Former Child Beauty Pageant Contesants Share What It Was Really Like.

'Toddlers & Tiaras' painted a sort of nightmare picture of child beauty pageants, although there is some truth to that lifestyle. But what is it really like participating in these competitions? What do the children have to say?

Below are people who compete in beauty pageants when they were younger telling us what it was actually like, as told on AskReddit. Check them out! Sources to even more stories can be found on the last page.

I was never forced, I asked my parents to do pageants at age 10 or so and they complied. I was in pageants for roughly 4 years. I met many amazing friends and continue to keep in contact with some of them

Best experience: Probably the confidence and speaking skills I gained. A big part of pageants are the interview portions, in which contestants are supposed to get their ideas on controversial topics across in diplomatic ways. I think learning to do that so early really helped me in other areas as I got older

Worst experience: The majority of people I met in pageants were nice, but there were one or two I could do without. One pageant I ended up winning my division over a girl I'd been in a pageant or two with before. When I got to the dressing room afterwards to change, her mother was ranting about me winning, saying it was rigged, I didn't deserve it. I honestly didn't care, and my mom didn't want to get involved so she was just trying to help me get out of there as soon as possible. Another mom told her to watch her mouth, and she flew off the handle. She started SCREECHING and ranting, calling me names and all of that. My mom scurried me out of the room, and as we got to the door the other mom flung her daughter's trophy at me, missed, and it hit the wall so hard that the marble split in two. I actually saw the daughter at another pageant and a cheer competition, it was awkward.


When I  was about four my mom put me in a pageant. She refused to put any makeup on me, put me in clothes from The Gap, and kept me all natural. I ended up winning against all the glitzy little girls and when the announcer pulled me off stage, he popped my shoulder out of my socket and I had to go to the emergency room. They invited me back but my mom was furious and I never did them again.


I wasn't forced, but I did compete in a dozen or so pageants between the ages of 5-8. My next door neighbor did them and I was jealous of the cool dresses she got to wear, so I asked my mom if I could do them, too. They were nothing like the ones you see on Toddlers & Tiaras. No fake tans or flippers or that weird modelling/strutting/posing. When I decided I didn't want to do it anymore, I stopped.

Best - Frilly dresses. Trophies. New friends, many of whom came from money, and had lots of sleepovers and pool parties. 

Worst - Sponge rollers. I'm sure cheerleaders and dancers can relate.


I used to do them once every couple months between the ages of 3-10. I can't pinpoint the worst experiences. I remember there being a huge plate of Oreos backstage and none of the other girls were eating them. I thought "wow, I am so lucky. I'm going to eat all of them." Before I get to the plate my Mom came backstage and saw what I was about to do, she told me "Those were put there because they know Oreos will mess up your smile.. it's a trick, don't eat them." That kind of sucked. 

Another time I was 5 and this bratty little girl who's family obviously had tons of money ran up to me and said "You're no competition to me, you're UGLY." my 5 year old mind snapped back so quickly and said "You're the ugly one, fat nose." Making my entire family and families around me laugh while she ran away obviously fighting back tears. That was a pretty great moment. 


I did this really small town one. I actually ended up enjoying it, except I didn't know we had to say a speech. I wrote it last minute and it was total bullcrap, but I was second runner up and got free pizza.


I did a few pageants when I was young, but that was a long time ago in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I think pageants were a little different back then than they are now.

I didn't really want to do them, but my mother felt they would help me be more "lady like".

The Cotton patch one was the last one I did. I got a huge trophy, but I ended up getting very angry after the pageant because the little girl that won "Miss Congeniality" was the brattiest, most arrogant, and meanest child I had ever encountered. It made me mad that she won and I realized how artificial it all was.

After I stopped doing pageants, my mom's next effort was "Etiquette Classes". My poor mom. None of it ever worked.


My sister did a pageant when she was 4 or 5 and her answer to everything was 'Michael Jackson'. That was the end of that.


My mom started me in pageants before I was a year old. I was forced to do them until I was 12. As early as I can remember I hated them. Straight up bawling my eyes out while getting hair and makeup done which got me yelled at and spanked in circles a lot. There were no best moments, I hated every bit of it and its seriously caused a lot of resentment towards my mother.


I was in a pageant once. I was ten. I realized that I sucked at speaking on the spot. In the interview part, I came up with a crappy answer to "If you had one wish, what would it be?" I said, "Ummm well, I'd have to say a million dollars." I SHOULD HAVE SAID WORLD PEACE! except I would have hated myself even more if I would have done that. 

But it was really fun because I was asked to come back as an escort for an older category pageant and that was really fun! It wasn't a glitz pageant and it was really small. I mean, there were only six trophies and five participants. I thought it was fun. It wasn't scarring at all and my mom was, for the most part, normal through out the whole thing.


My mom forced me to do a boys youth pageant. I seriously have no idea what the hell she was thinking. But I remember a lot of boys showing up for the practices and whatnot. The grand prize was a HUGE, massive collection of 1000 Matchbox/Hot Wheels cars. I remember thinking that was really cool because I was only like 6 years old at the time. Then time for the pageant came and we went to the elementary school auditorium. I wore a little black tuxedo with a carnation. When I arrived there was only one other boy there.

The pageant was really embarrassing for me for the obvious reason that boys don't do this kind of thing. But the actual pageant was bad because it was nothing like the rehearsals and I completely embarrassed myself because I was walking the wrong way.

I remember the lady on stage telling me I was not doing it right and then I walked off stage.

I lost and got a Mickey Mouse watch for 2nd place.


I did a local pageant for my city. It was a really cool experience. I stood out from the other participants because I was there just for fun. Instead of the practiced, beauty-queen attitude, I just went in acted like myself.

For part of the pageant, we had to wear nautical-themed gear. (I live on a bay, thus the yearly influx of fish flies) I dressed as a fly fisher and managed to get my fishing line stuck on one of the stage curtains. I was mortified, but I just played it off with a laugh.

I ended up being crowned as the queen. That was pretty awesome. Not a big pageant, but whenever I'm feeling a little self confident, I just remember that I'm a former beauty queen. 


I was in several pageants when I was younger, from age 5 to age 11.

The best part was dressing up. I was a total princess as a little girl and wearing all the sparkly dresses and having my hair done was like a fairytale. I always pretended I was a Disney princess going to a ball! The tiaras I won made the dream more real.

The worst part was the day I quit. I was just starting to go through puberty and I had progressed out of the stick-thin stage a lot of young girls go through in childhood. One of the "pageant moms" walked up to me when I was getting dressed and pinched my stomach, hard.

"What's that," she said, smirking, "a little bit of flab?"

Until that day I never felt self-conscious about my body before. She told me the judges wouldn't like me if I didn't "cut down on the doughnuts, princess!"

I was in tears. I never went back. I was having fun pretending to be a princess and they made me feel worthless just because my body was changing and I wasn't thin as a rail anymore.

I only wanted to play dress-up.


I'm a former mini Miss South Carolina, among some other titles. Mostly it was how uncomfortable the dresses were and the extensive makeup process.

One day I said I didn't want to do it, that I was sick. My grandmother made me anyway. I said screw it, and went out there and vomited from the heat (the lights, it taking place in a Charleston summer, and the very hot dress was a recipe for making a child vomit) and went out with throw up on me anyway in front of what seemed like a thousand people. She also had me do things that seem creepy now, like wink at the judges.

The best experience was watching my dad plan ahead for it, this construction worker in his early twenties, and if I got a trophy he would put me on his shoulders and parade me and the trophy around the neighborhood.


My mother would have forced me into these had my dad not been around to stop her. I had to take dance class instead, and the studio ran a beauty contest for the older girls.

I wasn't old enough to participate, but we were basically being prepped for the contest. The lady who owned the studio was super critical and was known to encourage her students to starve themselves.

My mother, like most of the moms there, was using it as an excuse to live out her childhood fantasies through me. Some of the girls really did enjoy it though and truly wanted to be there. Don't ask me why, I quit as soon as my mom moved out.


I was a male contestant in several competitions. My mom only did it because I, a toddler, said that I wanted to try and win a trophy there. We competed for a few years, but it was never as stressful as you'd expect. 

Most of the shows I was in involved me watching SpongeBob in my pull ups for a few hours in our hotel, then getting dressed in a tiny suit and brushing my hair. I actually did win a few trophies and a tiny crown. 

Mom had the opportunity to take it much further, but she told me it'd be much more serious, so no more SpongeBob before the show. I said "Well what's the point then?" and we never went again.


I competed in pageants from ages 2-7. 

I've always been a super girly girl and I love hanging out with girlfriends now but I remember being overwhelmed by the amount of people backstage. 

The best part of competing were the competitions that were far enough to where we would have to stay in a hotel (I was obsessed with room service). 

The hardest part would be the long days. My mom would have to wake me up early (like 5:30 or 6am) to start getting me ready for my first competition at 10AM. I eventually burned out but I learned about stage presence and manners from an early age. My experience wasn't like Toddlers and Tiaras or anything like that.


I did a Disney-sponsored/themed pageant when I was eight. Honestly, my family and I were and still are far from those sparkly showbiz types, but my parents decided "hey, could be fun" and I joined.

My talent was singing (note: I can't actually sing, but I couldn't dance, twirl batons either so singing it was!) I was taking lessons from a nice voice coach (just a regular voice teacher, not those pushy, competitive types) at the time, so I took weekly lessons, and my song was 'Colors of the Wind' from Pocahontas. I can still remember every word of that song...ah, memories.

Since I wasn't a pageant-bred girlie and entered just for giggles, the whole thing went over pretty nicely for me. In comparison to a lot of the other girls, my parents did not spend as much stress and money on dresses, makeup, talent coaches, etc. My Pocahontas costume was thrown together at home and I wore a total of two formal dresses during the contest--one was my mother's old gown, tailored to fit me, and another was a newer one borrowed from a fellow contestant who didn't make it as far. I remember having my hair and makeup done a lot and being given lots of cool Disney-themed clothes and being asked questions by a pretty lady. All in all, it left me with little to no emotional trauma and I ended up placing 2nd runner-up, which was pretty surprising considering the lack of sparkles and complexity in my pageant entry. 

The first place winner though--I remember her quite clearly. She was a gorgeous little girl, and I found out she did do the whole beauty pageantry thing and had been in competitions around the country. Her gowns were substantially more elaborate than some of ours and she was trained to do the whole wave-and-smile, catwalk-and-prettiness shebang. Her talent piece was a dance routine performed to the Prince Ali Baba song from Aladdin--and she did the whole thing in a belly dancer's costume, gauzy harem pants and face veil and belly shirt, the whole thang. Naturally, it wasn't much of a surprise when she got first place.


Points have been edited for clarity.

Sources: 1,2

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