Why Age Restrictions Should Be Enforced in Pageants

The Boulder Police fell under intense criticism for their failure to solve the case and Jon Benet’s wealthy parents were scrutinized and questioned extensively, with the media and many members of the public suggesting that one of the family had committed the crime. One of the aspects of the Ramseys’ previously quiet life was the strange and relatively unknown spectacle of beauty pageants aimed at very young girls. Jon Benet’s mother Patsy not only enrolled her daughter in pageants across the country, she also used her own wealth to fund some of them. The media and public alike were horrified to learn little girls (and boys), sometimes as young as babies, were paraded like their teenaged and adult counterparts. This included makeup and skimpy outfits, including swimsuits. CBS Anchor Dan Rather called the very airing of historical footage showing the little girl kiddie porn (Rich) and it was suggested by more than one person that a pedophile had broken into the house and killed her, as some sexual trauma was evidenced. Investigators are now pretty much convinced that neither pedophilia nor the pageants themselves had anything to do with the homicide. Yet the damage was done and what was once a subject that only a small percentage of the American public knew anything about suddenly became front page news. The parents of the contestants were the ones who were criticized the most, as well as it should be, for they were the ones who enrolled their tiny divas and pushed them hard to succeed. Again quoting John Rich, at the time of the sensational killing, the kids’ pageant production was a billion dollar industry with 3,000 contests and 100,000 contestants annually. Critics were harsh and very little if any positive publicity was generated about the pageants in the months following the girl’s death. With that much negative exposure, one would expect the child beauty pageants would have withered and died shortly thereafter. Flash forward more than fifteen years since Jon Benet’s death. She would now be twenty-one years old, the optimum age for either a Miss USA/Miss Universe pageant or a New York runway model. But have child beauty pageants been pushed to the annals of history? No, by no means. One of the most popular shows on Cable’s The Learning Channel (TLC) is Toddlers and Tiaras and episodes are broadcast several times a week. The television show has been on since September 2008 and has been renewed for at least another season. Another show along the same lines was the (presumably) now defunct Little Miss Perfect that aired on another cable channel WE-TV. So why did one show triumph while another failed? It could be said that Discovery Networks (the parent company of TLC) had enough finances and experience to put behind their show and fledgling WE didn’t. Watching various episodes of Toddlers and Tiaras, it is very much evident that TLC puts glitz along with glamour and voiceovers and expert evaluations, whereas Little Miss Perfect evidently just showed the contestants two at a time. As cable networks often do, on Wednesday, April 25, 2012, TLC had a marathon showing of its fifth season of Toddlers and Tiaras. A rerun airing of the show Darling Divas – New York, showed exactly how far over the top these kids and their parents go just to win a measly prize (The top prize in Brooklyn was $300). Little girls and their mothers were having meltdowns on camera. For instance, one mother, so upset that her dear little one got stage-fright and froze in front of the judges, literally pushed the cameras away and said she was very much angry with this child, who couldn’t have been more than four. The girls were all between