‘Late Late’ warned over child pageants

Late Late Show chiefs have been urged to “think very carefully” about giving airtime to organisers and young stars of a contentious US-themed child pageant in an upcoming show.

The flagship RTÉ programme is planning to broadcast a segment later this month, the evening before a controversial €20,000 pageant featuring babies and toddlers takes place at a secret venue in Dublin.

Among the guests will be 8-year-old Eden Wood, America’s most famous underage model, who is travelling to Ireland with the billing of ‘star attraction’ of the glitzy Texas-based Universal Royalty event.

The mother of Cork starlet Aisling Murphy, 9, has also been invited for an interview alongside her daughter, as well as Eden’s Arkansas-based mother Mickie, and Universal Royalty boss Annette Hill.

Such is the media interest in the event — the first of its kind to take place on Irish soil — that Montrose researchers have urged the pageant’s stars’ mothers and organisers to grant them an exclusive interview and not to speak to other broadcast outlets before them.

However, children’s watchdogs have warned Late Late Show bosses to “think very carefully” about giving the pageant publicity.

Consultant psychologist Gillian Moore-Groarke said: “The more exposure that child pageants get in the media, the more popular they are likely to become and the more vulnerable children will be.

“I’d like to know what the purpose is of the Late Late Show broadcasting this. If the segment does go ahead, then at least there needs to be a reasoned debate on this, so that parents are made aware of the dangers.”

Dr Moore-Groarke, who runs a clinic in Wilton in Cork, urged parents to give serious thought about entering their children in the pageant, warning that they could be mentally scarred.

“In cases like this, it’s more parents fulfilling their own needs rather than doing anything that will benefit children,” she said. “It puts huge pressure on children to succeed because they want to win the competition for their parents, and the child can end up with mental health problems later in life and develop an obsession about their looks.

“It’s not natural and it’s bad parenting to put a child forward for this. It’s also imposing a sexuality on kids prematurely.

“Young girls who take part in these competitions will certainly be a lot more vulnerable to anorexia and bulimia, because they are getting the message that how they look is the most important thing and that people will judge them on their appearance.”

A spokeswoman for the Late Late Show said she was not in a position to confirm whether the programme will run a segment on the pageant.

However, both Stephanie Murphy and Mickie Wood said approaches have been made for them to appear on the show on Sept 20.

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