I’m pageant mum – I hired a coach to help my five-year-old compete

3 months ago
A 'pageant mum' spends $1.5k on contests – and even hires a coach to help her five-year-old compete.

Jessica Merk, 37, put her daughter, Carleigh, five, forward for modelling when she was just three after her social media followers convinced her to.

Her little girl loved it so much, Jessica entered her into her state American Royal Beauties pageant and she won - becoming Princess Ohio 2022.

Carleigh went on to compete in the nationals which cost Jessica $1,500 on outfits, an entry fee, and a coach but she didn’t place.

But Jessica said Carleigh loved it and said the contests are “more than just a beauty pageant”.

Jessica, a cosmetologist, from Cincinnati, Ohio, US, said: “I do it for her confidence.

“She loves it.

“You can see her beam.

“I had to hire a pageant coach. To know how to hit her walk.

“To teach her to stand correctly and have ‘pretty feet’.

“She had to learn to hit her marks on the stage.”

Jessica paid $250 to enter Carleigh into American Royal Beauties – a natural beauty pageant based on community service.

The mum-of-four spent an extra $250 on four different outfit changes including a formal gown for the day.

She and her husband, John Merk, 33, a salesman, were surprised when Carleigh took home the title for Princess Ohio in November 2022.

Jessica said: “She’s always humble about it.

“I curl her hair and put on a little bit of blush but that’s it.

“She’s very into girly stuff - big dresses and her hair pinned up.

“I tell her 'you can wear make-up or not and still be beautiful.'”

Carleigh went on the compete in the nationals for her division in July 2023 and had a coach to help her in the three week run up to the contest.

The coach came twice a week for an hour – costing Jessica $50 per session.

She said: “Carleigh has Bambi legs.

“On the day we got there for 8am and left at 10pm.

“I made it fun for her.

“She’s not a shy girl.

“Some mums will try doing it but the kids will not be happy to be there.

“She really had a good time.

“Even though she lost, she didn’t feel like she did.

“I cried when she didn’t place.”

As part of the pageant, Carleigh donates to a women’s shelter and makes appearances at her local homeless shelter.

Jessica said: “I want her to be more community service orientated.

“She’s been about five times to homeless shelters.

“I have to explain to her that some people are not as fortunate.

"I want her to rounded and use her platform."

Jessica said she never thought she would be a ‘pageant mum’ and she gets slammed on social media for putting Carleigh through contests.

She said: “Some people say ‘why would you put her in pageants? It’s superficial’.

“It’s more than just a beauty pageant.

“The community service – that’s what makes her more beautiful.”

Jessica is now saving up and planning for Carleigh’s next pageant in November 2024.

She said: “I never thought I’d be a pageant mum.

“It really is a fun thing to do.”

Jessica said Carleigh will continue doing pageants for as long as she wants to.

She said: “I don’t want to force her to do something that she doesn’t like.

“She loves being in front of the camera.

“She is sassy, but very sweet.”

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