How Bri­tain is em­brac­ing Amer­i­can-style pageants

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at great ex­pense and the most suc­cess­ful girls have train­ers to teach them per­fect pos­ture and in­ter­view tech­nique. Halle won’t have to pay to take part in the Florida fi­nals – her suc­cess in the UK com­pe­ti­tion se­cured her a free place – and the fairy­tale dress, which helped her to the crown, cost just £60. How­ever, she is be­ing trained, via Skype, by pro­fes­sional US pageant coach Cyrus Frakes-Kings. He is the star of an­other Amer­i­can re­al­ity se­ries, King of the Crown, and is blessed with that pe­cu­liarly transat­lantic way of speak­ing As the blurb on the Gowns and Crowns web­site of which he is CEO puts it, Cy is good at “un­der­stand­ing you can’t buy con­fi­dence, but you can build it. Cy teaches in­di­vid­ual classes giv­ing each client the free­dom and pri­vacy to dis­cover their own in­di­vid­u­al­ity through pageantry.” “He is to­tally full on,” ad­mits Robyn, who is mar­ried to for­mer rugby league player Glenn Mor­ri­son, who is now head coach at Dews­bury Rams. “He is ex­actly what you would imag­ine an Amer­i­can beauty pageant trainer would be, but he’s been great for Halle. “She is a bril­liant gym­nast, so she is used to per­form­ing in that sense, but there is also an in­ter­view el­e­ment to the pageants and in that very Bri­tish way Halle tends to be a bit too mod­est about her achieve­ments. Cy is there re­ally to give her a bit of ad­vice, to tell her it’s OK to talk about the medals she has won. “There are some kids who are ba­si­cally be­ing prepped for pageants as they come out of the womb, but that kind of beauty queen breed­ing is much more com­mon in Amer­ica. I’m not go­ing to say there are no pushy par­ents over here. Of course there are. There are mums who live vi­car­i­ously through their chil­dren, but I don’t think that’s unique to pageants. You see them at dance schools, at ju­nior foot­ball clubs. “But pageants do have a bit of an un­fair rep­u­ta­tion. Peo­ple think the at­mos­phere is re­ally bitchy, but it’s not. In fact it’s com­pletely the op­po­site. Halle has al­ready made so many friends and there is a con­fi­dence which comes with this kind of per­form­ing. It sounds a cliche, I know, but it is like a fam­ily. “Peo­ple say that it makes lit­tle girls grow up too quickly, but I just don’t see that. In the ju­nior com­pe­ti­tion there’s no swimwear sec­tion, the only make-up they wear is a lit­tle bit of mascara. It re­ally is just about hav­ing fun in gor­geous dresses. What lit­tle girl wouldn’t want to do that?” Ask Halle what she en­joys about com­pet­ing to be a beauty queen and she gives a pageant-win­ning re­sponse. “I like meet­ing the other girls and rais­ing money for char­ity,” she says, ex­plain­ing that all the con­tes­tants in Galaxy UK are en­cour­aged to sup­port a par­tic­u­lar good cause. This year it was the Christie Char­ity, which sup­ports can­cer suf­fer­ers and their fam­i­lies, and while the fi­nal fig­ures aren’t in the or­gan­is­ers reckon they’ve raised £36,000. “I saw my mum com­pet­ing and it just looked like a lot of fun. I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t. When I won my first pageant I didn’t know whether to take my crown into school or not, but my friends wanted to see it and now a lot of them want to take part too.” It’s that kind of word of mouth which has seen Amer­i­canstyle pageants take off in Bri­tain. Ten years ago child beauty con­tests didn’t ex­ist in this coun­try. Now there are in ex­cess of 20 and ones like the Mini Miss Sparkle UK have six cat­e­gories start­ing with the un­der twos. Holly Pir­rie, her­self a for­mer beauty queen, started the UK fran­chise of the Galaxy con­test in 2008 and last year it had more than 2,000 en­tries for its ju­nior com­pe­ti­tion. “Five years ago it would have been half that, prob­a­bly less,” she says. “I think the rise has largely been down to so­cial me­dia which has al­lowed peo­ple to see what th­ese pageants are re­ally all about. I guess it’s come full cir­cle. My mum grew up watch­ing Miss World on the tele­vi­sion and she passed her love of th­ese con­tests onto me. “In the 1970s with the rise of the fem­i­nist move­ment tra­di­tional beauty con­tests

Halle-Blu Mor­ri­son with her mum Robyn. Both mother and daugh­ter have won ti­tles on the beauty pageant cir­cuit

Pic­tures: Tony John­son

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