Originally airing in 2009, Toddlers & Tiaras dominated ratings on TLC for years. The show focused on the personal lives of contestants, families, and everyone else involved in child beauty pageants. The show generated a ton of controversy when it aired, but the show was such a success that TLC continued to air the series despite experts warning of the dangers of child beauty pageants. The show ran for 5 years before being put on hiatus after generating too much controversy. The show was brought back in 2016 under the name "Another Toddlers and Tiaras" but was officially canceled later that year. The show led to three spin-offs: Eden's World, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and Cheer Perfection.
Like any reality TV show, the production of Toddlers & Tiaras is filled with secrets. Part of the appeal of these reality documentary programs is presenting a way of living that the average person would find bizarre. While few in the industry will admit how staged reality TV is, audiences are becoming more and more aware of it. We may be near the end of the reality show obsession that has consumed most cable networks, but they're still some of the most profitable shows on TV, so it's hard to say.
Part of what made Toddlers & Tiaras so great is that people couldn't believe the lengths that pageant parents would go to make sure that their child won. Or, at least, that's what TLC wanted us to think. Here are 15 Secrets about Toddlers & Tiaras!
15 No Compensation For Being A Star
Reality TV is being produced on a massive scale because of how relatively cheap it is to make. It's standard to pay the participants of reality TV, but many studios are getting out of paying their stars by offering another kind of deal. This was the case for Toddlers & Tiaras, as TLC producers didn't offer to pay the children, families, or pageant owners featured in the show.
Mickie Wood, a pageant mom featured on the show, told reporters, "If anyone should have been paid, little Eden and I should have gotten paid." According to Wood, she and TLC had a 'you scratch our back, we'll scratch yours' deal with TLC. In exchange, TLC made her daughter, Eden, the poster child for the show. Eden became so famous from the show that tabloid magazines are still interviewing her today — despite the fact that she hasn't competed in a pageant in over six years.
14 They Find The Crazies First
Maxine Tinnel is a well-known beauty pageant organizer. Tinnel was featured on Toddlers and Tiaras numerous times and regularly communicated with TLC producers about upcoming pageants. If you believe her claims, Tinnel has held more than a half dozen pageants for the TLC series and is more than aware of how TLC chooses which pageants to focus on.
In an interview, Tinnel claimed that TLC searches for crazy pageant families first and then tries to locate a pageant near that family. If TLC is unable to find a pageant nearby, they recruit someone, like Tinnel, to stage a competition — at her own expense — to ensure that the crazy family gets featured. Naturally, TLC has denied these claims and has tried to push the narrative that the show is as authentic as possible. Who do you believe? A woman who may have been burned by TLC or the studio profiting from this faux-reality TV?
13 Each Pageant Takes More Than 7 Hours To Film
When you watch Toddlers & Tiaras, a common theme that parents address is trying to keep their kids entertained through the long pageant day. What the producers of TLC conveniently left out is that the pageants usually last around 7 hours. To ensure that the pageants don't extend past TLC's production schedule, the pageants organized by producers tend to have less than 45 contestants in them.
Maxine Tinnel shed insight into how long the pageants take. Tinnel says that each child has to compete in three different categories. Due to how absurdly long this process takes, Tinnel told a reporter that a pageant rarely has everyone competing in the same room until the crowning. This is apparent in Toddlers & Tiaras, where you see the kids performing in a seemingly empty room. So, where do the kids go? Tinnel says that in between performances, most kids just hang out in their hotel rooms to rest, change clothes, or eat.
12 The Sugar Overload At Pageants Is Dangerous
One of the most controversial moments in Toddlers & Tiaras revolved around how much sugar the parents were giving their children. Tori Hensley of Lampasas County, Texas, gave her daughter Alexa a concoction of Mountain Dew, sweet tea, and Pixie Stix to keep her daughter "motivated and happy" during pageants. Hensley isn't the only pageant mom to overload her kid with sugar either. It's a pretty regular occurrence in child beauty pageants despite the horrific effects it can have on children.
Despite what many pageant moms will tell you, the amount of sugar that they're giving to their children is completely unsafe. A 2011 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that children that have too much caffeine are at a raised risk of neurological and cardiovascular problems. Energy drinks are particularly terrible, and medical professionals say that under no circumstances should these drinks be given to children or adolescents.
11 Beauty Pageants Are An Unregulated Billion Dollar Industry
To put it plainly, beauty pageants are a billion dollar industry around the world. With annual Miss Universe competitions, Toddlers & Tiara was just scratching the surface on the wonderful world of beauty pageants. There's a pageant at every age level, but the overall goal for many beauty pageant contestants is to one day be crowned Miss Universe. Despite the apparent abundance of beauty pageants in America, there's actually very little regulation put in place.
In 2013, France became the only country to make it illegal for someone under the age of 16 to enter a beauty pageant. If a pageant enters someone underage, they may be fined up to $40,000. In other countries, like the United States, the government has left regulation of these pageants up to the people running the pageants. The pageants are moneymakers, too. It's estimated that glitz pageants (like the ones seen on Toddlers & Tiaras) are a $20 billion industry.
It's especially strange that a government body hasn't stepped in, especially considering the cash prizes involved in these pageants. While a child may spend weeks preparing for a pageant, it doesn't necessarily count as "work" because a cash sum at the end of the competition isn't guaranteed.
10 The Magic Of Editing
As any skeptic of reality television will tell you, the shows are heavily edited to create more drama than actually existed at the time of filming. After filming, producers are able to review all of the footage that they have and form a narrative during the editing stage of production. Toddlers & Tiaras is no exception.
Maxine Tinnel, who worked with TLC numerous times on Toddlers & Tiaras, told reporters that the show is edited to imply things did or didn't happen. For example, Tinnel says that the show purposefully tries to show the kids not eating, even when they eat a ton. Furthermore, Tinnel expressed her dissatisfaction with TLC by saying that the show would take comments out of context. For example, a mother would say "Oh my God this is just horrible" in reference to the weather, but TLC producers would use that comment to create drama.
9 Pageant Moms Stage Contests To Profit Off Of Children's Success
While you may think that the parents on Toddlers & Tiaras are already exploiting their children as much as they can, worse things happen when the cameras stop rolling. Yes, some of the people featured on the show have an obsession with living through their children — but it's disgusting what lengths parents will go to turn a profit off of their children's success.
A reliable source revealed that after being featured on the show, many moms will hold their own pageants to capitalize on their children's newfound fame. These pageants are held in a smaller venue, give out cheap awards, only contain 15 or 20 contestants, and are essentially a way to earn a quick buck. The goal of these smaller competitions is to use their children's names and the Toddlers & Tiaras brand to earn enough money to fund their children's next pageant. It's textbook exploitation!
8 There Are No Strangers Allowed At The Pageants
When I first heard about Toddlers & Tiaras, I instantly thought that the competitions would be infested with perverts. After all, these pageants are highly advertised and often held in hotels, where I thought people could come and go as they please. While the show tries to make it seem that way, pageant organizers usually restrict pageant audiences to family, friends, and invited guests only. TLC ignored that rule of thumb when they decided to broadcast the program to an audience of millions.
Pageant organizer Maxine Tinnel said that it's common practice to ask an audience member for the name of the child they're coming to see whenever they arrive at the door. This practice removes the likelihood of someone perverted watching the pageants for their own enjoyment, rather than to support a contestant. It's horrible that pageant organizers need to prepare for the worst, but at least they're trying to prevent the exploitation of the contestants.
7 Pageants Are Proven To Have Harmful Effects On The Kids
Exploitation issues aside, there was a lot of debate about whether or not it was healthy for children to enter beauty pageants after Toddlers & Tiaras aired. While pageant organizers argue that these events empower the contestants and give them confidence they never had before, experts agree that these pageants have a harmful impact on the contestants' well-being.
According to these experts, participation in activities that focus on physical appearance at an early age can influence a child's self-esteem, body image, and self-worth. Even worse, children may struggle with their identities after they 'retire' from the pageant scene. A small study published in 2005 revealed that former childhood beauty pageants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. Instances of problems with one's body image can lead to struggling with perfection, may promote unhealthy dieting, and can even lead to eating disorders. I'm scared to see what being featured on Toddlers & Tiaras will do to these young girls' mental stability.
6 Even Crew Members Hated The Show
A former production assistant on Toddlers & Tiaras went to Reddit to do an Ask Me Anything, a post that allows other users to ask them questions. The production assistant revealed a number of secrets about the show, but what they unintentionally emphasized was that the people who worked on Toddlers & Tiaras really hated working on the show. The production assistant said they spent a lot of their time working as a babysitter either for the contestants or for the contestants' siblings while the parents were busy with filming.
When asked what they thought of the controversial pageant moms, the user said, "When you see how some of these people actually live and the lies they tell their significant other about how much cash they are actually blowing ... it's disgusting. A lot of it isn't included in the show because it makes everyone look significantly worse."
5 Most Of The Parents Are Plain Janes
When you think of the average pageant parent, you're probably imagining the worst of the worst. It goes with any hobby, really. We always think of the extreme cases and tend to avoid the average hobbyist. If someone told you that they loved to play hockey, you'd have a preconceived notion of what that person would be like to talk to. Toddlers & Tiaras did a great job of reinforcing stereotypes about pageant parents, but someone who worked on the show said that you'd be surprised by the number of average people at the pageant.
In the same Ask Me Anything, the Redditor revealed that there are more normal parents than there are crazy ones. In fact, most of the pageant parents take the event as seriously as they would an elementary school talent show and only enter their children for a little bit of fun. Many of these parents who are usually not featured on the show drop out once the pageants become too expensive or have too much of an impact on their lives. It's a weird hobby to have, but I see the appeal for some. If your kid doesn't have any talents, you might as well enter them into a competition that doesn't require any talent to win.
4 The Drama Is Staged
A lot of people avoid reality TV like the plague because they think that it's fake. There's some truth to that. Many times, producers will egg on contestants to give them an answer that they want to hear, and other times, producers will just tell contestants what to say. That can be done for reality shows like Big Brother or Survivor but typically, Toddlers & Tiaras producers avoided feeding lines to the contestants and their parents. That said, the show used clever editing to make the pageant seem more dramatic than it was.
According to a woman who worked with Toddlers & Tiaras producers, the pageants aren't nearly as competitive as you see on TV. "When we have downtime, the kids are sitting on the floor coloring and playing together. A lot of the times, parents will get together, maybe take the kids out to the movies or eat." Even though I think child beauty pageants are disgusting, this changed the way I look at them. I'm sure many lifelong friendships have been formed at child beauty pageants, and that's something to be admired.
3 The Kids Don't Realize That It's Fake
While there have been many controversial episodes of Toddlers & Tiaras, the biggest source of controversy happened in 2012. During a custody hearing involving one of the children on the show, a court-appointed psychologist was asked to give an opinion on beauty pageants. In the psychologist's own words, it was stated, "Children adorned with pageantry identities are not 'playing' or 'pretending.' Instead, they are trained to closely resemble their adult counterparts." In other words, it isn't just a pageant to the girls on Toddlers & Tiaras — it's their reality.
Many parents seen on the show were criticized for what they were asking their children to do. It's pretty messed up to force your 5-year-old daughter to dress up like an adult in risque clothing. But one mother took it a step further and padded her daughter's chest to resemble Dolly Parton's. Another mother, seemingly encouraging unhealthy behavior, forced her daughter to smoke a fake cigarette on stage. Only time will tell if that girl picks up one of the unhealthiest habits in the world.
2 Psychologists Think We're All Witnessing Abuse
Dr. Nancy Irwin is a psychologist who was an outspoken critic of Toddlers & Tiaras for more reason than one. Dr. Irwin, who works with sexual offenders as well as victims of sexual abuse, tried to warn parents who wanted to participate in the show that they would be exposing their children to predators online. According to Dr. Irwin, Toddlers & Tiaras was making it easier for sexual predators to prey on unsuspecting parents under the guise of being an agent or someone who could advance a child's modeling career.
According to Dr. Irwin, the only people worse than pageant parents are the people who are actually sexually abusing children. In her opinion, the parents seen on Toddlers & Tiaras are sexualizing their children and should take responsibility for the parenting choices that they make. Many fans of the show, including several moms on the show, fired back at Irwin by saying that dressing them up in costumes isn't sexualizing them. Their response fell on deaf ears. It's hard to say you aren't sexualizing your children when you paint up your daughter's face with makeup and force her to wear a bikini on national television.
1 The Show Is Complete BS
If it hasn't been made clear yet, Toddlers & Tiaras was complete bullsh*t. The show, like many reality shows, was carefully manipulated by a team of producers and editors to create drama out of nothing. Many supporters of child beauty pageants have criticized the show for portraying the pageants in a negative light. While you might want to take that with a grain of salt, the proof is in the pudding. We've heard from numerous sources who worked on the show that the show is almost entirely fabricated -- as we all expected.
But, the issue remains: if TLC is fine with profiting from the exploitation of children, is there anything that they won't film for a quick buck? There have been numerous controversies stemming from programs from the channel formerly known as "The Learning Channel." The only thing that we're learning from them is that they'll stop at nothing to make a profit. The channel has filmed child exploitation and has given TV shows to two different people who were knowingly supporting men that had sexually abused children. These shows were 19 Kids and Counting and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. The TV station is destroying lives every single year — and with ratings through the roof, they probably won't stop anytime soon.
Sources: nypost.com, psychologytoday.com, reddit.com