, that they don’t even look like themselves anymore, they look like fake Barbie dolls.
Because the girls are in “costume” so often, many girls forget what they look like without all the makeup, which is very disturbing. Eden Wood is one of these girls.
In natural pageants, little to no makeup and hair product are used, the costumes are more conservative, and there are interviews rather than routines. Look at this headshot for a natural pageant:
Now, this is the ‘ideal’ or ‘advertised’ look for natural pageants. In reality, natural pageants are not nearly as “natural” as they market themselves to be, because contestants are still allowed to use some amounts of makeup and hair product. Of course, it is not used as dramatically as in glitz pageants, but it is still allowed, and girls use it to enhance their look, and improve their chances of winning the pageant.
More Money Doesn’t Mean More Competitive
When you look at the cost of glitz pageants vs. natural pageants, one would think that because glitz pageants are so much more expensive than natural pageants, they would be more competitive. Well, that’s where many people are wrong. No matter how much a parent spends to put their daughter through pageants, they will still want their daughter to win. The fact that any amount of money is put into pageantry makes it competitive. So, whether a parent spends $2,000 to put her daughter through a glitz pageant, or $200 to put her through a natural pageant, they will still push their daughter just as hard to win, because they want to feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. When their daughters do not perform well, many parents get angry, and let their daughters know how badly they did. For example, watch how this pageant mom handles her daughter’s not-so-perfect performance:
The intense pressure the girls receive from their parents to perform perfectly is very overwhelming to the young girls, and often times, they can begin to pick up on the competitive traits displayed by their parents. The incredibly competitive nature of both natural and glitz pageants results from the pressures to win, which has negative effects on the mental health of the pageant competitors.
Self-Worth Goes Down the Drain
When girls compete in pageants at very young ages (0-9) for so long, after some time, their self-worth is negatively affected in several ways. When a girl wins a pageant, what does she get? Usually, winners get large amounts of money, sashes, free gifts, and oversized crowns. All of these material things are HUGE self-esteem boosters for the girls. I mean, what 7 year old girl wouldn’t feel great about herself after winning upwards of $1,000 for being the prettiest, most perfect girl on the stage? But what happens to the girls who don’t win? When girls lose a pageant, the only thing they get is the feeling of not being pretty enough, talented enough, or not having the perfect personality to beat the other girls. As a result of these feelings, girls who compete in glitz pageants begin to feel convinced that they should spend more time focusing on their external beauty and features, rather than working on their ‘inner selves’. Surprisingly enough, this is also true for natural pageants. Like I said before, natural pageants aren’t really all that ‘natural’, because girls still turn to small amounts of makeup and hair product in order to look better and increase their chances of winning. If outer beauty didn’t play a role in natural pageants at all, girls could show up to compete wearing pajamas with their hair tangled and still win the pageant. You should know this isn’t true, because according to Illinois Natural Pageants, winners of natural pageants have the full package: both inner and outer beauty. Both natural and glitz pageants teach girls that being beautiful and “perfect” is the only way to be successful and to get far in life, which is very detrimental to their mental health. However, this is much worse in natural pageants, because the girls are taught that they not only have to be the most beautiful girl on stage, they also have to have the most perfect personality. These beliefs that the girls acquire can lead to many other issues later on in life; specifically, body image issues and eating disorders.
Body image issues are just one of the many possible negative long-term effects of competing in pageants that girls can suffer from. As I noted before, beauty pageants of both types are VERY competitive, so (obviously) the girls want to be the best in every aspect of the competition. From the time they begin competing in pageants, these girls are taught that the best and most beautiful girls are those who win the pageants, which in turn, makes them more successful. These beliefs translate into their teenage years, and even way beyond that. It is very common for adolescent girls who competed in pageants while young to believe that the only way to be successful is to be beautiful, which is especially true for competitors in natural pageants. This being because natural pageants do not allow much makeup, so girls think that the only way to be successful is to be naturally pretty. As girls age and go through puberty, they do not look the same as they did when they were younger due to acne and other body changes. Because they do not look as pretty or desirable in their teenage years, these girls experience emotional hardships, which are a result of competing in natural beauty pageants. Natural pageants are more harmful to a girl’s mental health than one may think, because of the many problems that arise as she grows older.
To Eat or Not To Eat?
Now, as if body image issues weren’t bad enough, the physical health of girls is also negatively affected due to competing in beauty pageants. The biggest health issue for girls stemming from pageantry is eating disorders in teenage and adult years. As pageant girls get older, they become more and more (and more and more…) obsessed with their looks, and will even go to extreme measures to keep their bodies looking perfect. Desires to remain looking thin and perfect drive the girls to alter their eating, which leads them to develop eating disorders. Over the past 75 years, winners of the Miss America pageant have gotten more and more thin, with some women having body mass indices as low as 16.9! A normal BMI is within the range of 20-25, indices under 18.5 indicate under nutrition, and indices under 17.5 indicate anorexia! From a young age, girls who compete in natural pageants are taught to value being naturally beautiful and thin. Some girls are even forced by their mothers to diet when they are competing! This is way too young for girls to be worried about their weight. This pageant mom defends her decision to make her daughter diet here:
The beliefs that these girls have as children—that only thin girls are desirable—translates into their teenage and adult years. However, their bodies aren’t the same as what they were when they competed. Shocking right?! What 18-year-old pageant girl would be silly enough to think that her body would look exactly the same as it did when she was 7 and competing?! Apparently, most of them really are that silly, because these teenage girls go to extreme measures to keep their bodies thin and beautiful, with altering their eating being one of them. As these girls get older, they have higher rates of body dissatisfactions, and unrealistic expectations of being perfect. So, they strive to be perfect, and it’s taken wayyy too far when eating disorders are developed! If pageants continue, so will these girls’ negative views of themselves, and eating disorders will still remain prevalent.
Are Pageants Worth It?
In the many many years that pageants have been present in our society, they have become increasingly more popular, and as a result, is a multi-billion dollar business industry. There are so many people (OK, just the crazy pageant moms) who note the benefits of pageants. However, there are more serious negative effects that stem from these contests than there are positive ones. Exposing young girls to these horrible effects is in no way healthy, and it needs to be stopped. Natural beauty pageants are marketed to be a fun, positive, and confidence-boosting activity for young girls, but they are actually the opposite. Participating in natural beauty pageants leads to body dissatisfactions and eating disorders later on in life. So, before you make the decision to enter YOUR daughter in a pageant, just think, is the cash prize or “Ultimate Grand Supreme” title worth exposing her to these horrible factors that could haunt her forever???