The TV show Toddlers and Tiaras on TLC was one of those shows that could have viewers' mouths hanging open for the entire episode. There was actually a time when TLC was a network for learning shows and now there are a ton of long-running reality shows, some that are so bizarre we can’t believe that it’s real life. It seems the goal of these shows nowadays is to push boundaries.
This was the show that stunned audiences and also began the trajectory of Honey Boo-Boo. She then went on to have her own show called Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. Toddlers and Tiaras has had a lot of criticism over the years mainly because it’s morally questionable on its best day. Audiences tuned in every week to see what poor decisions the moms made on the show that particular day. We were always surprised to see what moms were willing to do to make sure that their daughters won. We are going back and looking at some memorable moments from the show, so let’s all prepare ourselves. Check out these 20 things that really happened on Toddlers and Tiaras.
Sometimes producers will make the show look more dramatic through creative editing to get higher ratings. Maxine Tinnel spilled the beans when she said that the show does try to make the pageant look more dramatic than it actually is. “I don’t know why they show on almost every episode that the kids don’t eat, because they do. I would love to have someone come in and film a pageant without a bunch of editing where a mom says, ‘Oh, my God, this is just [bad]’ and she is actually talking about the weather, not the kids,'” she said.
Out of all the costumes that you would think to pick out for your child, you would think that a “lady of the night” would not be one of them. But you would be wrong. As much as the movie, Pretty Woman tried to gloss over Julia Roberts real line of work, we all still knew what she did for a living. We’re not sure why 3-year-old Paisley’s mom decided to dress her up as the Pretty Woman. The mom said that it was no big deal because Paisley has no idea who she’s dressed up as but the thing is, the audience does.
Toddlers and Tiaras did one thing right and that was to shine a spotlight on the ramifications that can happen to a child’s mind by being involved in pageants. They are dressed up in costumes and then judged by their appearance and it’s crazy to think that it wouldn’t have some kind of long-term effects on the child. The Psychological Association did a study in 2007 and found that children who were exposed to suggestive media like a Madonna video would be negatively affected emotionally. They could run the risk of having low self-esteem or even develop depression.
With some of the costumes the kids wore, there was padding involved especially for Dolly Parton. We have to wonder why the moms found it necessary to make four-year-olds look like women? Why would they need any padding at all? Even though she won the pageant, many people were outraged by Maddy’s Dolly Parton costume. Her mother appeared on plenty of morning talks shows after defending her position. The mother said in hindsight she would never have used the costume had she known how it would be depicted in the media after.
How do you keep kids going all day long doing pageant work? Apparently, highly caffeinated beverages are the key. The kids even call it “Go-go juice,” and it’s a combination of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. Honey Boo-Boo was the one that used to brag about how the concoction helped her to win. Her mother started using Red Bull after the two bags of powered Pixy Stix known as something pretty jarring stopped working. It’s obvious she was building up a tolerance for sugar which is not good for any kid. Red Bull is not a drink that kids should be given.
We saw children as young as five years old getting their eyebrows waxed against their will. Alexis was one girl that we saw experience it and it is sending a message that the girls aren’t naturally beautiful. Her mother insists that Alexis get the waxing done and bribes her with candy. But we see Alexis afraid as she squirms in her chair. "She had a bad experience," her mom explains, "the wax was way too [warm], and it actually ripped off her skin... So she's been kinda terrified since then." After Alexis has finished hyperventilating and received her promised lollipop, mom makes one final remark, "Normally, I would just hold her down and rip it off."
Dolly Parton changed a lot over the years in her work and that had a lot to do with certain procedures. When it came time to produce a costume for the talent portion of the children’s pageant, Maddy Verst’s mom decided to get her daughter a Dolly Parton costume with all the trimmings. It wasn’t just a blonde wig and sequins but also a padded rump and stuffing to put inside the tiniest of bras. She was then sent out into a room full of strangers to show off the creation. That was all it took for Maddy’s father to sue for full custody because he felt it was beyond wrong.
There was an episode on the show that ended rather unexpectedly because the pageant promoter actually ran off with all the contestant’s money well before the competition was over. We’re not sure how she figured she would get away with it considering it was all filmed and people would know her name but pageant director Lisa Fulgham-Taggett took more than $15,000 leaving the parents raising a fit. At that point, even that pageant’s website was taken down. Sometimes a poor pageant director will even promise modeling work for winners of the pageants but then won’t follow through.
Most parents want their children to go outside and play but pageant moms are different. They don’t want anything to happen to their children’s skin. That is what life was like for 3-year-old Selena whose mother didn’t want her rosy complexion affected by the sun in any way. What was extra sad was that Selena’s siblings were allowed to go out and play while she had to watch them from a window. The mother tried to defend herself by saying she wanted to keep her daughter perfect but instead she was teaching her daughter that she would never be perfect.
Sugar is a serious problem when it comes to pageants because the parents are using it to bribe the kids to become involved as well as using it to keep them awake during practices. Mama June tries to ease everyone’s worries by saying that “everyone does it” but that’s not really the point. The pageant schedules do not come with nap time so they have to make sure the kids get through it. Supply children with constant unhealthy items can cause health problems as well as addictions. The obsession that parents have to get their children through the pageants is worrisome, to say the least.
You might be surprised how much it costs to have your child in a pageant, especially if you do multiple ones in a year. Toddlers grow out of costumes quickly so it’s not like you even get to reuse them that often. ABC reported that there are around 250,000 kids that compete in pageants every year. There have been families that have gone into debt because they consider pageants to be just as essential to their lives as paying rent. Mickie Wood was one mom from Toddlers and Tiaras that stated that she had no problem spending $70,000 on her daughter’s pageant prep. "Is that excessive?" Wood said. "It probably is. But there's no telling how much we have invested in my child's future in every aspect."
Lindsay’s ex-husband went for full custody of Maddy after he got wind of the pageant business. When the two went to the Kentucky Family Court, the Judge ordered that Maddy not be involved in more than four pageants within a twelve month period. That was a huge step down for Maddy, but at least the child was given a bit of a break from doing so many pageants. Her father found the pageants to be emotionally damaging to his child and in the end, he got shared custody which Lindsay took to social media to complain about.
When beauty is everything in a family, a child can grow up with a very skewed perception of life. You can see that when the children are interviewed, a lot of the stuff they say, you wouldn’t expect from little kids. Daisy Mae, who was 8 at the time, was interviewed and she stated that facial beauty was the most important thing in life. That’s definitely not something you would expect to hear from a little girl. She stated, “if you think your kid is ugly or something, you might not want to do pageants because you’re not going to win or anything.”
Imagine being the parent to a kid that actually believes that. It’s also not something you would expect to hear from a four-year-old either especially when you also get foot stomping and screaming with it. In the case of Mackenzie, she's well aware that she can do whatever she wants and her mom just allows it. She is also still allowed to have a pacifier even though she is only four years old. There was one time that Mackenzie ran through the house screaming, “We’re gonna be late for diva day.”
When we raise our children, we want them to be kind and generous to others around them but that’s not the lessons that are being taught on Toddlers and Tiaras. You would even expect some bad behavior from a 16-year-old but surely not a three-year-old. But when it came to Kayla who was 3 at the time and could barely talk, still announced that she thought “all those girls are ugly.” It’s pretty surprising to have that come out of a child of that age. Her mother just smiled and pretended to correct her child. Where would she have gotten an idea like that?
We have definitely seen some questionable things that moms did on the show that made us feel bad for the kids involved. Some of the moms were so controlling and it had us all worried about the children’s mental state of mind. Carley’s mother Melissa would often prevent her child from acting out by whispering things to her. "You're going to be a very sorry girl; we are on national television; everyone is going to see this." The producers made sure that subtitles allowed us to hear the things that were said. During the same episode, Carley was interviewed and asked if she was excited to see her friends. She replied, "I don't have any friends."
It was also the same episode where we saw Melissa bleach Carley’s naturally brown hair to a bleached blonde look. Audiences were outraged that a mother would do that to a 4-year-old just because of a pageant contest. It was just one example of what mothers were willing to do to give their child the edge that they needed to win the competition. But we have to wonder what message that sends to a child when she is told that her naturally brown hair is not pretty enough.
Another costume that was well beyond okay was Destiny who dressed up as Sandy from Grease. She was in leather from top to bottom and was actually given a smoke to put in her mouth and to stamp out after her performance. Yes, minds blown all around. This is not a good message to send to your kid at all. The judges were horrified and told her mother that it was in poor taste. What was most surprising was the mother acted surprised that the judges felt that way. What’s wrong with a child in tight leather after all?
It has to be assumed that you have to take reality shows with a grain of show. Not everything you see on there is going to be real. Pageant organizer, Maxine Tinnel admitted that the show seemed to only choose the most eccentric mothers that they could find with the show and not all pageant mothers behaved that way. The footage was also manipulated to put the mothers in a poor light. Tinnel admitted that she staged at least six of the pageants that were used only for the show and she did it at her own expense.
If you ever wonder if these kids are even having any fun at these pageants all you have to do is look at Karmen. Her mother liked to give her spray tans even though she cried during the entire time. It was all caught on camera as her mother forced her to stand there and get a tan. Karmen is crying because she’s hungry and can’t eat until after her performance. Her mother tells Karmen how pleased she is by how she looks and when the camera cuts to Karmen who looks severely unimpressed and states, “I’m smiling on the inside.”