Little Miss Hungary beauty pageant director faces allegations of deceptive practices and financial turmoil
Desperate parents have told Átlátszó that the Hungarian owner and patron of the Little Miss Hungary child beauty pageant, Ildikó Bartolovics, invites them and their children to photo shootings and competitions abroad, asks for travel expenses in advance, then cancels the trips and refunds the money only partially or not at all. The organiser of the children’s beauty pageant is also on the list of the National Tax and Customs Administration of Hungary (NAV) of individuals with tax debts, and several of her companies have been liquidated or forced into liquidation.
Little Miss Hungary is a Hungarian member of the Little Miss International international children’s beauty pageant. According to the Little Miss International website, the competition teaches girls aged 5-15 years old self-awareness, self-confidence, and leadership skills. The website also features Ildikó Bartolovics as the Hungarian director of the competition, who has been denounced by several parents after they waited in vain for a refund of the money they had asked for in advance for the cancelled trips. The stories of the complainants date back to the early 2000s.
Several parents complained
Parents who contact Little Miss Hungary often receive offers for trips abroad. As the company’s Facebook page attests, there was a recent event in London, for example, and in 2016 they posted about a world competition in Bulgaria. Atlatszo has learned that several parents have complained about the organizer and some have even filed a police complaint. According to them, it happened several times that Ildikó Bartolovics asked for an advance payment for the trips and then, after the trip was cancelled, she returned the money late or not at all.
Magdolna Panyi came into contact with Ildiko Bartolovics in the summer of 2023, when she took her child to a photo shoot in Budapest. Afterward, she was invited to several beauty contests and photo shoots abroad, but they only participated in one event. In January this year, an offer came to take them to Finland for a photo shoot for 214,000 HUF. She paid the amount but Bartolovics cancelled the trip. “She said the sponsor was not supporting it. After that, I kept writing to her to ask for my money back. With great difficulty, I managed to get the first 72 thousand forints from her, and then another 50 thousand.”
Destinations include London, Paris, Dubai
Another mother, who asked not to be named, came into contact with Bartolovics last year when she saw an advertisement on Little Miss Hungary’s Facebook page for a mother-daughter model for an Austrian commercial. Later came the offer to allow the mother and her daughter to go on trips abroad. London, Paris, and Dubai were mentioned. Although mother and daughter made it to London, neither the accommodation nor the promised (and prepaid) programmes were delivered as promised.
In addition to the trip to London, the mother also paid for the trips to Paris and Dubai, for a total of nearly HUF 1.6 million, according to her calculations.
Another mother, Edina Brett told Atlatszo that she met the Little Miss Hungary advertisement in April 2022. The competition went off without a hitch, and the little boy won a place in the modelling camp and the chance to go to Paris. In total, she paid out more than 250,000 HUF, which covered travel and accommodation for his two children and her own participation as a chaperone. Then came the promise of Dubai and Thailand. The mother paid the sums requested, but the trips never happened. She spent a long time asking for the money back, which totalled more than half a million forints, but only received smaller amounts. When she informed Bartolovics that she had filed a police complaint, she returned the remaining amount the next day.
“I had one hour to transfer the money”
Another victim, Mónika Károlyfalviné Dócza, contacted Bartolovics in 2021. She was informed that her son had won the competition and Bartolovics offered her to participate in a children’s beauty contest in London in January 2022. She says she had one hour to transfer the money, which she did. After that, she always contacted Bartolovics, asking for information. “A week before the trip, I wrote to her again to tell us more details, because I had taken the child out of school. Then I got the reply that the trip was cancelled.”
On another occasion, Bartolovics invited them to a film shoot in the countryside. Here again, she asked for the reservation fee in advance, but the filming failed. “In practice, what we had paid for did not materialise. In the end, we got to the point where we agreed with her that she would pay us in installments the amount we had previously paid her. It was about 650 thousand HUF. After a year and a half, I got tired of it and filed a police complaint. In June 2023, she paid back the remaining amount. I did not withdraw the complaint, even though she kept telling me to do so.”
A long-standing practice
Viktória Bazsó got in touch with Ildiko Bartolovics in 2014, when she organised children’s beauty contests under the name Angyali Arc. She also came across the call for entries for the beauty contest on social media, which they attended. Later, Ildikó approached them again with the possibility of a trip to Slovenia, for which they paid 150,000 HUF. However, in February Bartolovics cancelled the trip.
“Every time I wrote to her, her first reaction was always to ask for my account number and phone number. Despite this, she has not paid since. She changed his phone number several times and sometimes when I called her she didn’t answer” she added.
It’s not just parents running after their money
We have learned that it is not only parents who have come into conflict with the organizer of Little Miss Hungary over money. Judit Kozma met Ildiko Bartolovics in 2006 as an employee. At that time she was trying to find a job as a novice photographer, so Ildiko’s offer to work for her as a photographer on children’s pageants and shoots came in handy. As she says, she remembers working for her about ten times in total.
“Several times I tried to ask for my pay, but the phone was disconnected. I didn’t want to sue because we had no written contract.”
We also found several Facebook groups where parents share their experiences with Ildiko Bartolovics, one of which has more than a hundred members. Similar cases were previously reported by RTL without mentioning her name.
Tax debts worth millions, companies liquidated
The company information database identifies four sole traders named Ildikó Bartolovics, registered at the same address, on different dates. One of these is still operating, having been established on 27 February 2017. In 2022, the NAV published enforcement proceedings against the company, which was closed in 2023, and several notices of tax arrears exceeding HUF 100 million after 180 days appeared on the website of the company information service. Bartolovics is also on the NAV’s list of persons with tax debts exceeding HUF 10 million, as of 31.12.2023.
According to the company database, Ildikó Bartolovics has previously owned or been a member of several companies that have been subject to compulsory liquidation.
On the contracts in the possession of Átlátszó, the main patron of Little Miss Hungary is listed both as Bartolovics and Bartalovics Ildikó. She appears in the press under both names, while being referred to as the national organiser of the children’s beauty contest.
We wanted to talk to the organiser of the contest. We first contacted her on 12 January, but she always asked for more time to respond. We also contacted the police about the case, but they refused to give us any information, citing personal data. We are not aware of any official charges in connection with the multiple complaints and allegations, and it is up to the authorities to establish the truth in the case.
Translated by Zita Szopkó. The original, more detailed Hungarian version of this story was written by Rita Szabó-Gödri and can be found here.