Former Child Beauty Queen Speaks Out

19-year-old Brooke Breedwell talks about "the need to win."

ByABC News via logo
August 12, 2009, 10:49 PM

Aug. 13, 2009— -- Nearly 15 years ago Brooke Breedwell was a 5-year-old beauty queen and the star of the documentary "Painted Babies." Now the 19-year-old is speaking out about how the need to win took a toll on her childhood and her relationship with her mother.

"Pageants have put a lot of stress and anxiety on my life," Breedwell explains. "I feel the need to be perfect at everything, and I know that's not realistic. You can't be perfect at everything."

Breedwell, now a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, said her mother was very involved in her pageant career. While pageants gave Breedwell confidence and poise, she says her mother pushed her too hard.

"I was just there wanting to be my best. I wanted to beat all the little girls," Breedwell said. "No matter what it took out of me."

That sentiment is still echoed in today's pageants. But now the stakes are higher and more money is up for grabs.

Mickie Wood, a former beauty queen herself, admits she too lives vicariously through her 4- year-old daughter, Eden, who has been competing since she was a year old.

Eden is one of the girls featured on TLC's reality show "Toddler's & Tiaras."

Wood says they have spent more than $70,000 on Eden's pageant career, including weekly spray tanning, photo sessions, coaching and dresses that cost up to $3,000.

Being the best doesn't come cheap. It's estimated that 250,000 children compete in more than 5,000 pageants in the United States each year, and pageant officials admit some families have gone into debt, even paying entry fees before paying the rent.

But Eden says she loves the competitions.

"I like the makeup, and I like hair spray," Eden said. "Makeup makes me happy. I like being pretty on stage with my makeup on."

Click Here to see more of Eden Wood's pageant photos.

"Good Morning America" first spoke to the Wood family last month when we visited Eden in her small Arkansas town. It was obvious she'd found her calling, the Wood's home is full of hundreds of trophies and crowns.