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Inspired by the likes of the Miss America contest that began in 1921, beauty pageants have grown into a pastime that has spread across the United States, among other countries, and simultaneously become a controversial subject. Beauty pageants pit girls against each other in competitions of beauty and talent, and even girls as young as 4 or 5 are encouraged to enter their own contests. The nature of beauty pageants has thus drawn some criticism.

Confidence Building

For shy girls, entry into a beauty pageant can be intimidating, but it may be the incentive they need to overcome their fear of social situations and thus develop greater confidence as a result. Since beauty pageant contestants are often required to speak to an audience or even perform a demonstration of a talent, shy girls are placed in the spotlight and may find that this environment forces them to be more extroverted. Plus, performing well in a beauty pageant is a huge confidence boost.

Pageants Are Social

Beauty pageants are competitions, but they’re also social events where the participants will have plenty of time to talk to each other, share in their common interest and hopefully make new friends. For girls who have recently arrived in a new area or just want to meet new people, beauty pageants are one way of branching out. Their social nature helps girls to develop their people skills, too.

Competition Is Good

A common reason why people take part in team sports, chess games and other kinds of contests is that any sort of competition is fun. It galvanizes people to work hard, to establish goals and to enjoy themselves at the same time. Competition also teaches younger people lessons, such as the importance of good sportsmanship.

Parents Take Over

Beauty pageants are often attended because the child has an interest in them, but sometimes, especially with younger girls, the enthusiasm for the competition begins to lie more with the parents than the entrant herself. Some girls lose their passion for the pageants and want out but are pressured to continue by their parents, who become overbearing in their desire for their daughter to succeed. Such pressure can antagonize relationships between parents and their daughters.

Materialism and Sexualization

While beauty pageants consist of several elements, it’s hard to deny that at their heart, these contests are about beauty. The emphasis placed on looking good and materialistic concerns, especially at a young age, is a cause for worry, since it may lead to the contestants' believing that these attributes are all that matters as they grow up. As the Professor’s House website suggests, some pageant entrants are taught sexualized behavior before they become adults, fueling fears that these kids grow up too early.