Are Pageants As Bad As We Think They Are?

miss america takes on the honey boo boo stereotype

by Nicole Cook, reigning Miss America

“Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” “Toddlers and Tiaras.” Did you just cringe?

You most likely did, considering the disgust that commonly goes along with these shows. Unfortunately, “Toddlers and Tiaras” and the characters in the show paint a negative and unrealistic picture of pageants in general, regardless of age. 

The children involved with these TV shows come across as selfish, spoiled or vain, and the parents seem to be living vicariously through their children or robbing them of their youth. Another perception suggests these young girls must achieve perfection, which may warp their perception of beauty instead of encouraging them to be happy and confident with their natural appearances. These ideas and stereotypes are damaging to the children and adults who participate in pageants who know how valuable the experiences and skills learned can be. 

The important thing to remember when it comes to shows like “Toddlers and Tiaras” is that they were made for television, and despite being dubbed as “reality,” most of what is portrayed is nowhere near realistic. These shows are like watching a train wreck; people can’t help but watch. The producers try to capture and display the most outrageous clips possible to keep viewers interested and ratings high.

Thanks to shows like these, there are multiple misconceptions regarding pageants. The first may be the idea that people who participate in pageants are vain and selfish. The reality is that more often than not, pageant participants acquire many valuable skills and resources that help them to be more confident and well-rounded individuals. My goal is to deconstruct the negative stereotype by drawing more attention to the countless benefits of pageant participation, some of which I’ve highlighted below.


Pageant participants are required to practice, learn routines, and perform skills on numerous occasions. This will get your child off the couch and away from the video games after school, as they will be motivated to learn and prepare for upcoming competitions. By understanding work ethic and dedication, pageant participants of any age learn the benefits of hard work and the feeling of accomplishment when they succeed in attaining their goals. 


Participants learn commitment, dedication, and the value of a dollar by earning, saving, and spending prize money wisely. They learn to value education as a gift via scholarships and other educational opportunities. Participants also understand social responsibility, as each pageant contestant will select a non-profit to advocate for. This gives participants the chance to learn more about their community, the hardships faced by many individuals, and how giving back through volunteer work is a rewarding and inspiring experience. 


Contestants learn proper manners, posture, and poise. They will practice vocabulary and speaking skills through the interview and on-stage question portions of the competition. They also develop excellent listening skills through coaching and stage directions.

Confidence and Humility

Participants gain confidence by showcasing their unique talents and abilities in front of a crowd. They learn the feeling of accomplishment in working hard towards a goal and achieving it. They also learn humility in supporting their fellow competitors.


Pageants unite people from all over the country — contestants spend time with other pageant participants playing, socializing, and building friendships. They also build skills in communicating with and taking direction from adults and peers. 

As you can see, pageants provide many useful life tools for participants of all ages. Just like any activity, it’s important to keep in mind the true purpose and benefits of participating. If you are — or have ever been — interested in participating in a pageant, I would suggest attending a competition in your area or doing research online to find out which pageant might fit you the best. Find out for yourself exactly what pageant life is about — the reality may be more surprising than watching Honey Boo Boo. 

Would you let your child participate in a pageant after watching reality-show kid competitions?

Photo Credit: TLC

Nicole (Rash) Cook is the founder of Royal Transformations, a company designed to help young women become more successful in pageants and in life. Nicole is a 28-year-old model, actress, spokesperson, and is the current Ms. America 2012. Having gone from a small town girl in Indiana to multi-pageant winner, Nicole is on a mission to help young women realize their dreams and be proud of their valuable pageantry experience. She welcomes anyone to reach out to her @BecomeRoyalT.

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