With their spray tans, phony teeth, big hair, and personalities to match, the kids on Toddlers and Tiaras always made for memorable television. But since its debut in 2008, the show has been plagued by rumors that it is far from the real-life spectacle it's made out to be. In fact, the Toddlers and Tiaras producers staged most of the show. While the series' ethics have always been a bit lacking - they dress kids in scanty outfits, pad them with body enhancements, and have them use fake cigarettes as stage props - the events that unfold throughout any given show were always presented as real. It was supposed to accurately portray a cutthroat kiddie competition where a cheap trophy and a little cash are the ultimate prizes.
But behind the scenes, Toddlers and Tiaras, had some of the worst people involved in reality tv. Like many silly reality shows, the kid-centered program was mostly fake. Directors cooked up artificial drama to keep us engaged and entertained. Such fakery is dubious enough when it involves adult participants but there's something particularly distasteful about using children in such a way.
Nonetheless, the show was a consistent viewer favorite and ratings winner throughout its run on TLC. It even spawned three spinoffs, including the unforgettable Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Read on to learn more about the staging of Toddlers and Tiaras.
No Participants Are Paid
Reality TV stars can usually command massive paydays and go on to build lucrative careers. The kids and adults featured on Toddlers and Tiaras don't have such luxuries, however. No one is paid for their participation on the show. In most cases, parents lose money by investing in pageant prep. Professional pageant organizers who sponsor the show's pageants aren't paid either.
All of this makes Toddlers and Tiaras a show with surprisingly little overhead for the network.
The Cast Members Are Told What To Say
All that spontaneity, all those off-the-cuff remarks, all the precocious witticisms uttered by pint-sized pageant participants - are they really as natural and unprompted as they appear to be? In many instances, no. The kids who take part in Toddlers and Tiaras, and many child beauty pageants, are coached on just what they should say and how they should present themselves. In some cases, the coaching comes from Mom; in others, from the producers of the show.
Every episode of Toddlers and Tiaras goes for basically the same story. It's a formula that works and the participants have to conform to it.
The Kids Actually Get Along
If Toddlers and Tiaras is to be believed, pageants are relentlessly competitive, pitting impressionable little girls against one another in an attempt to win highly coveted crowns and prizes. But that's not the reality of these pageants at all. Maxine Tinnel was a pageant organizer who staged some of the events for the show and she has since become one of Toddlers' biggest whistleblowers.
"It is truly not as competitive and crazy as what you see on TV," she said. "When we have downtime, the kids are sitting on the floor coloring or playing together. A lot of times parents will get together, maybe take the kids out to the movies or to eat."
It all sounds quite savage.
The Show Casts The Participants Before Finding Pageants For Them
"Find the crazy families first, then find a pageant near them." That's how organizer Maxine Tinnel described the casting process behind Toddlers and Tiaras. Though the show's narrative suggests that a film crew finds an interesting kiddie pageant to document, the process is actually backward.
The interesting children are found first through a more traditional casting avenue, then producers track down local pageant organizers to arrange nearby pageants for the kids to be involved in (and for the show to film).
It doesn't get any faker than that.