Should child beauty pageant models wear make-up?

Should child beauty pageant models wear make-up?  A child beauty pageant is a beauty contest featuring contestants under 16 years of age. Competition categories may include talent, interview, sportswear, casual wear, swim wear, western wear, theme wear, outfit of choice, decade wear, and evening wear. Depending on the type of pageant system (Glitz/Natural) contestants may be found wearing makeup to fake teeth, known as flippers, as well as elaborate hairstyles and custom, designed and fitted, outfits to present their routines on stage.

Beauty pageants started in 1921 when the owner of an Atlantic City hotel struck upon the idea to help boost tourism.  However, that idea had already circulated through “Most Beautiful Child” contests held in major cities across the country. The Little Miss America pageant began in the 1960s at Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey. Originally, it was for teenagers from 13 to 17 years old, but by 1964 there were over 35,000 participants, which prompted an age division.  The modern child beauty pageant emerged in the early 1960s, held in Miami, Florida. Since then, the industry has grown to include about 250,000 pageants. It is an increasingly lucrative business, bringing in about twenty billion dollars a year to the Americas with its popularity spreading worldwide.

However a new hotly debated topic has recently arisen; should child models be allowed to wear make-up?  This question may seem strange as we all automatically associate models with make-up, but the issue is slightly different when considering the age of the model.  For example adult fashion models often wear an excess of make-up to hide imperfections and to appear younger.  Make-up can also be used to present an artistic look.  Make-up is used by actors, newscasters and everyday people.  It has become a standard practice in our society and a highly profitable industry grossing.  According to the revenue of the U.S. cosmetic industry, make-up sales is estimated to amount to about 62.46 billion U.S. dollars in 2016!

The history of cosmetics spans at least 6000 years and includes almost every society on earth. Some argue that cosmetic body art was the earliest form of ritual in human culture, dating over 100,000 years ago from the African Middle Stone Age.  During the early years of the 20th century, make-up became fashionable in the United States of America and Europe owing to the influence of ballet and theatre stars such as Mathilde Kschessinska and Sarah Bernhardt. But the most influential new development of all was that of the movie industry in Hollywood.  It is now a common practice.

However there have been recent arguments as to the use of make-up in regards to children, especially when competing in child beauty pageants.  Many regard the use of make-up as a tool to ‘sexualize’ children.  This also raises the question, is the goal of using make-up on adult women to ‘sexualize’ women?  Or is make-up simply used to enhance ones appearance of beauty and health?

This is currently a hotly debated topic with advocates on both sides.

The interesting thing about this debate is the fact that people wear make-up for a wide range of reasons and most are not to enhance a sexual presence.  For example actors spends hours with make-up artistic prior to a movie shoot or commercial.  The demand is so high that make-up artistic and earn an average of $50,000 a year for their services.  Virtually every photo-shoot has a make-up artist on staff.  So the question is, does make-up on a child sexualize the child?  We spoke with Kaley (a full-time make-up artist working in the fashion industry) about this topic to get a better understanding of this issue.  According to Kaley the use of make-up as a way to enhance ones healthy appearance is not in anyway akin to bolstering or achieving a a sexual image.  “Make-up is a valuable tool to help us achieve a healthy and more aesthetically pleasing appearance and in no way does automatically result in a sexual goal“.

Of course this is not to say that make-up cannot be used to enhance the attractiveness of a person which could then lead to a more ‘sexy’ look.  Attractive people (especially females are often viewed as sexy) and this is simply a product of nature.  The key is how you apply the make-up and what type of look you are seeking.  It seems odd to think that simply adding make-up to a child would change the child into a sexual object, but there are many people that believe this is ultimately the end result of such practice.

According to a recent poll on the use of beauty enhancements in child beauty pageants, one posted related the following; “I firmly believe that the use of cosmetics is okay. It’s a beauty pageant. I understand all the “natural beauty” stuff, but if the goal is to get the child to look prettier I think that cosmetics should be allowed.”

For more information on beauty pageants and currently active events, please check out our webpage.

What are your thoughts?  If you enjoyed this article please share it and leave a comment below.


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