Watching "Toddlers and Tiaras" is often horrifying, but there's at least one pageant out there for children and teens that celebrates inner beauty -- The Pageant of Hope.
Created in 2006 by former Miss Georgia Teen USA winner Jena Sims, The Pageant of Hope is a noncompetitive pageant that gives children and teens who face serious illnesses and challenges the opportunity to be a prince or princess for a day. According to Sim's website, the pageant invites boys and girls of all ages to "shine in the spotlight in front of family and friends and be celebrated for who they are."
For Sims, there's nothing quite like hearing your name called when you win a pageant, and she wanted to share that amazing feeling with children who are living with illness or facing challenges. When the kids arrive at the pageant they get the full treatment -- hair, makeup, nails --and then they learn the essentials, like how to walk on the stage. "We just basically try to treat them like kings and queens," she says.
Sims is constantly inspired by the children she's met through the pageant and often continues to mentor them long after the pageant is over. She admits that shows like "Toddlers and Tiaras" give pageants a bad reputation, but she argues that pageants can be a positive experience for kids, as a way to help them build confidence, gain stage presence, and build communication skills. But other pageants aside, Sim's pageant focuses on "not what you look like on the outside, but your inner beauty," she says.
Since starting the pageant six years ago, Sims has helped more than 800 children across the United States, South Africa and Cuba, celebrate themselves for how amazing they are.