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Was TLC's Toddlers & Tiaras Staged?

"Toddlers & Tiaras" aired on TLC for nine seasons, from 2009-2016, during which time it was an incredibly popular reality show that consistently received high ratings. The show even resulted in three spin-off series including "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo." However, "Toddlers & Tiaras" has also been widely criticized because of its glorification of children's beauty pageants, which many people think instill the wrong values in the young contestants (not to mention their parents, as well as the adults running the pageants). 

On the show, young children participate in something similar to a standard beauty pageant for adults. They dress in makeup, spray tans, wigs, high heels, fancy outfits or swimsuits, and body enhancements such as fake breasts. However, it seems that part of the goal of these child beauty pageants is not just to make the child look "pretty," but also to make them look like a miniature, grotesque version of an adult, rather than a child. Once the children are dressed up, they walk around the stages like models and participate in talent shows. They also sometimes use adult props such as fake cigarettes. 

Besides scenes from the pageants themselves, "Toddlers & Tiaras" also captures drama and arguments that allegedly occur between the different contestants as well as their parents and families. As with any reality show, fans are likely to wonder just how much of this drama is real, and how much is manufactured by the show's writers in order to boost ratings. Because "Toddlers & Tiaras" is so controversial, fans may be even more interested in the question of how much of the show is real.

Most of the drama on Toddlers & Tiaras was staged

Unsurprisingly, "Toddlers & Tiaras" is not one of the reality TV shows that are actually real

Harvard Law & Policy Review pointed out that some of the drama may not be staged by the producers specifically, but may still be fake. This is because parents and other adults on the show understand that if their behavior is dramatic and terrible, and their child's outfits are absurd and inappropriate, this will result in them getting more screen time and possibly becoming famous. Thus, they may do things they would not normally do in order to start fights, create controversy, or just get the camera to focus on them. This suggests that, even if the producers did not interfere, the show cannot truly be called authentic.

In an interview with New York Post, Maxine Tinnel, a mother from the show, claims that most of the drama is manufactured or at least manipulated. She also admitted that the kids get along pretty well, and that "it's not as crazy and competitive as what you see on TV." 

Depending on how you look at it, the idea that most of the drama on "Toddlers & Tiaras" is made up could either be a relief, or it could actually be even more disturbing.