Profiting From Sexualized Children: An Open Letter to “Toddlers and Tiaras”

Dear Producers of Toddlers & Tiaras, TLC, and Discovery Communications LLC: 

It is an extremely thin veil that hides the atrocious “Toddlers & Tiaras” as a documentary-style show for your network. For the past four seasons the show has done a good job, not so much with teaching, but of giving viewers a voyeuristic peek into the children’s beauty pageant world. We don’t need to see anymore. As Season 5 reaches its midpoint, the show now continues to do little more than become complicit in the exploitation of the little girls at its center. At best, it is now a mockumentary of the visibly unbalanced mothers (and a few fathers) who force their children to spend long and uncomfortable hours participating in these expensive pageants. 

Many of these children are too young to say whether or not they want to participate. When these children act out and demonstrate they do not enjoy what is happening, or do not want it to happen any longer, they are still made to participate by their pageant moms. Let us be clear from the outset that after this season, it is time to cancel the show. 

I’m sure inside your producer heads you think this is crazy, especially as the show has received some buzz-worthy, controversial attention recently and continues to pull in advertisers and an average of 1.3 million viewers each week….but as your mission statements goes, it is the job of the Discovery channel family to satisfy curiosity. 

TLC has done its job with this show, as almost everyone who has been exposed to the program finds it distasteful and widely condemns the child beauty pageant circuit. Our curiosity has been satisfied – as demonstrated with the several thousands of negative and disapproving comments left in the last couple of weeks alone. We’ve seen it. We don’t like it. We’re over it. 

The idea of two-year-old girls strutting around with cones protruding out of their bustiers and a five-year-old who sits trembling and screaming in a chair at a salon as she is enticed into a painful beauty treatment will tend to leave a bad taste in our mouth. 

It leaves us less interested in the pageants themselves, but more interested in gawking at and judging the deranged mothers who subject their poor daugthers to this twisted world of judged fake beauty. That might make for good ratings, but it doesn’t make for a happy and healthy childhood of the young girls who hold the title of this show. Just like their overbearing mothers, you exploit these children. A shameful act on both parts. 

The duration of this show has coincided with a large effort by a small group of dedicated experts to raise awareness to the general public about the sexualization of girls. The parents we have reached now understand the emotional, psychological, and physical harm a young girl is exposed to when she is sexualized.  As the 2007 American Psychological Association’s task force report showed us, early sexualization can lead to self-esteem issues, depression, eating disorders, and early promiscuity. 

“Toddlers & Tiaras” is a petri dish of sexualization. Little girls are taught, often times forced by their domineering mothers, to act coquettishly, learn suggestive dance routines, wear sexualized costumes and bathing suits, endure hours of hair and make-up, and are even put on restrictive diets in order to lose weight for competition. This is perverse. While TLC continues to air “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the network becomes an agent of this sexualization. 

The toxic culture of the pageant world, the judging of beauty, is confusing to young children who have not yet reached the emotional-intellectual milestones of understanding reality and competition. These little girls become infantilized women as their parents and coaches do whatever it takes to win that crown and of course, the money. The time alone spent prepping for pageants robs girls of their childhood, time that should be spent learning and playing and socializing with friends. 

Teaching young girls a very narrow version of beauty, transforming their bodies so that their beauty can be measured and judged, or to use their sexualized bodies to earn money for the family is disgusting. I take great offense to this. When you add to this the chemically dangerous spray tans, butt glue, nail glue, eyelash glue, hairspray, and cosmetics applied to these tiny, developing bodies, it is not a stretch to say these pageant programs are both emotionally and physically abusive. 

The content of the show is reprehensible and the time has come to stop being a complicit entity to the unfair and unhealthy treatment of these little girls. Surely the world holds more intersting storylines than overdone, unhappy toddlers wearing hair pieces and sequined Vegas showgirl costumes while their obnoxious mothers puppet unimaginative talent routines as they pathetically live vicariously through their very young daughters. 

TLC and Discovery’s decision to not renew the show certainly won’t stop these families from exploiting their daughters, but we don’t have to give audience to it. Please cancel “Toddlers & Tiaras.”


Melissa Wardy 

Owner, Pigtail Pals LLC 

It’s time we change the way we think about our girls.


Want to contact the show? Have at it: 


Owners: Discovery Communications, LLC Viewer Relations
1 Discovery Place, 5th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Discovery Ethics Hotline: 1-800-398-6395


Melissa Atkins Wardy is the owner of Pigtail Pals – Redefine Girly, an empowering apparel and gift company for girls. She advocates and writes about issues involving the sexualization of girlhood.

Photo credit: Siti Saad
By Melissa Atkins Wardy


Janine H.
Janine H7 years ago

Reading about this perversion, seeing it in TV, etc. is a torment. It should be for all people. But some seem to like perversions. And so why not taking the children away (to save them. Give them to a lovley and caring family? Maybe relatives), why not sterilizing these people? But then someone shouts "dictatorship", etc. How much perversion can come next?

This is so terrible. Always when i hear about terrible things it makes med sad, and i cannot understand how someone could do something terrible - hurt, rape or kill a person or animal. When i was a child this also happened to me... and surviving this is more terrible than not (parents and other may think different, but a victim?), living with all this pain... living with guilty feelings... full with hate for the own self
No one can understand, because most people cannot imagine this, cannot imagine how much it change. Some of them think, that this would not be so terrible, because all would make some sexual experiences, and so it would not matter if there were some without own interest or wish. This cruel and superficial society makes me sick.

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Firdos A.
Firdos A.7 years ago

I dont want to see anymore child abuse on television or anywhere for that matter and nobody else wants to see it either, we want it of the television the only people that want to create or support a show like is usually a pedophile, I am so shocked that we are not in the streets trying to get rid of this demonic way of thought.

Firdos A.
Firdos A.7 years ago

I think, they are selling these kids and im sure not all of them because they seem to be very selective, I have seen one where the host describes the little girls, blonde hair, blue eyes, and she knows how to do her thing, and another girl, they were describing her red hair and the little girl actually flirted like a grown women to the judge, another he said she has big eyes and baby face, the iorny. Or they are making big money from parents who are paying for the $900 dollar dresses, teeth, weaves, tanning,and make-up, either way their is no logic to this madness, not only did they create misery for the rest of the little girls life, but they are not even making money out this wasn't that the point of them puting their little girls through this. I saw one where the mother paid $900 for the dress and the little girl won only $500 and no tiara while the people who run this make $5 billion a year. No wonder its hard to get rid of this it seems to be easy for them like taking candy from a baby, literally and it is always these misreable, greedy or no common sense parents. I sometimes wonder if they ever feel guilt for selling there kids souls to the devil. Sometimes I wonder if we have evolved or is it our technology that has evolved and it does the thinking for us, because their waere days where everybody fought anything negative they made sure children were protected they were actually smarter and stronger are we actually stuck in time with a modern mask. WAKE UP

Norma V.
Norma Villarreal7 years ago

I've never seen the show, but watching this video was watching a parent traumatize and abuse her child for a beauty pageant.

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle8 years ago

Reading the article was disgusting enough. Watching that little girl go through eyebrow waxing? was too much -- and what does her mother say, in exasperation? -- "I would have held her down and just ripped it off."

I've never seen "Toddlers and Tiaras", and of course, I never would, being a feminist interested in expanding girls' good visions of themselves, self-esteem, but this world is truly shocking, and just a way for the mothers to play out "their" visions of beauty queendom. And a nice forum for pedephiles to enjoy.

Author said everything I would have.

Richard P.
Anonymous XX8 years ago

When I first saw the promos for this show, I thought it was a joke. Unfortunately I discovered it was not. This brainwashing of little girls is one of the most sickest perverted things I have seen. It is the epitome of what is wrong with US culture.

Apparently TLC now stands for Truly Lousy Crap.

Richard P.
Anonymous XX8 years ago

This show is the epitome of what is wrong with the US.

Lika S.
Lika P8 years ago

This is also part of the reason why pedophiles prey on our little girls, because they see this sexualization as an invitation to engage in sexual behaviors with them. I can't imagine why a mother would want her 18 month old to look like an 18 year old hussy in miniature... the parents are sick, and it's part of the major reason why we need April's Law, to stiffen the penalties on child sex predators on and offline.

April's Law Petition -

April's Law Wisconsin-

This is in the state legislature right now.

Hailey Wohlwend
Hailey Wohlwend8 years ago

"Many of these children are too young to say whether or not they want to participate. When these children act out and demonstrate they do not enjoy what is happening, or do not want it to happen any longer, they are still made to participate by their pageant moms."

direct contradiction there. they're either too stupid to know whats happening or forced to do it. which is it.

and to me as someone who isn't yet a legal adult its intresting to know that you consider children to be too 'ignorant' to understand anything thats going on around it. people act like kids (and teenagers for that matter) are mentally ill, and unable to function at all when they feel like it. but then at other times we're 'too old for this behavior' and suddenly we are fully formed adults who can comprehend every word you say! its miraculous!

make up your mind.

also teens and kids have almost no control over their lives. if a parent likes a particular school, then they'll force the kid to go there, even if the kid dislikes it, or it's a horrible learning environment. and if the school really isn't that great the parents will often ignore the kids objections as being 'beneath them' or saying that 'they just don't understand'. but no matter what, im the best person to decide whats best for me - because it's my neck on the line - not yours. deal with it

Hillary B.
Hillary G. B8 years ago

Past Member: When you say that when you open the door to one sexual perversion...are you implying that gayness is another "perversion" that has been normalized?? At the very least, I don't agree with what you've said. I don't believe most people think NAMBLA is normal, though of course, that is what NAMBLA thinks it can achieve. That's never going to happen. However, I hope you understand that the difference between child abuse (at pageants, or Nambla) is not the same as sex between consenting adults. I think most of us see that there's a big difference between innate sexual orientation between consenting adults, and child abuse in it's many forms. What's really perverse is that there are many who are not able to make these distinctions, and lump gayness in with actual perversions. I do not agree with your theory that if you open the door to one perversion, it opens to all. I think the fact remains that there are moral people out there who can still distinguish what is harmful perversion, from what is not. However, stopping the emotionally (and at times physically) abusive pageant shows is another thing. I understand that a lot of these shows offer a financial incentive for the families, and that will make it very hard to stop poor, uneducated folk from participating. Perhaps make it illegal to offer a large monetary prize. However, if there were anything better for these people to do with their time, I would think they would already be doing it. So sad.