Toddlers & Tiaras: Troubling and Toxic

I shouldn’t be surprised when I see disturbing photos of provocatively dressed and made up young girls in an issue of French Vogue or that some French company is launching a line of lingerie for 4- to 12-year olds.  After all, this is the same country which gave convicted child rapist, Roman Polanski, safe haven for over thirty years.  Nor should I be surprised that parents in Northhampton, England, pay ₤5 an hour to have their daughters, as young as three, learn pole dancing.

Anyway, that’s all happening offshore, right?  Nope.  The other day, I saw a clip fromToddlers & Tiaras, a reality tv show here in America, of a very little girl sashaying across a stage in a Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman costume.  Thankfully, I’m not the only one that thinks dressing a 3-year old up as a hooker isn’t cute.

I’d heard of T&T but had never watched an episode.  After seeing the clip, I knew that before I could actually write about it, I’d have to watch an episode.  I did and I’ll never watch another.

The episode I watched featured children about to enter the “Hearts and Crowns Pageant.”  I saw a lot of two-piece bare midriff outfits on the show and far more make-up than the touch of lipstick and drop of rouge I wore when I performed in dance recitals and marched in parades as a youngster.  Some of the coveted crowns were for most beautiful, best fashion, best hair, most photogenic.

Four-year old Maddie, whose own mother boasted of being in 600 pageants from the age of nine months, was outfitted in a Dolly Parton costume with fake boobs and buttocks.  Her mother said, “Everyone thinks it’s hysterical when she wears them; it’s an added bonus.”  Maddie’s comments were, “I wanna show the judges how beautiful I am” and “I was the prettiest girl on stage.”  During her time on stage, her mother wildly gesticulated from the sidelines to get her to smile and perform her routine.  Even the make-up and hair stylist in charge of visually turning toddlers into young women, said, “I wasn’t a big fan of the boobs in the outfit.  Hopefully, the judges will perceive it in good taste.”

Ten-year old Queen said she liked pageants because “I like winning crowns and money and I’m very pretty too.  I’m a beauty queen.”  Her mother was okay with her participation in pageants after Queen told her it was “her passion.”  After Queen had her eyebrows waxed and tons of make-up applied and looked about twenty, she won several crowns, and her mother said, “When a mother or father sees their child on stage just drop-dead gorgeous, it gives you an excitement and you want to see more.”

Not once, in the hour I excruciatingly sat through, was there any mention of homework, school or anything else truly significant in life, other than the emphasis on the children’s routines, hair, make-up, walking and smiling.  If the parents were at all interested in their children’s futures, and to show some semblance of normalcy in their lives, schoolwork should’ve been mentioned.  How well can a ten-year old function in school when she’s practicing her “popcorn” routine over and over with a mother shouting, “With more attitude!”

I’m not a child psychologist so I can’t say whether any of these children are going to be permanently emotionally scarred by all this, but, in my legal career, I’ve seen far too many children sexually exploited.  I know I’d be a little perturbed if I knew my mother dressed me up in a hooker costume when I was three years old.  It’s hard to imagine how a child wouldn’t be affected when all they’re taught is that how they look and how they smile is what’s important in life with no concern for what’s really significant.  What happens if, God forbid, they’re somehow disfigured – even by a pimple?  I would think they’d fall head first into an abyss of depression.

The use or abuse of children in this manner is nothing new.  Can anyone forget those photos of Jon Benet Ramsey?  I can certainly remember the controversy surrounding 10-year old Brooke Shields appearing in Pretty Baby as a child prostitute and the nude bath photos her mother sanctioned for publication.  Young actress Dakota Fanning’s rape scene in Hounddog caused a stir as did the nude photographs of Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair just a couple of years ago.

But this latest sexualization of children by parents pimping their daughters out inToddlers & Tiaras is beyond the pale.  I’m not sure who’s watching this show but I’m betting it’s a pedophile’s wet dream.

I don’t get it, but if you do, God bless you.

Author Bio:

For over twenty years, Leona has tried to heed her husband’s advice, “you don’t have to say everything you think.” She’s failed miserably. Licensed to practice law in California and Washington, she works exclusively in the area of child abuse and neglect. She considers herself a news junkie and writes about people and events on her website, “I Don’t Get It,” which she describes as the “musings of an almost 60-year old conservative woman on political, social and cultural life in America.” It’s not her intention to offend anyone who “gets it.” She just doesn’t. Originally from Brooklyn, and later Los Angeles, she now lives with her husband, Michael, on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, which she describes as a bastion of liberalism.
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  • chief98110

    It is hard for me to believe that any good can come from this kind of exploitation of little children. I have no doubt that there are deviants who are taping the show and doing unnatural things while they replay each episode. These kids will suffer later in their lives.

  • Ron F

    I will leave it to the psychologists to figure out why parents would do this with their children. I have no idea if the mothers are living vicariously through their daughters. It seems like we no longer allow children to be just children and do things just for the joy of it. Parents have taken the fun out of many activities like Little League baseball. What is scariest to me is that there is actually an audience for shows like this and what now passes for entertainment in this country.

  • Vince Ricardo

    Not that my wife would’ve been one of those sad, pathetic “pageant moms,” but I thank God every day that we have two sons. Shows like that just twist my stomach.

  • robin in fl

    I forgot to mention IMO,the mothers are trying to live vicariously through their children,,SO SAD :(

  • robin in fl

    well perhaps there should be a test of parenting skills before someone should be allowed to actually become one. This show is a sick expose on our society now.AS IF this is normal in anyway. NO “normal” person would find this ok.
    I have seen the commercials and clips of the show and that was enough for me.If I watched an entire episode my head would have EXPLODED…but I am quite sure pedophiles all over the place find the show VERY entertaining..UGH!! :(

  • Teddi

    This situation is disturbing and certainly not the direction we should be going with our children. I think there can be significant emotional issues when girls receive these kinds of messages, especially at such an early age. Because they are so young, these messages about outer beauty being the primary focus will be reinforced very strongly over the years. This can really set up girls for huge self-worth problems over time. Shouldn’t we be focusing more on helping children discover their inner worth through various childhood experiences?

  • Roger Ward

    These exploited children will bear the scars of a childhood(?) visited upon them by parents who have failed in their own dreams and who live vicariously through their kids. I feel sorry for these children who never had a shot at a normal life and who have had such perverted values instilled in them by their moronic parents (usually their mothers.) I don’t believe that ten year old Queen found “her passion” naturally, or that her mother has ever acted in Queen’s best interests.

    As a Conservative, I don’t agree with governmental intrusion into peoples’ lives …. but it would NOT upset me if Child Protective Services swooped in on these “beauty pageants” and took all the parents in, to see just how much these kids are exploited and how deficient their mothers are in their parenting responsibilities.

    It would be helpful if the producers of the TV show and the individual “pageants” around the country were made aware of our objection to their pandering. (Could these various producers be charged with breaking any laws?) A copy of this email and a letter voicing my concerns and objections will be sent as soon as I confirm the addresses for the responsible network and the (ir)responsible TV show’s producers.

  • Nancye

    From the article:

    I’d heard of T&T but had never watched an episode. After seeing the clip, I knew that before I could actually write about it, I’d have to watch an episode. I did and I’ll never watch another.


    I salute you for having the stomach to watch that episode. Shall I send you some Pepto-Bismol to settle your stomach?

    I presume it’s some sick way for the mothers to live their lives through their daughters, much like fathers doing it through sports and their sons, except sports are a lot different, not like little girls dressing up like hookers.

    • Leona Salazar

      No need, Nancye, for the Pepto-Bismol, but thanks for watching out for me. Seriously, I’ll never watch another episode.

  • CCNV

    I’ve never watched this dysfunctional mess, but I too, have seen the commercials and have commented that it’s no wonder pedophiles abuse little girls. In an already sick and demented mind, these ‘made up babies’ look like fair game.