Organizers of one of America's most controversial child pageants have announced plans to stage their first-ever Irish beauty contest this summer.
The contentious event, which features toddlers parading in swimwear, had been scheduled to take place under heavy security at a mystery hotel last Saturday, January 19.
However, much to the relief of children's watchdogs, Texas-based Universal Royal Beauty Pageant unexpectedly cancelled the contest earlier this month.
However, Universal Royal's boss Annette Hill said she has only postponed the pageant and insisted she has no plans whatsoever to pull the plug on her Irish pageant dreams.
She said reports that there had been a lack of interest from Irish parents were "completely untrue" and claimed a combination of factors, including her own TV commitments and a mix-up over the entry forms, had prompted her to change the pageant date to later this summer.
And in what is likely to be a further blow to children's watchdogs, she said she has received messages of interest from 3,000 Irish parents, which she insists would enable her to stage a pageant here "many times over."
She said, "Any suggestion we have pulled out of Ireland for good is totally false. After the U.S. and Australia, our next biggest fan base is over in Ireland. I've received about 3,000 emails from people in Ireland, all who are interested in entering their children into the event.
“So, with all that interest, it would be absolutely crazy for me not to stage a pageant over there. In fact there's enough interest for me to come over and hold many pageants over successive days."
She added, "There's a few reasons we've moved the date. The main one is that there was confusion over the entry forms, for which payment was still in dollars rather than euros, and it meant hardly anyone got them in on time. I blame myself for not making the paperwork clearer, but I've also got a lot of TV commitments this month which I have to fulfill.
"I also thought it would be better to have the event in the summer, rather than the winter. But we will definitely be over later in the year, most likely July or August."
Universal Royal is the pageant that featured most on the hit TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras, which made a star out of seven-year-old Alana Thompson, known to the world as Honey Boo Boo Child. She and her family have their own TLC show, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, which attracted record ratings for TLC when it premiered last year.
Toddlers & Tiaras documents children as young as three or four decked out in false eyelashes and hair extensions and wearing push-up padded bras.
In one infamous episode, a two-year-old was filmed dancing to a Madonna song in a white angel robe, which she ripped off to reveal a form-fitting gold bodysuit.
Children's watchdogs and child psychologists have been vocal in their opposition to such "grotesque contests,” warning that the long-term effects on children who take part could be devastating.
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