Melbourne, Australia brings us a bizarre story about a mother of a little girl with autism who entered her daughter in a child beauty contest with neurotypical fellow contestants and is now protesting its outcome.
Leonie Myles was shocked and furious when her nine-year-old daughter, Tahnee, won a prize for best personality, despite her autism. She contended that her daughter’s lack of social skills could not possibly qualify her for best personality and was offended by the prize, as if it were some sort of cruel joke.
The judges maintained the contest was about making children feel good about themselves and stood by their decision.
One look at a picture of Tahnee shows a radiant little girl, full of exuberance and warmth.
Are good social skills really necessary to have a great personality? I think not.
The unfiltered exuberance of a child with autism, their spontaneity and presence in the moment are true gifts. Yes, they can meltdown, yes they can careen through social situations without a clue, but personality is an inner light shared with the world. This mother is sending a negative message to her daughter by objecting to this award.
My personal feelings about child beauty pageants are entirely negative and a very vocal segment of Melbourne’s population is of the same mind.
There is a pageant for special needs children that operates out of Arizona and perhaps the mother of this little girl could channel her energy towards creating something similar in her own country.