- Lavinia, 11, made her debut in the Ideal Miss California & West Coast competition
- Petra Ecclestone, 35, declared herself ‘a very proud mummy’ on Instagram
- One follower suggested that beauty pageants are a ‘paedo’s paradise’
Petra Ecclestone has come under fire for encouraging her eldest daughter to take part in a beauty pageant.
Lavinia, 11, made her debut in the Ideal Miss California & West Coast competition last Sunday, with the blessing of her mother, daughter of Formula 1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone.
Wearing a crown, a Disney princess-style ballgown, heels and a ‘Miss West Coast’ sash, Lavinia took a twirl on stage at the Downey Theatre in Los Angeles and posed for cameras and judges in full make-up.
Petra, 35, every inch the doting pageant parent, declared herself ‘a very proud mummy’.
She wrote to her 77,000 Instagram followers: ‘I am so privileged to be your mum, I will always cheer you on to follow your dreams, never judge you and always love you.’
But judgment soon came, in droves. ‘This is insane, she is only a child,’ responded one of Petra’s followers. Another wrote: ‘Why would you do this to your child?’ Sam Palmer, Lavinia’s stepfather, fired back: ‘She wanted to and we support her. I suppose it’s what being a parent is all about.’
Petra Ecclestone (left) pictured with her daughter Lavinia (right)
Lavinia, 11, made her debut in the Ideal Miss California & West Coast competition last Sunday, with the blessing of her mother, daughter of Formula 1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone
One follower even suggested that beauty pageants are a ‘paedo’s paradise’ and warned Petra to keep Lavinia away.
The next stage of the competition will be held at the Beverly Hilton hotel in June. The Ideal Miss pageant costs £371 to enter and aims to ‘celebrate girls by showcasing their strengths and maximising their potential to prepare them for life ahead’.
But while defenders of the industry insist it instils young girls with confidence, critics argue that beauty pageants are exploitative and enforce the message that pretty looks are all-important.
Claude Knights, former director of child-protection charity Kidscape, says pageants ‘give young girls the signal that it’s OK to value yourself along a particular, superficial dimension. It’s not about the whole person.’
But Lavinia may well be seeking to grow her confidence, after enduring a difficult start in life. She was diagnosed, aged 20 months, with a speech-delay learning difficulty, and went on to become a non-verbal toddler, not speaking until she was nearly four years old.
She no longer sees her father, James Stunt – a playboy businessman who will soon go on trial, for the second time, on a money-laundering charge. When they were married, James forbade Petra from putting herself, or their children, on social media. But since remarrying two years ago, Petra is back building a public profile.
She is now preparing to launch an online pre-teen beauty and fashion boutique named Crickle Daisy, with Lavinia as the face of the brand.