Toddlers and Tears: A positive look at child beauty pageants

By Mandy Morgan

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Nov. 17 2012 10:50 p.m. MST

Ashley Berry, a nationally recognized anti-bullying advocate, on the air of the BYOU radio show.

Anna Berry

Television shows such as "Toddlers and Tiaras" and "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" have introduced millions to the pageant world, but that coverage of the child pageant world is limited and sensationalized to those who see the positives of involvement in pageants.

Anna Berry of Littleton, Colo., competed from pre-teen pageants up through the Mrs. category, and now has a 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, who considers beauty pageants her sport.

Ashley Berry was 10 years old before her mother let her begin entering pageants again, after having done a few at 5 years old. She fell in love with competing, and three years later is "the most well-poised, outspoken young lady you will meet," said her mother. Ashley is a national spokesperson for an anti-bullying campaign and an active community volunteer.

The Toddlers and Tiaras industry has a negative impact on the public's view of pageants, and Berry believes it takes away the positive side to what the girls are doing. Ashley actually competed in many natural pageants before turning 13 — meaning no makeup was allowed while the girls were on stage or points were docked. Focus lay in the interview, talent and service aspects.

However, Berry believes there is nothing wrong with children competing in the pageants if it is a hobby and something they like, instead of something they are forced to do or too young to even understand.

"I understand why public perspective tends to be so negative about the competitions, because they are little girls. I wish the public saw more about the experience we get," Berry said. "Pageants (Ashley) does are geared toward making her a better person and giving to the community, and can help her receive scholarship money. We take it very seriously, but she's a kid outside of that."

Berry believes, that though the sensationalized view of children and youth pageants is portrayed on reality shows, there are positive aspects and effects to be found for many girls who choose to make it a hobby.

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