Despite her tender age, 13-year-old Tayla Shelley knows all about getting a powerful message across.
She recently won a nationwide competition to design a poster for a carbon monoxide awareness campaign. Not the coolest of triumphs for a streetwise teenager, perhaps, but something to be proud of nonetheless.
Her prize was a trip to the House of Commons to meet Children's Secretary Ed Balls and a £400 iPod voucher. No guesses as to which one most impressed her friends.
Looking older than her years: Kirsty-Ray Reeves, who is 15-years-old, poses provocatively in pictures on the Miss Teen UK website
As a straight-A student with ambitions to be a vet, Tayla seems smart, savvy and sensible.
But it's exactly this fact that makes her latest competition entry - to a beauty pageant called Miss Teen Queen UK - so troubling.
For why does such an intelligent young girl feel the need to flaunt herself in a series of poses, which can, at best, be described as provocative?
In her entry photographs, which are displayed on the competition's website, she stands, midriff exposed, hands behind her head, in a sexualised stance that would be startling even in an older girl.
It is impossible to believe that Tayla, with her mane of glossy hair and perfectly applied make-up, is only just entering her teens. And, sadly, she is not alone.
The myriad of images of girls just like her on the Miss Teen Queen UK website, and the fact that the bra sizes of each girl are also featured, have provoked near outrage this week from those responsible for protecting children's interests.
The director of charity Kidscape, Claude Knights, called the images 'inappropriate' and 'gratuitous'.
'This is a shop window for paedophiles,' he said, adding that his greatest fear was that sexual predators could attempt to track down the schoolgirls in question after seeing their details online.
Tayla is one of the youngest finalists in the contest, which had entries from a staggering 12,000 teens this year and, as such, would be considered by its critics to be particularly vulnerable.
Straight A student: Tayla Shelley, aged 13, says she'd 'like to be like Kate Moss'
Tayla, of course, can barely contain her excitement that she has made the finals. That she is thrilled she has been beaten many thousands of girls to make it this far is understandable.
'For me, such things as education are far more important. Certainly, when I was her age, the thought of entering a beauty pageant wouldn't have entered my mind.'
But, she says, things are different today. 'For a start, at 13, both physically and mentally, I was much more childlike than Tayla is. I was still doing things like playing with dolls and riding my bike: the last thing I thought about was clothes or my appearance.
'Now girls Tayla's age shop in Topshop. She's been putting make-up on ever since she started secondary school, as have all her peers. They are a new generation, and you can't get away from that.'
Still, there is some leap from condoning the odd crop-top to allowing your daughter's cup size to be highlighted to the whole world. Doesn't she worry about exactly who has access to those stylised pictures of her little girl?
Jan, who's husband Shane is an IT consultant, says she 'completely refutes' any suggestion that she is being irresponsible, and has, in fact, taken steps to ensure Tayla doesn't enter the adult world of modelling too soon.
'Tayla has been approached by model scouts from big modelling agencies,' she says.
'But I haven't allowed her to pursue that route, as I don't want her modelling adult clothing, or doing bikini shoots. At least Miss Teen Queen is aimed at her own age range.'
But advertising cup sizes? Jane shrugs. 'It doesn't bother me that her cup size appears on the website, as this would be the case with any modelling competition or agency.'
Certainly, it's all very confusing. On some levels, Jane seems like a terribly protective mother.
Dressed up: Kirsty-Ray has received catty comments from other teenagers about her modeling career
She doesn't allow Tayla to use social networking sites such as Facebook or MSN Messenger, and she still drives her to and from school each day.
But she claims it was impossible to ignore the fact that Tayla has been drawing attention because of her looks for a number of years, and believes that the Miss Teen Queen UK is the appropriate competition entry vehicle. She says that in today's world, children need to think ahead.
'Her teachers encourage her to think about what her life will be like beyond university, and to plan accordingly.
'I often find myself wishing that she had more time and more space simply to be a child, and I wish she wasn't growing up so quickly.
But at the same time,' she continues, 'I have to accept that however appealing it may sound, the old-fashioned way in which I was bought up is no longer realistic.
'I don't want Tayla to get left behind and end up naive, and immature compared to her peers - which is why we decided to allow her to enter this competition.
'As for her future, it's not as if Tayla wants to go down the route that Jordan has. She admires people like Lily Cole and Kate Moss. Why not have a lifestyle that enables you to earn good money and travel the world if it's available?'
Like Tayla, 15-year-old Kirsty-Ray Reeves is also beside herself with excitement about taking part in the finals of Miss Teen Queen UK.
'We just wanted our daughter to have a bit of a different experience'
Her selection of pictures in the finalists' gallery shows her in a white vest top, with her hand on her hip, and also lying across the floor with her legs in the air.
Most mothers would shriek in horror at such overt sexualisation. But beauty therapist Angela, 33, from Hertfordshire, says she 'can't see what the fuss is' about the photos, the age of the entrants or the desire to promote their bra sizes.
'To be open about vital statistics is just modelling protocol,' she declares. However, Angela does admit the contest has caused a few problems for her daughter.
She says that Kirsty-Ray has been on the receiving end of catty comments from her peers - though this, she insists, is just part of the territory.
'I said to her that if she was short and fat and spotty, she'd get picked on - just like she does because she's tall and has got good looks. Girls who want to bully other people will always find a reason to do that.
'Kirsty takes it all in her stride and hasn't been upset about it.'
Because of her mother's beauty therapy business, Kirsty-Ray is well versed in treatments such as facials, eyebrow shaping and eyelash tints, which she's been having for the past five years.
'This competition was just a bit of fun for my daughter, who works incredibly hard at school,' she says. 'I refuse to live my life running scared of paedophiles. As far as I'm concerned, there could be a paedophile watching you buy a bra for your daughter in Marks & Spencer.
'What are you meant to do? Stop buying your children underwear and keep them under lock and key?'
She is angry at any suggestion that she might be failing her child by supporting her in the contest.
Kirsty-Ray Reeves: Her mother, Angela, 'can't see what all the fuss is about' over her daughter's photos
So with that, and the competition, isn't Angela worried that she is pushing her child into a grown-up world for which she cannot possibly be ready?
'If Kirsty-Ray was so het up about the competition - or her looks - that she was coming in from school and refusing to eat her dinner because she trying to lose weight, then I'd be worried,' says Angela.
'As it is, she comes in and then heads straight to the stables to spend time with her horse. She really is a very normal, down-to-earth girl.'
'Whether she wins or not, there are very few teenagers who have the chance to go to London and walk down a catwalk. As for paedophiles, well, paedophiles are everywhere. Kirsty knows the risks.
'I've drummed it into her never to add anyone to her Facebook account who she doesn't know, nor to talk to strangers on MSN Messenger. But it's about balance. I don't want her to live her life feeling scared.'
They are sentiments echoed again and again by the mothers of other finalists. One, who does not wish to be named but whose 14-year-old daughter has reached the final stages, tells us that she has no objections to the contest - despite the fact that her daughter has grown up in a strict Muslim family.
'My husband and I are respectable and hard-working parents, and we just wanted our daughter to have a bit of a different experience. If my daughter said to me that her icon was Jordan, then I'd pull her out of the competition straight away.'
Even more speedy with the denials is contest director Lina Perrini. One might think that given the criticism levelled at her, she would take down the controversial vital statistics from the website. She hasn't.
'In the wake of all this fuss, I could now take the girls' vital statistics off the website, but I'm not going to do that,' Lina says. 'That would be admitting we're doing something wrong, which I don't believe we are.
'I've spoken to all the mothers, too, and said that if they are worried by what has been said this week, and want to remove these details, then they can. But no one has done that. I think the fact that the mothers are all happy to leave these details up there speaks volumes.'
As for the thorny matter of the early sexualisation of young girls, Lina dismisses it as an unavoidable fact of modern society - and not something for which she, or her competition, are responsible.
'Girls of 13 are thinking about their looks and figures regardless of whether they enter this competition'
'As for whether or not I'm encouraging girls to grow up too quickly, well, unfortunately girls of 13 are thinking about their looks and figures regardless of whether they enter this competition,' she says.
'At their age, I was reading Bunty and playing with my toys. But I know from research we've done that in the UK today, girls of that age are already drinking alcohol and reading OK! magazine.'
According to her version of events, the mothers are keen for their daughters to be presented in even more worrying poses. 'I do not encourage overt sexualisation.
For instance, none of the girls under the age of 16 are allowed to wear bikinis in the competition at all, even though many of their parents often ask me if that is possible because that is what the girls would like to do.
'I also have banned certain lingerie companies - those who specialise in racy underwear for teenagers - from being our sponsors because I don't believe that is appropriate.'
Lina is also quick to point out - as the organisers of most beauty pageants are wont to do - that this is not just a matter of aesthetics, given that the first prize is not reserved for the thinnest and most beautiful girl.
'We have had one finalist who was born without a hand, and another who is profoundly deaf,' she says. 'Everyone has a preconceived idea that we are like an American beauty pageant, but we're not. Even I find those competitions extremely distasteful.
'We never say to girls: "Enter our competition and you'll become a top model." We're not a model agency at all and would never suggest that would be the end goal. In fact, what we're doing his boosting these girls' confidence.
'For me, the proof is in the pudding. Since this furore broke, I've been contacted by a member of the Welsh Labour Party. I thought he was phoning to criticise me- but, in fact, he was phoning to get an entry form for his daughter.
'There are plenty of teenagers and parents who do not see Miss Teen Queen UK as a bad thing.'
That's clearly true. Another finalist, 15-year-old Thalia Pearce, has a grandfather who is a vicar.
He doesn't have a problem with her entry, says her mother Beverley. Nor does he mind the fact that she has been modelling since the age of nine and has featured in campaigns for companies such as Marks & Spencer.
The family also don't have a problem with who might be looking at the pictures of her online.
'In the normal line of modelling that Thalia has been doing since she was nine, she's reached a point where at a size 10, and with a bust size of 32E, she is considered too big,' says Beverley.
'A pageant like Miss Teen Queen is perfect because it means Thalia can carry on modelling without worrying about whether or not she's a size 6. Girls of all shapes and sizes can enter, and the last thing I want is for her to start worrying she needs to lose weight.
'Perverts could just as easily have been looking at Thalia in any of the other modelling shoots she's done over the years.'
Should that offer some comfort? It's hard to see how. But it's also hard to see how these contests can get anything but more popular as their entrants get ever younger.
What ARE their mothers thinking? Girls as young as 13 parade themselves for a disturbing new beauty contest | Mail Online