GALLERY: Skills on show at 'mini pageant'

Several Illawarra youngsters pouted, primped and practised their prettiest pageant pose on Saturday as part of a new pageant boot camp.

The tiny beauties learnt all about hair and make-up, costumes and gowns, while perfecting their beauty poses and dance routines.

The boot camp culminated with a ‘‘mini pageant’’ at which participants got to show off their skills – and practised pageant smiles – to their parents.

Organiser April Eames, of Elite Pageantry, was quick to note the Australian pageant circuit was nothing like the ‘‘high-glitz’’ pageant world in the US and was more about self-confidence than fake hair pieces.

‘‘We may have similar routines but my girls are all smart, lovely kids who just want to perform on stage,’’ she said.

‘‘They all want to be there... there are definitely no parents pushing them into it, they just love being with their friends and dressing up.

‘‘There is a make-up component but it’s all a bit of fun.’’

The 19-year-old Dapto resident started her own pageant coaching business after watching her seven-year-old sister Kiani, who is autistic, successfully compete.

‘‘My sister had watched [the reality TV show] Toddlers and Tiaras and she kept saying she really wanted to have a go,’’ Ms Eames said.

‘‘When we discovered there were pageants running in Australia, she entered and you could just see something click when she performed – she was more confident and she wasn’t scared of anyone. I started running the business a couple of months later as I knew it would be great for kids, especially the shy ones.’’

Now,  Ms Eames  coaches nearly 40 Illawarra children and organises several pageants annually.

‘‘It is a fast-growing industry.  Our pageants attract around 30 children but they will travel from Perth, Melbourne and Queensland to compete. It definitely boosts their confidence, even for public speaking at school...we teach them how to be graceful and poised,’’ she said.

The next Illawarra pageant will be at the Dapto Ribbonwood Centre on April 26.

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