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Essence: Black Girls in Child Beauty Pageants

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With the popularity of shows like "Little Miss Perfect" and "Toddlers & Tiaras," investigates whether young black girls competing in beauty pageants is harmless fun or detrimental to the girls' self-esteem. The answer will surprise you. For most 5-year olds, dressing up in Mommy's stilettos and lipstick is a rare treat. But for pint-sized beauty queens, this is far from child's play. According to "The Tyra Banks Show," there are over 25,000 annual kiddie beauty pageants, which generate revenue to the tune of five billion dollars. And if child pageant-themed reality shows like "Little Miss Perfect" and "Toddlers & Tiaras" are to be believed, the number of little Black girls competing for the crown is on the rise. So, is putting false lashes on a preschooler simply a harmless act ... or just plain sick?

Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004 (the sixth Black woman to hold the title) and "Little Miss Perfect" judge, claims that child pageantry can actually improve the self-esteem of girls of color.

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