Brooke Breedwell, now 22, entered her first competition at the age of six months and won 75 US pageant crowns by the time she was five.
However she says she hated her pageant experiences and felt pressured into competing.Since I was three I was pressured by my mum to be perfect. But living up to her expectations was impossible,' she told The Sun.
'No child should ever be forced into a tanning bed when they’re just four or cry their eyes out because they’re forced to wear make-up.'
The blonde from Athens, Tennessee, had a full-time modelling coach and a singing teacher when she was just three-years-old and says she missed out on a normal childhood.
She was hugely successful and won numerous prizes including cash, a new car and a trip to the Bahamas, but Brooke says the competitive industry drove her to breaking point.
She disliked the heavy make-up, hairspray and fake teeth she wore while competing, but she particularly hated going for tanning sessions and would cry as she was made to lie on tanning beds up to three times a week, for 20 minutes at a time.
‘At five all I wanted to do was play outside with my friends and dig for worms in the dirt,’ she reveals.‘But my mum would pull me away from my friends and transform me from a tomboy into a beauty queen because she insisted I needed to practice every day.’
Her heartbreaking admission comes as the beauty pageant world is growing larger than ever, with reality shows like Toddlers and Tiaras and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo fuelling its rise. In fact, the industry is now worth £3billion-a-year in the US.
Brooke's family spent £12,500 on costumes, coaches and stylists during her pageant days. The youngster shot to fame when she featured in the 1996 documentary Painted Babies, in which she was shown facing off against rival Asia Mansour in a Georgia child beauty pageant.
Her mother Pam was seen speaking about her ambitions for her daughter during the film and admitting pushing her to succeed, saying 'Winners never quit. We are the dream team.'
Although Brooke quit the circuit at the age of seven, she returned two years later. There is the fact that my mum did push me, but no matter what, if you look back on pageants, that just is not a normal lifestyle for a kid,’ she said during an interview with US talk show host Anderson Cooper. ‘I did miss out on a lot of my childhood experiences.’
After winning the Grand Supreme title (one of the highest honours in the pageant world) when she 15, Brooke was ineligible for another crown and she and her mother Pam, 50, agreed she would retire.
She graduated from the University of Tennessee last year and has since moved to Alabama. However Brooke admits that there is still tension between her and her mother because of the scrutiny she was placed under as a child, and says she still feels a level of insecurity.
'Pageants have put a lot of stress and anxiety on my life,' she told Good Morning America in 2009. I feel the need to be perfect at everything, and I know that's not realistic. You can't be perfect at everything.'
'I was just there wanting to be my best. I wanted to beat all the little girls. No matter what it took out of me'.
She credits her supportive father Randy, 52, for helping her to feel good about herself as an adult, but unsurprisingly, Brooke insists that should she have children of her own, she will not allow them to compete in beauty pageants.