By Hannah Phillips
A mum who has spent £10,000 on her 10-year-old daughter’s dream to become a beauty pageant queen has hit back at trolls shaming the contests.
Lou Handy, 37, has splashed out thousands on travel to competitions, false lashes, dresses and fake tan for daughter Mia.
Lou has been entering Mia into beauty pageant competitions since she was six after they caught an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras on TV and said they have boosted her daughter’s confidence after she was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Mia currently holds the title of International Junior Miss UK pre-teen, which has seen waitress Lou fork out on a £3,100 trip to Florida and trips to Paris and Texas where the pre-teen has competed in beauty pageants.
But in the past, Lou has been forced to defend herself and other mums against comments that they are ‘disgusting’ for allowing their daughters to wear makeup and fake tan.
The mum-of-three, from Worthing, West Sussex, said: “Over the four years, absolutely everything from Mia’s travel, to outfits, hotels and eyelashes definitely pushes the £10,000 barrier.
“There’s quite a lot of backlash, but it’s a sport – a competition.
“People think we’re dressing our children up as 25-year-old models and they’re being judged only on their faces.
“I’ve got friends who say they wouldn’t do it with their child, they think I’m crazy but its each to their own.
“When she has a show, she practices her walk for 20 mins every day, and she practices for interviews which is an essential life skill.
“When she has job interviews when she’s older she’ll smash them.”
Mia was diagnosed with absence epilepsy when she was seven, which causes her to black out and her body to stop functioning.
But Lou said pageants have helped her gain confidence – and has urged trolls to stop slamming the young competitors on social media.
She said: “All the other beauty queens say ‘it’s ok, you’re different’.
“They say it’s her unique thing and everybody has something special – her epilepsy is her special thing.
“It’s a community, a sisterhood of support.
“If you wouldn’t go up to someone and say it to their face then don’t say it online. People think that social media is this magical place where there aren’t any consequences.
“People need to realise, Mia is 10, she’s old enough to look through my phone and see comments and when she’s done an event she always wants to know what people have been saying.
“I wouldn’t dream of commenting on a photo of someone’s so why do people think it’s alright to do that to us.”
Lou said friends of hers have told her she’s crazy for dedicating so much time and money into pageants when she has two other sons – Charlton, 14, and Arthur, 7.
But she suspects Mia will want to continue competing in pageants and is happy to support her, despite the criticism of her parenting.
She also insisted the outfits worn by the contestants are age appropriate – with no two pieces and midriffs showing – and are no different to what a dancer of the same age would wear.
Lou added: “Mia has had stick at school, little girls being little girls when she’s gone in really proud and taken her crown she’s had the odd comment like ‘so you think you’re the queen of the world’.
“But she’s got bounce back ability, she bounces back from anything that’s gone on.
“She works really hard, she’s a kid with values – she’s got drive.
“She’s not interested in sitting at home and staring at a screen, she wants to be out doing stuff.
“She loves it and I’m having a blast going with her, if she decides she’s done then we’ll sell the dresses and move on to something else.”