A flurry of feathers, fake eyelashes and “flippers” (fake teeth worn to perfect that pageant smile) surround toddler pageant hopefuls and their frenzied moms backstage at the California Gold Coast beauty contest in Oxnard, CA. Professional hair and makeup artists prep the little girls, applying full spray tans and eyebrow waxes. Then they tease tiny strands into classic pageant curls. Last but not least, the girls are nestled into glitzy outfits (often with a $2,000 plus price tag) and placed in childrens’ high heels.
Child beauty pageants have long been controversial, inspiring a subgenre of reality TV that focuses on pushy parents and their kids (think: Toddlers and Tiaras). But they’ve also been around for centuries, with their origins traced to ancient Greek rituals that celebrated femininity. And they’re still a worldwide phenomenon.
Pageants teach children to hone their skills and work hard toward their goals. They learn to compete fairly and gracefully — a skill that can be applied to any endeavor in life, from academics to sports to the workplace. Moreover, they’re able to develop important time management and organizational skills as they balance schoolwork, extracurricular activities and competition preparation. And, most importantly, they learn to have fun, as judges are known to give higher scores to kids who visibly enjoy their event participation.