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Beauty pageants for children in Ireland - Maybe one Americanism too far

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As the old saying goes, when the US sneezes, the other side of Atlantic catches cold. And while we have benefited immensely from certain elements of American culture being introduced over here – rib joints, Dr Pepper, Neil Patrick Harris – there are a few things we could be doing with not traveling over. Child pageants, for example.

This week it emerged that the Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant would be hosting an event in Ireland in November this year. And on a very fundamental level, that really weirds me out.

Case in point: there are, apparently, three rounds to these things. The first is the gown, the second is the talent and the third is freestyle I guess, where in the words of the organizer Annette Hill, “the children can wear whatever they want to wow the judges”.

Furthermore, she also countered the notion these things are hyper-competitive, mini-Barbie fests by saying that everyone gets a trophy and “When you get to a certain age group, four and up, we do like a certain amount of hair and makeup, but just enough to accentuate their natural beauty.

Annette Hill is, according to her website, available to “teach your child modelling lessons” and offers a photo retouching service that “can add teeth, eyelashes, change backgrounds, remove blemishes, change colors, and lots more. We offer a low price for our retouching services, regardless of how much retouching your photo needs”.

I will now allow about ten minutes for your brain to reset, so you can process the lunacy of that last paragraph.

Welcome back. Apart from wanting me to take out my premise bazooka and blowing all this pageant business to kingdom come, I’m also full of questions. Confused, angry questions. Why should kids of five be actively trying to impress anyone, much less judges? Why does natural beauty need to be accentuated by any make up? Especially when you’re five bloody years of age? Why would you send photos of your child to a stranger to have them retouched? What the hell is wrong with you people?

I normally don’t like saying things like “kids should be kids” because that line has been essentially hijacked by culturally reactionary Ned Flanders types who use it as a means of sheltering young people from pretty much every fact of life beyond “Jesus is a smashing bloke”, but I will say it now: kids should be kids.

Below the age of ten, kids should fundamentally preoccupy themselves with the following:

1) Running for hours in no particular direction, just because you can.
2) Orchestrating a military-style climbing mission to get something from a high press.
3) Asking teachers can you spend the afternoon drawing.
4) Waking up bewildering early at the weekend to watch cartoons featuring unlikely animal friendships
5) Staying away from bloody pageants.

Here's some footage from a 2012 Universal Royalty Beauty Pageant award ceremony -

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