Ballerina Farm Is Facing Major Controversy Over Her Postpartum Beauty Pageant—Here's Everything You Need To Know

Is Ballerina Farm at the center of a new controversy? Here's everything you need to know.

By Gina Florio5 min read
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The popular Instagram account of Hannah Neeleman, known as Ballerina Farm, portrays a picturesque rural life. Hannah, a former professional ballerina and beauty pageant winner (Miss New York City and Mrs. Utah 2021), presents an enchanting image with her eight children, exuding a natural beauty and simplicity. She's often seen in overalls or sundresses, engaged in farm activities like milking cows and making mozzarella, all while homeschooling her children, who seem straight out of a storybook. This idyllic depiction resonates deeply with followers, offering a dreamy escape from urban life.

Hannah's story, as shared on the Ballerina Farm website, is of city dwellers transformed into ranchers. They were inspired during a stay in Brazil, where they witnessed a simpler, agricultural lifestyle. This experience led them to establish Ballerina Farm in Utah, turning a new page in their lives. The farm not only produces meat and dairy but also sells baked goods and merchandise online, involving the entire family in the business operations. This portrayal of a wholesome, self-sufficient family life has garnered a substantial following online.

However, the Ballerina Farm narrative encountered scrutiny when the affluent background of Hannah’s husband, Daniel Neeleman, came to light. Daniel, often seen in the rugged attire of a rancher, is the son of David Neeleman, a successful entrepreneur with a significant net worth known for founding JetBlue and several other airlines. This revelation about the Neeleman family’s wealth sparked a debate among their audience. The portrayal of a self-made, rustic lifestyle clashed with the reality of their substantial financial backing, leading to accusations of inauthenticity.

This dichotomy between the portrayed farm life and the family’s financial reality stirred a conversation about authenticity on social media. The Neeleman family, despite their appealing portrayal of rural life, faced criticism for not being upfront about their privileged background. The critique extends beyond them though, touching on broader themes of honesty in social media representation and the problematic idolization of the "traditional wife" figure

Ballerina Farm Is at the Center of Another Controversy 

In 2023, Hannah won the title of Mrs. American. Over the last few months, she has been hinting at the fact that she’s preparing for the Mrs. World pageant, a beauty pageant for married women that was created in 1984. It was originally named Mrs. Woman of the World before being renamed Mrs. World in 1988. The competition is open to married women from various nations, who first win their respective national titles to compete in the international event. This pageant, unlike many others, focuses on both the personal and societal accomplishments of its contestants, emphasizing the importance and influence of married women in society. Mrs. World has grown to be a globally recognized event, celebrating married women's beauty and achievements.

The reigning Mrs. World is Sargam Koushal, and the 2024 pageant began on January 14 in Las Vegas. Even though she was pregnant with her eighth child, Hannah has been doing cold plunges, photo shoots, and fittings in order to prepare for the worldwide pageant. Despite facing some criticism online, she stayed steady in her preparation and continued to set her eyes on the prize. But a new wave of backlash has arrived at Hannah’s doorstep, so to speak, after she shared her latest video on Instagram in which she showcased the first 12 days of her postpartum period.

“What the last 12 days looked like for me! It’s been a postpartum like no other. Your Mrs. American (and baby girl American) are here and ready to roll!” she wrote in the caption. 

It was a compilation of her getting her hair and makeup done, exercising, trying on a variety of gowns and outfits, and traveling to Vegas for the Mrs. World pageant. It has more than 9 million views already, with hundreds of thousands of likes and almost 9,000 comments. Many women are shocked at how much work she is putting in less than two weeks after giving birth. Some of the comments insisted that she was being irresponsible by posting this video. 

“While yes, you’re super woman… This kind of content is super damaging to majority of freshly postpartum moms. I wish you were instead choosing to showcase being a role model for birth recovery, for bonding with baby, for respecting your body’s journey, for allowing nature’s magic to take precedence, for prioritizing family, for nourishing your body with nutrition and rest, etc. Being ‘beautiful’ by society’s standards in an unnatural time frame over these things feels toxic and icky. You could’ve taught other moms self compassion and PRESENCE and healthy mindsets around the maternal transition — body and soul. I’m so disheartened that you chose to do this instead,” one woman wrote. 

There were many others who demanded that we normalize women resting in bed after giving birth rather than running around trying to fit into new dresses. Others pointed out a few factors that some perhaps didn’t consider: Mothers tend to recover more quickly from birth after having multiple children, Hannah is a very healthy woman who is used to being active, and she has a lot of support (both financially and emotionally) to help her along this journey so that everyone is cared for properly. Hannah is certainly an anomaly when it comes to motherhood, and that’s one of the reasons why millions of people are enamored by her. She seems to experience pregnancy, birth, and postpartum fairly seamlessly. Her figure has remained slim and fit over the years. And there’s nothing wrong with pointing out that she is blessed with top-tier genetics, which help her recover beautifully from childbirth. 

But there are many doulas and birthing experts who want to shed light on something important: Resting and recovering after childbirth is an important part of the healing process. X user known as Tiger Lily wrote, “Ballerinafarm posting a video of herself working out and doing a fashion show in her skinny clothes at 12 days postpartum is not inspirational please don’t fall for it.”

This has created a heated conversation about what is appropriate for mothers (particularly new mothers) and what isn’t. 

Should Ballerina Farm Be Resting after Childbirth instead of Doing a Beauty Pageant? 

It’s easy to scroll through our phone and quickly judge a woman’s choices during her pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. These periods of a woman’s life will differ greatly from the next woman’s, no matter how much overlap or similar experiences they may have had. And we feel so strongly about the choices we make during pregnancy and childbirth that it’s easy to feel convicted about another woman’s choices when we see them on social media. 

Although Hannah is being accused of overdoing it so close to her child’s birth, some women are reminding one another that our ancestors were accustomed to the hard work and labor that came right after giving birth. In fact, our own grandmothers or great-grandmothers likely had multiple pregnancies and children, and had no other choice but to get back on their feet and return back to work fairly shortly after their child was born, particularly if there were other young children who needed mothering and nurturing. Many women are also coming forward to share their own experiences of having to return to work just four weeks after a C-section because there was no other way to provide for their kids and put food on the table. Although it’s not ideal to be in this situation, all of these examples point to something true: Women are not as fragile and delicate as some people make us out to be. In fact, our bodies are strong and resilient, and they’re built for hard work, especially if we treat our bodies right and optimize our health before, during, and after pregnancy. 

But still, all of the above examples of women needing to jump back into work have something very important in common: They needed to get back on their feet in order to care for their children and their family. That leads us to a fair point brought up about Hannah: She isn’t cutting her postpartum recovery short in order to cook for the kids, care for the home, and look after her family. She’s doing it to compete in a beauty pageant and post content online. That’s very different than a necessity to provide for the family. Arguably, that’s an elective activity that doesn’t necessarily need to be done so close to a child’s birth. After all, it’s just as important for the newborn baby to bond with her mother and be nestled in the comfort and safety of her home, not be carted around to a different state and separated from her mother for so many hours a day so she can get her hair and makeup done for the cameras. Although influencers like Hannah find great success on social media and in the public eye, such as beauty pageants, shouldn’t there come a time when a child comes first and a mother has to temporarily postpone her ambitions in order to prioritize a newborn? 

Closing Thoughts

Every woman is going to experience postpartum differently. Some may need longer recovery periods because of a more taxing birth. That is perfectly normal. Others may recover more quickly because they had a somewhat swift birth, and this is much more common for moms like Hannah, who have given birth to several children. Hannah is clearly a smart mother who knows a thing or two about raising healthy kids, so even if many people don’t agree with her postpartum choices, they can respect that she’s going to do things on her own terms. 

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