Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

Child beauty pageants: A psychologically-damaging catwalk of vulgarity

By Jane Graham

Published 23/09/2013

Emilia Ramos (6) with mum Kacey
Emilia Ramos (6) with mum Kacey
Victoria Kirger at the pageant in Co Monaghan

I don't have many clear memories from my first four years but there's one that has remained unusually resonant for three decades – my nursery school's impromptu 'Mini Miss World' contest.

After a quick walk on the makeshift catwalk I – already developing a short-sighted squint, and with the beginnings of Bugs Bunny-style buck teeth due to sucking my thumb – was unplaced. My sister took second.

My parents were only informed afterwards and I remember thinking I'd never seen my dad so angry.

And though I was horribly hurt by the (new to me) idea that I was not attractive, I was cheered by his instinctive understanding of my feelings.

I'm not sure I could honestly say I've ever completely gotten over that contest and its seemingly definitive statement about my lack of beauty.

So I am filled with dread at the news that Texas-based Universal Royalty is 'promising' to bring its infamous beauty pageant to Belfast next year after what organiser Annette Hill declared a "great success" in Castleblayney, Co Monaghan, at the weekend.

Universal Royalty's contests, which include modelling rounds, welcome the participation of "babies, toddlers and teens".

The organisation also offers modelling lessons for all ages, so you can learn how to hide your four year-old's youth behind inches of foundation, blusher and scarlet lipstick.

Perhaps you could even erase it forever.

It's ironic that in the same week the French parliament moved to ban beauty pageants due to the threat of hyper-sexualising children, Belfast is being promised an infant-starring festival celebrating vulgarity, superficiality, and a lifetime of psychologically-damaging mutated self-worth.

Hill claims that the demand for her pageants is huge in Ireland, only just behind those two bastions of good taste and sensitivity, America and Australia. If that's true, Ireland should be ashamed.

We've already seen the grotesque effect of Americanisation on Irish dancing.

If we value our daughters' mental health and hope for them to develop some depth and recognise the odd profound truth as it floats through their consciousness, we should close the border to Universal Royalty before we run out of time and heart.

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