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Herald on Sunday: Teen pageants steal youth from our young

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Teenage pageants instil the false idea that beauty and superficial charm are the keys to success. Photo / Thinkstock
Teenage pageants instil the false idea that beauty and superficial charm are the keys to success. Photo / Thinkstock

Collette Lochore clearly lacks nothing in energy, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. During her tenure as Miss World New Zealand, she claims to have raised $26,000 to help children and the disadvantaged around the globe. She is teaching drama to youngsters aged 3 to 18. Such are her attributes that, at just 18, she was inducted as the youngest member of the New Lynn Rotary Club earlier this year.

It is all the more unfortunate, therefore, that her latest venture is a beauty pageant for teenage girls.

Lochore is visiting schools to drum up recruits for her competition, Miss Junior New Zealand. Her target age is girls aged 11 to 17. She insists the contest will be fun for children of all shapes and sizes, and there will be no revealing outfits or swimwear on show. Doubtless, the ploys that entice teenagers into such competitions in the United States and Britain will also be used. Potential entrants will hear how the contest will enhance their confidence, and how they will enjoy the thrill of competition.

Most alluringly of all, they will be told this could be their entry point to the world of modelling.

It is all nonsense, of course. Teenage pageants are no better than the wretched American contests featuring even younger girls. Both are guilty of early sexualisation and an unhealthy focus on physical appearance. They also instil the false idea that beauty and superficial charm are the keys to success. It is equally ridiculous for Lochore to claim her pageant will feature contestants of all shapes and sizes. Only those with a preternatural hankering for the unattainable goal of physical perfection will contemplate entry.

The teenage years are characterised by insecurities. Issues of self-esteem and body image are common. The intense scrutiny inherent in a beauty pageant is the last thing that most girls in this age group require. Such competition serves only to magnify customary teen insecurities. This, in turn, is a cue for the eating disorders that are a common byproduct of beauty pageants. When particularly insecure teenagers are involved, the potential for psychological damage can only be all the greater.

Lochore's experience of beauty pageants may have been beneficial to her. But she is part of a tiny minority. Even fewer girls would benefit from a teenage pageant. And far more would be harmed by so hypercritical an examination at such a sensitive time in their lives.

- Herald on Sunday

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