Toddlers And Tiaras, TLC’s biggest hit – is on its sixth (!) season.
On air since 2009, it hasn’t been around long enough to see what the effects are when contestants become adults, but some people have already done some predictions.
Because Toddlers And Tiaras is all about so-called ‘glitz’ child beauty pageants – mothers push their tots into performing into talents shows which are all about fake hair, spray tan, caked-on make-up, and in some cases, fake breasts and bottom pieces. All to make their tiny children look like creepy miniature strippers.
There are several main factors that can be found in each episode:
1. Three girls are followed: usually an ‘old’ contestant between the ages of 9 and 11, a 6 to 8-year-old and then a real baby or toddler for that extra depressing feeling.
2. The mothers are split between: a. being very fat or very thin, b. incredibly rich or having to borrow heaps of money, c: their daughter is either utterly miserable or behaves like a mini Kim Kardashian.
3. Most of the time they’re from a small Southern town, and usually they’re white. The dads understandably don’t know what to think of this bizarre hobby, and don’t appear on screen much.
4. They go to a pageant and either win or do not win a chintzy plastic crown and some money.
5. Someone says or does something that makes you lose faith in humanity forever.
6. The kids have fancy names like Meaghan, Kiannah, Kayleigh or Cealy.
Examples of things that make you lose faith in humanity:
- 3-year-old Mia struts around on stage in Madonna’s cone bra outfit.
- 5-year-old Alexis is traumatized when her mother forces her to get her eyebrows waxed.
- 3-year-old Selena isn’t allowed to play outside in case she tans too much.
- The mother of 2-year-old Marleigh tells us to ‘tune in’ because her daughter will become miss America in 2028. She also admits she only gave birth to her to get a pageant girl.
- Mother Kelli, who is filthy rich and has tattoos all down her arms, spends over $250,000 each time her 1-year-old twins are entered in a pageant, despite the fact that the babies cry with discomfort from the itchy ruffles. They fly to the pageant with their nanny in their private jet. Did no one tell Kelli how disgusting that kind of spending is?
The girls go on stage and are supposed to show their ‘talent’ in front of a jury who give or take away points on their eye contact, make-up, body shape (yes) tan, and hair. Some have fake teeth, called 'flippers' to cover up those disgusting gaps that kids get from losing their baby teeth. I always thought the holes looked cute, a nostalgic element of childhood, but this, alas, is not about looking natural. Many girls, especially the youngest ones, are utterly bemused about what they are supposed to do. Their mothers stand in the audience making idiotic gestures hoping their children will somehow emulate them.
Check out June Shannon’s fabulous dance moves
Naturally, the children change. Some become shy and obedient, like Eden, some grow into unbearable brats, like Makenzie. Makenzie speaks like a rude teenager to her mother: ‘’You are drivin’ me nuts!’’ ‘’Omg, leave me alone people!’’ despite the fact that she’s only four. Don’t even get me started on ‘Honey Boo Boo’ aka. Alana Thompson.
It’s not easy to say ‘no’ to your mother when you’re a child. Children naturally want to please their parents. They only start to lose this when they become teenagers. Many girls show clear signs of unhappiness and stress, even if they say they like the pageants. The backstage shots are usually of little kids crying, yet they miraculously like it so much! according to their mothers. Then when they perform, they know have no choice but to ‘make mom proud’. And if they win a title dear mom is not satisfied with, they’re in for trouble.
The excuses the parents give for entering their children are always the same but the real underlying reason is clear. They are all mothers who had dreams of being in beauty contests when they were younger, but for some reason did not make it. Perhaps they had responsible parents who pushed them in a different direction. Some of them have been in pageants, like Marleigh’s mum, and want to relive their glory days. Either way, they are all living through their daughters – always a huge mistake. Why else would they spend such enormous amounts of money on it? For some women, it seems like an addiction despite its absurdity, spending thousands of dollars on dresses their children are going to grow out of in a year. All little girls like to dress up like princesses and try mummy’s high heels, but now the 'mummies' are turning their innocent child’s play into torture.
It also sends an incredibly bad message to the little girls. If they weren’t in these ridiculous contests, they wouldn’t be worrying about their bodies at least until puberty. Instead, they are constantly told that facial beauty is all that matters. Never mind inner beauty, or others talents that they have. Plus, they’re told that they can only be beautiful the way they’re growing up – with tons of make-up, hair extensions and extravagant clothes. The girls are too young to realize what their mothers are making them do – they don’t understand the gestures they’re making or the people they’re dressing up as, such as the 3-year-old who performed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. For that reason, some people have called it emotional abuse.
Then why has despite all this, T&T been an enormous success?
Because it creates such an amazing ‘oh my god!’ effect that it’s not hard to understand why so many people watch it. Toddlers and Tiaras is the perfect show if you’re a parent feeling guilty about the way you raise your own children. ‘’Thank god, at least there are worse parents than me’’ you think. That’s certainly true if you compare yourself to Juana, who stands and simpers as her daughter screams abuse at her, or Lindsay, who dresses her child up in a Dolly Parton outfit complete with padded underwear.
Even TLC knows this. For starters, they don’t narrate the show, allegedly not to give opinions. But for them of course, it’s not so much ‘spreading awareness’ as a huge money-making business, with millions of viewers. People enjoy watching others’ pains and problems from the comfort of their own living rooms. Only WHY does it have to be children, babies? Even I am guilty. From the moment I first saw it on TV in 2009 I was fascinated by it. I had never heard of a world before where tiny children compete in such contests (mind you, I live in Europe) let alone where their mothers enforce it. My mother would have sent me to my room in disgrace if I had asked for high heels at six, yet here the mothers were, making their daughters dress like strippers. It was completely new for me.
The most important thing in a child’s life is a healthy development. Climbing in trees, riding bikes, learning to read and write, playing with friends. Not dressing up like they’re in their twenties. There is a time for everything, so why rush it so much? Especially when you already know they’re going to be insecure about their looks some time. Why would you want your child to have that pain so much earlier? It’s just beyond me. But the parents always seem to convince themselves that their child is enjoying it- even when they’re screaming with stress and frustration. They’re not kidding me though. Someday I hope these terrible contests are banned and little girls can just be little girls again.