Waikato girls as young as eight are practicing, preening and primping for a beauty pageant next month, but the organiser says the contest is a far cry from the American-styled pageant headed for our shores next year.
Miss Hamilton organiser Sheryl Oliver, back this week from the Miss Teen World Pageant in Texas, said the Miss Pre Teen Princess category for eight-to-12 year-olds included in the Miss Hamilton pageant next month was a first for Pageants of New Zealand.
There has been an online outpouring of dismay since it was revealed yesterday that United States group Universal Royalty plans to bring its pageant show, involving make-up caked tots, to New Zealand next June despite the pageant in Australia raising a storm of controversy in Melbourne last month.
But Mrs Oliver was confident her pageant would be different.
"I'm not against these little ones being in pageants, but I don't think they should be made to look like adults," Mrs Oliver said.
"There could be some creepy people out there with the wrong intentions."
Mrs Oliver said all little girls loved to dress up, but the excessive use of make-up, hair extensions and other beautifying techniques, and the pressure from mothers for their daughters to perform was over-the-top in the United States. "It's the American way of life."
She was surprised to hear babies as young as 11 months old had been entered in the Australian competition, and she questioned what the prizes were, given the entry fee was A$295 (NZ$366).
Mrs Oliver said her pageant would be a "natural" competition where personality and confidence on stage were more important than make-up.
The most important thing was the girls wanted to participate, and there was already strong interest in her September 24 show.
Professor Emeritus Jane Ritchie, who has spent decades advocating for women's rights, was disappointed to learn child beauty pageants were coming to New Zealand.
Dr Ritchie said it was "not good enough" to use the excuse that young girls enjoyed being in the pageants as a reason for holding them.
"What is there to gain from it? "That people make money out of vulnerable young girls and their rather stupid mothers."
"We've know for so long about how harmful pageants are ... where do you think eating disorders come from?"
Dr Ritchie said it was a paradox of today's society that women had more freedom than ever before, but also more pressure to conform to social ideals on appearance, and beauty pageants fuelled the problem.
"I thought New Zealand had avoided that scourge of America."
- Waikato Times