Beauty Pageants...for Two-Year-Olds?

by Savannah O'Leary
Cole Bennetts/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

To those of you who take pleasure in the ruthless competition of America’s Next Top Model and Miss Universe pageants, keep your eyes peeled for the nation's latest contender: Laila Smith, the 2-year-old girl from Indianapolis who will be competing in the Sunburst International Beauty Pageant on Thursday. Her mother, Ebony Roberts, is understandably catching flack for entering her daughter into the competition.

Having little experience with toddlers myself, I took to Google to refresh my memory on what 2-year-olds are capable of. According to, a 24-month-old child can speak and be understood about half the time. Hopefully that’s just enough for Smith to participate with her competitors.

Mothers are often criticized for filling their kids schedule with endless activities — gymnastics, swimming lessons, piano training, extracurriculars at school. Many believe that when children spend too much in these kinds of environments they become anxious and overly competitive. Can you imagine the damage a beauty pageant might have on a child's development?

Personally, I think there is no age when beauty contests become “appropriate” — regardless of age, they foster distorted values and self-obsessed attitudes.

News of Smith's debut to the beauty pageant stage is reminiscent of the news of 4-year-old Scarlett from the UK, whose mother dressed her up in a Hooters waitress costume to compete in beauty pageants.

In her defense, the girl's 33-year-old mother said:

Some people may say it's controversial, especially the theme I've chosen, but at the end of the day, little girls wear swimming costumes to the beach all summer, and that's not a controlled environment. The environment my kids go in is a controlled environment and it is ticket-entry only.

Oooh. As long as it's a ticket-entry only situation, no harm done.

Since I don't see this perverse industry disappearing altogether any time soon, perhaps it's time we put an age limit on these horrific competitions. If mother's don't have the proper discretion to keep their kids away from the pageant stage, at least the judges might.

Image: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images