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Are Beauty Pageants Bad for Kids?

Hi Catherine,

I just read that they not going to allow child beauty pageants in France. Do they have them like we do, or is it more of a thing there? I know French women are supposed to be so beautiful.

My 5-year-old wants to enter a pageant, but I don’t think I can handle it.


Not Involved

Dear Not Involved,

The French are not messing around. If the new legislation—which was passed by the French senate but still needs to pass the National Assembly—is voted in, anyone that enrolls a child under the age of 16 in a beauty pageant in France could get a fat fine and two years in prison.


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What would they do with Mama June, the (in)famous mother of America’s #1 child beauty celebrity, Honey Boo Boo?

In truth, when I first read about the French ban, I was surprised that youth pageants were prevalent enough to warrant government involvement. I had asked many French parents about such contests in France when I was deep in my research on French parenting, and only a handful of Frenchies had heard of them. Thanks to likes of TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, unless you search for folks living under large rocks, you’d be hard pressed to find an American blissfully (or otherwise) unaware. A few French moms I polled thought they might have pageants for kids out in the countryside, but this was always presented to me as something akin to rumor.

The role of a French child is well defined, and it doesn’t include dressing up in stilettos and a swimsuit

To be clear, child beauty pageants like those depicted on reality television here are extremely unFrench. I should not have been astonished by the ban. The role of a French child is well defined, and it doesn’t include dressing up in stilettos and a swimsuit while being judged for poise and presentation. The lines are a little fuzzier here in the United States.

The issue in France first took flight in 2010 when French Vogue ran a 15 page spread, guest edited by Tom Ford, featuring a 10 year old actress sexed up in steep heels, gobs of make-up, and suggestive poses. Since then, there’s been a movement to curb the over-sexualization of young girls in the French media. As the mother with two young daughters, this sounds tres bon to me, and I’d like to see a similar campaign find its way across the Atlantic.

As far as banning youth beauty pageants, it looks like the French are just taking preventative measures. The ones they have—that are likely to be shut down soon—are so much tamer than the ones we have here.

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I’m now imagining a French version of the show Orange is the New Black, the dramedy about a yuppie serving a 15 month prison term. Have you seen it? They would have a field day with a convicted stage mom.

Thanks for the question, Not Involved.


Have a French (or any nationality) parenting question for Catherine? Email her at mommecs@bermanbraun.com.

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