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Child beauty pageants viewed as unethical

By Alexander Mora, staff photographer
On September 19, 2012

  • Sharing experience — Sonia Nzingha Dugas discusses a scene from a movie, viewed in LA-105 Sept. 11, that connected with her lecture. Dugas teaches African-American Psychology and Black Male and Female Relationships. Erik Verduzco / The Advocate

Reality television shows have taken the country and the world by storm in recent years.
Some people cannot live without them, while others cannot stand to watch them.
Some of these shows are controversial in nature.
But no other show garners as much controversy as The Learning Channel's (TLC) show "Toddlers and Tiaras." "Toddlers and Tiaras" has been on the air since 2009 and depicts the twisted world of child beauty pageants.
Parents on this show go to extreme lengths, sacrificing and abusing their children's health, to get the best shot at winning the pageant in their age group.
On one episode mother June Shannon gained national attention for giving her 6-year-old a concoction of caffeinated beverages she calls "go-go juice" to make her daughter more energetic while on stage.
Some moments on this show also come uncomfortably close to child pornography.
On another episode 6-year-old African-American Victoria was given a spray tan.
Seeing a 6-year-old girl walk around in an unsettlingly revealing top may seem bad already.
Listening to her mother talk about how the tan would make her daughter look more "natural" is more along the lines of incredibly disturbing.
A different mother is currently facing a lawsuit over parading her 4-year-old daughter about in a costume that included a padded bosom and hind end.
Putting these children through these situations is unethical.
Despite the benefits from being a participant, many girls are often scouted by modeling and talent agencies.
But a dark side can easily influence these developing minds.
Regardless of all the glitz, glamor and attention that comes with doing well in these pageants, there are undeniably long-term consequences that affect many pageant winners after their careers have ended.
A 2007 study available on, which surveyed 1,386 women, found that low self-esteem, a higher body mass index (BMI) and depression are risk factors of body dissatisfaction. The study showed that body dissatisfaction can be caused by elements of one's environment or exposure to idealized media figures.
Another dark aspect of the pageant world is the cost of entering their children in competitions.
On "Toddlers and Tiaras" parents have confessed to spending more than $30,000 to support their children in pageants, not uncommonly resulting in massive debt or the loss of the family home.
Other vicious aspects of pageant life include lawsuits regarding the potential sexualization of the underage pageant contestants.
The lives of child beauty pageant contestants are not well understood and ultimately underestimated.
Prior to the creation of "Toddlers and Tiaras" the last major headline that focused on pageant life was the brutal murder of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey on Christmas Day in 1996.
Since then, very little focus has been given to what child beauty pageant contestants go through to do well in these contests.
But since "Toddlers and Tiaras" became a hit, it looks as though a glimpse into the somewhat sensationalized lives of child beauty pageant contestants can be broadcast worldwide, for better or for worse.

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