Toddlers and Tiaras: Entertainment or Exploitation?

Jessica Jackson 

Recently a friend of mine sent me this montage about one of the child stars on the hit reality TV show Toddlers and Tiaras.  The show is designed to provide an inside glance at the life of pageant children as they prepare for the pageant and compete.  Many of the segments feature children as young as 8 getting their legs and eyebrows waxed, even younger children getting spray on tans, girls wearing dentures to cover gaps left from baby teeth, and girls as young as 2 or 3 wearing piles of makeup.

TTAfter watching the horrifying clip in which a mother feeds her daisy duke clad daughter caffeinated “go go juice” (really Mountain Dew) so she has more energy on stage, I scrolled through a few more clips of the show.  The next noteworthy clip included a 4 year old being dressed as Dolly Parton for the competition, in an outfit complete with fake breasts and butt enhancements.  There was also a clip of a toddler dressed as the hooker in Pretty Woman (played in the movie by Julia Roberts).   Apparently some of the pageant girls also do promotional appearances, including this rendition of “Sexy and I Know It” by one of the 5 year old T & T stars at a Manhattan bar.

Last year, San Francisco’s Child Protective Services received thousands of calls after a clip from the Today show went viral showing a pageant mother injecting her young daughter with Botox.  The story, which turned out to be a hoax, shed light on the chilling fact that many of the pageant mothers featured on these programs are willing to do whatever it takes and put their daughters through whatever is necessary to achieve fame through these pageants.  The high cost of entering the pageants, the expensive outfits, and the price of hair/makeup for the mini beauty queens greatly exceeds the actual prize money offered, so it is clear that the mothers who participate have other motivations.

At what point should Americans turn off the TV and cease to support the network’s encouragement of some mothers’ exploitation of their children for fame?  Is there a point at which Child Protective Services should step in? People may agree that at this point the show is less entertainment and more exploitation of little girls.

Old Paper by