The rise and rise of the beauty pageant

Is it just me, or am I seeing more and more these days on beauty pageants? In the press, on tele and the radio. Hideous things, which should have died off years ago but somehow are making their way back into fashion under the guise of empowerment and fulfilment and fun for everyone. A bit like this sudden fad for pole-dancing … like it’s something we should all be doing, even when we’re small kids.

I forced myself to watch BBC3’s documentary Baby Beauty Queens the other evening. In the name of research on the subject. A shocking look at how tiny girls, aged from age six upwards are being steamrollered into becoming Barbie dolls by their hideously go-getting and pushy mothers (I haven’t seen any Dads yet but correct me if I am wrong). And it’s these mothers who transfer all their own longings, failures and dreadful insecurities onto their poor unsuspecting little girls. The little girls are blinded by promises of fame and wealth. And really it’s all just for fun (honest) and it gives them untold amounts of self confidence etc etc. God, it was so predictable. And so, so tragic. Because at the end it wasn’t just the little girls who were crushed by the disappointment and rejection of not being crowned Little Miss UK – or whatever it was – but it was the Mums too.

I was reading an article today on the Guardian website about the craze amongst university students for holding beauty contests. Never mind the degrees and the hard work, let’s just have a look at their legs, and bums, and bosoms. The article was good. But underneath it a scary and worrying, set of comments (many of which were deleted by moderators) showing how feelings on the matter run very strong. Men accusing anyone (or any woman should I say) who questions the morality of such things as plain ‘jealous’. Good grief it was horrible to read.

Another name which keeps on cropping up is the now ‘famous’ Sasha Bennington. She was fortunate enough to be the star of her own documentary (again on BBC3), a year or so ago. Her mother is another one hell bent on her daughter becoming the next Jordan and, you’ve guessed it, rich and famous.  Sasha is becoming quite good at all this now. Age 13, she was given airtime on Radio 5 Live last weekend, where she told us all about the beauty pageant for girls she’s organising and how fabulous all this is. Her mother then comes on and churns out the same old rubbish about how it’s all for fun and it builds self esteem and it’s brilliant to see six year olds caked in so much makeup that you can’t actually see their real faces any more.

I’m sure Sasha and her mum are going to be very happy with all this wealth and fame they are generating. But the fact is, it’s a sad state of affairs when 13 year old girls organising beauty pageants get this much air time and our brilliant sports women struggle to get any. It’s a total disgrace that universities – the place where women go to learn on an equal footing to men – are housing contests which objectify them and which pit woman against woman in a bid for fake and unattainable beauty. And it’s even more horrendous to see the hurt and the fear and the pain which many of these young girls suffer when their hopes are built up and then cruelly and publicly snatched away from them.

And I will bet good money on poor Sasha, having her name dragged through the gutter by the press the moment she slips up (and I don’t mean on the catwalk). Where then, will the fame and money have got her?

I know it’s not going to stop and it will probably only get worse. And some deluded people might even think that I’m just plain jealous! But all this does is give me and many others the incentive and the will to continue to campaign for something better and more real for our daughters. And for us.

Some further reading and links:

Object – brilliant campaign

More blogging on the same subject by Charlotte

India Knight in the Times

The Telegraph’s take on things

The Daily Mail strikes again – check out the quotes from some of the contestants


6 responses to “The rise and rise of the beauty pageant

  1. Well said, ladies!!

  2. Well done! Great article x

  3. Excellent post.

  4. just conducted a study with 300 viewers of a video featuring the recent controversy surrounding child beauty pageants. The results showed that the majority of viewers reported that “disturbed” and “sad” were the emotions the felt most while watching the video. The study found that 84% of viewers reported that they felt the long-term effect on contestants was negative. For more in-depth results, please visit

  5. Great article. I’m sick of everything being brought back to appearance and image. That it’s allowed to start so young is criminal.

    I’ve just been watching some strong athletic women and men taking part in a triathlon event.
    Now that’s my kind of beauty.

  6. Brilliant article. Would be very grateful if you took a look at one I wrote about Sasha on my blog –
    Thanks for writing on this important subject.

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