Teen beauty queens aged 11 and 14 but Miss Teen Great Britain mum defends allowing irl to compete
The mother of a Miss Teen Great Britain semi-finalist has defended beauty pageants for young girls, saying they boost their confidence.
Bangor 14-year-old Shannon Storey will be representing Northern Ireland in this year's competition alongside her 11-year-old friend, Chantelle Adair-Coulter from Banbridge.
Teenage beauty pageants have been criticised for sexualising children, prioritising appearances over ability, the massive costs involved and putting children under pressure to win.
But speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Shannon's mother Kellie (34) said beauty pageants boost confidence.
"Young girls Shannon's age should get involved in competitions like these," she said.
"It helps build their confidence, it helps them make new friends, it helps them learn how to speak to other people. Shannon struggled to make herself known in a crowd. She's not looking for popularity. She's looking for her own self-esteem."
But Mrs Storey added: "A year ago I would've said Shannon was too young. I don't think she would've been able to cope then, because she was very shy and very timid."
The Miss Teen Great Britain grand final will be held at The Globe in Blackpool in October.
Shannon is competing for the Miss Junior Teen title, while Chantelle is the Little Miss Teen crown hopeful.
Both girls have already fought off competition from thousands of applicants just to make it through.
"It's a massive achievement to make it into the final 60," said Kellie, who owns La Chance de Danser Dance Studios in Bangor.
She and husband Adrian (34) also have two younger daughters, Becka (12) and six-year-old Ella, who suffer from autism.
Kellie said their eldest girl, who is in third year at St Columbanus College, is psychologically strong enough to deal with failure, should that happen.
"From day one, Shannon has said she isn't worried about winning," she said.
"All she wanted to do was be herself and make sure she was able to publicly speak. She thought if she could do this she could do anything. Those are her own words."
Before the contest, Shannon, a world champion hip hop dancer, will be hoping for success in her first final in Miss Teen Queen Northern Ireland.
Preparation for the contest, which will take place at Belfast's Malone Lodge Hotel in August, isn't cheap - starting with the £120 entry fee. Five formal gowns are needed for the five rounds of the competition, said Kellie.
"Then you've got nails, tan, make-up, and hair on top of that.
"We've spent over £1,000 getting her ready for the Northern Ireland competition. The GB one will cost much more."
Shannon's mum said her daughter spends "two hundred pounds a month" looking good, which she earns herself by helping out at the dance school.
She's also trying to raise £500 for two charities - Autism NI and Together for Short Lives, which helps children with life-threatening and life-limiting conditions.
Kellie said that making it into the finals of both competitions has helped her daughter grow up. "I think the pageants are making Shannon more lady-like," she said.
"She is a sweet-natured girl who sees the good in everybody.
"It has brought her close to another friend."
Shannon and Chantelle are fundraising for Autism NI and Together for Short Lives and they are asking the public to help them raise money for either of their two charities. The girls are also seeking sponsorship from local companies to help with pageant costs. If you are able to help, contact shannonstorey2001 @gmail.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for Chantelle.