Helping or hurting? How beauty pageants in America affect women's body positivity

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Ahead of the Miss Teen USA Pageant, AOL.com is looking at contemporary views of beauty and how they are shaping the next generation of Americans.

Miss Universe was first introduced to the world as a local "bathing beauty" competition led by Catalina Swimwear in Long Beach, California in 1952.

Sixty-three years later, the competition has evolved into three pageants -- Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA. Countless women come together from all around the world in the hopes of leaving with a crown and millions of people around the globe watch each year. But how is pageantry in America affecting women's views of their own bodies?

SEE MORE: How the 'ideal' body type has changed through the years

A scientific report from 2003 found that out of 131 pageant contestants, more than 25 percent of the women who competed at a national or international level had been told or perceived that they had an eating disorder, most of which began around the age of 16.

Almost half of the women reported that they wanted to be thinner, and a whopping 57 percent admitted that they were trying to lose weight.

Last year, Miss Indiana's Mekayla Diehl sparked conversation about body positivity, and Miss USA viewers had no problem expressing their opinions on Twitter. While the contestant was considered to be "curvier" than others, tweets spread like wildfire, expressing love for Diehl:



While spreading the love for Diehl generated positive body talk, the origin of the discussion -- criticism of the contestant's curves -- was is all too common.

Nina Davuluri, who in 2013 became the first Indian-American to be crowned Miss USA, reportedly commented on the previous year's winner's weight, calling her "fat." While she denied making that comment, this incident clearly indicates the body shaming that is prominent in the pageant world, especially at the national level.

WATCH: What drives a little girl to compete in beauty pageants?
What Drives a Little Girl to Compete in Beauty Pageants?

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