Lifestyle

US-style child beauty pageant arrives in Perth with kids as young as six months allowed to enter


A US-style child beauty pageant featuring children as young as six months has arrived in Perth, reigniting debate about whether they are a dangerous form of “child abuse” or harmless fun.

Spray tans, fake nails and photos airbrushed so their subjects resemble dolls are welcome — but not mandatory — at this month’s Glitz & Co pageant, where contestants ranging from six months to 38 years old are judged on routines and technique while modelling different outfits.

Fans say pageants are a fun way to build confidence, and liken them to dance competitions, which can involve make-up and elaborate costumes.

Critics say pageants should be banned because they encourage girls to equate their value with their appearance and risk sexualising children.

Director Michaella Evans said the pageant, which is not open to the public, was the first of its kind in WA.

Director Michaella Evans said the pageant, which is not open to the public, was the first of its kind in WA. 
Camera IconDirector Michaella Evans said the pageant, which is not open to the public, was the first of its kind in WA.  Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

“What we say to a contestant is you do what you’re comfortable doing,” she said.

“It’s not like the girls are on show. The girls are not penalised for wearing less make-up. We have limitations on how short their dresses are.”

The contestant handbook says participants will be judged on their “technique and attire” but not on their “physical appearance”. It also encourages “over the top, blinged costumes and dresses” and says fake tans, fake nails, hairpieces and flippers (fake teeth) are allowed but not required.

Illona Perovic’s 11-year-old daughter Lexi will be one of 22 contestants to take part in Perth. She said pageants had been a positive experience, building Lexi’s confidence and helping her raise money for charity.

Illona Perovic’s 11-year-old daughter Lexi will be one of 22 contestants to take part in Perth.
Camera IconIllona Perovic’s 11-year-old daughter Lexi will be one of 22 contestants to take part in Perth. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

“It’s meant to build the girls up, to give them self-worth,” she said. “It’s not all about beauty and that shallow appeal.

“I wanted to make Lexi feel like she was beautiful in her own skin. She’s always loved fashion, she’s always loved modelling.

“It’s totally built her up. We’ve always talked to her about the fact that she doesn’t need make-up to be beautiful, we don’t put an emphasis on winning.”

Prominent Australian adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg would like to see child beauty pageants banned, likening them to “a form of child abuse”.

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