The problem with Toddlers and Tiaras

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Smile for the Camera! // Holding a large smile, a young beauty queen gets ready for the pageant. Her mother is having her wear lots of makeup and a wig for this show. (Photo by Talia Medina)

by Talia Medina

Toddlers and Tiaras was a popular TLC original series that started on January 27, 2009, and focused on the lives of several young girls competing in beauty pageants. The show portrayed these girls around the ages of 3-7 and their lives while they prepared and competed in pageants. The show later had several spin-offs following some of the girls that were on the show originally. 

The show ended on November 23, 2016, because of the controversy it was experiencing. When the film Little Miss Sunshine came out, (which focuses on a family going to California for their daughter’s beauty pageant), the show’s popularity sparked again and opened a conversation about the harm of having young girls in beauty pageants. Current teens today are also able to discuss how strange it was seeing kids around their age being put into uncomfortable situations.

The one major thing that people note about the show is that many young girls’ mothers push (and some would even say emotionally abuse) their daughters while they are in the pageants. While some may justify this, many of the mothers push their daughters a bit too far and sometimes force them to go on stage even after the girls state that they don’t want to go on stage anymore.

Most notable is that several girls who are signed up for the pageants are young children ages 3-7. Having such young girls be exposed to the intense pageant world could cause them a lot of stress at such a young age. They may feel uncomfortable with going on stage, but instead of listening to what their child had to say the mothers would make them go up there no matter if they wanted to or not. Most of the time, their daughters would react in understandable ways which would upset them even after they told their daughters several times that they needed to go on stage and perform or they would be upset. 

Another thing about the show is that many of the mothers in the show will put their daughters in outfits or “acts” that aren’t necessarily age-appropriate. The girls are required to walk on the stage and sometimes do a small performance to show their outfit and what it’s referencing, but several times The things their parents want their child to reference aren’t the most appropriate.

An example is in one of the episodes where a mother chooses to have her daughter dress as Sandy from the movie Grease. Instead of just having her walk around in Sandy’s finale outfit, she has her daughter walk onto the stage holding a fake cigarette and tells her to pretend to smoke while walking around. Several parents were upset with this, and watching the child’s mother pretend nothing was wrong with it, even if her child was incredibly young, was sickening.

Even though Toddlers and Tiaras was canceled and no longer shown on television because of its controversial issues, it’s still important to note that it was a show that existed. It allowed several people that have never been involved in pageants as young children to see how stressful it can be and how many of the mothers will exploit their children to just win instead of taking into account whether their daughter feels uncomfortable with what is happening, while also showing people that were kids when the show came out what other kids their age were doing.