TLC’s reality show “Toddlers & Tiaras” is back for a third season of tears, tantrums, and controversy.
One featured mom, Joey Lynn George – whose seven-year-old daughter Hailey George is a hot property on the pageant circuit – wants to set the record straight over the widespread notion that pageant parents are, by dressing their pre-pubescent daughters in swimsuits, sexually suggestive outfits, and layers of makeup, subjecting their young ones to pedophiles and potential sex offenders.
“The biggest misconception ... is when I hear anybody say that these pageant moms are putting their children out there for sexual entertainment for the predators out there. If someone ever said that to my face, oh my gosh, I would put them in their place,” she told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “There are kids in swimsuits right here in Florida [the San Antonio family was at Disneyworld as we spoke] and you know how many predators are here? It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. I’m not going to have her not do what she likes to do because they are everywhere. Then there are people that say we’re trying to live through our kids. No, we’re just good parents that are going to support our kids no matter what they do.”
Some experts beg to differ.
"As a treatment professional of sex offenders as well as victims of sexual abuse, I would like the parents of these little girls to assume responsibility for their choices. They are sexualizing their young children. Do not be surprised if your child is preyed upon as a result of this high degree of visibility,” said Dr. Nancy Irwin, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist told us in article about the controversial show last year. “Men can pose as agents/managers and track you/your girl down through the show. Further, know that they will be pleasuring themselves while looking at your daughter’s YouTube clip."
But George insisted that having Hailey prance center stage in fake eyelashes, lipstick and sequined swimsuits is actually helpful to her self-esteem.
“Hailey says [pageants] make her feel like a supermodel. She wants to be a fashion designer and a supermodel. She loves the way she dresses, and the makeup and the hair make her feel like the supermodels she sees in magazines and on TV,” George, who has five young daughters and a three-year-old granddaughter who also competes, said. “The positive side is, I get to influence her to behave better. ‘You’re not going to the pageant if you talk back or fight with your sister.’ She straightens up real quick.”
Granted, the entire George family was also featured earlier this year on an episode of “The Supernanny” as parents Joey Lynn and Glenn were struggling to appropriately discipline their brood of beauties.
Perhaps the show helped, as the family (Joey Lynn refers to them as the “Gorgeous George’s”) is dedicated to cheering Hailey on in her pursuit for a sash and cash.
“Pageants actually take up a lot of our time. If we know that it’s a big pageant, like in August, she’s going to be in Universal Royalty’s Texas pageant. That’s going to be big. A pageant like that will take up 80 percent of our time a couple of weeks before. We will be preparing, practicing, just going over her routines, her dresses, her hair and makeup, different ways to see which way she looks best. Her routine moves, her beauty walk – it’s going to be pageant work 80 or 90 percent of the time,” George explained. “We might start off at 80 percent, and every day that it gets closer, we’ll go up one percent every day and we’ll be at 100 percent by the time we get to the pageant.”
And if what audiences have already seen on “Toddlers & Tiaras” is anything to go by, the extent to which these young boys and girls are primed and prodded is jaw-dropping.
George encourages Hailey to “make mommy and daddy some money,” another little girl gets her eyebrows waxed and teeth bleached, and New Jersey toddler Mia works out with hand-weights and does pelvic rolls while donning a Madonna-esque cone bra. Then there’s the mom who boasts that her daughter won her first pageant while she was fast asleep in diapers at just nine months old, and the Ohio mom who coerced her young daughter into having her eyelashes permanently dyed, and the mother that puts her sons on the beauty pageant stage and openly admits that she wants to “turn (her) little boys into girls” and that they are the “girls she never had.”
But George said that the "beautifying" process isn’t all that drastic – at least not in her eyes.
“I have heard about waxing and Botox, but that’s just extreme and ridiculous. I would never wax. I mean, yes, we pluck Hailey’s eyebrows if they need to be, but I would never wax them. We’ll tease her hair, but we try not to do it as rough, we try to be a little more sensitive towards Hailey,” she added. “I don’t get her acrylic nails. I don’t believe in acrylic and going to the nail salon. I mean, yes, she can go to the nail salon to get them painted, but I will not put acrylic on her nails. She’s too young for that. We’ll put like press-on nails on her, she does like those. As soon as the pageant is over, she takes them off, takes off the fake eyelashes. As far as tanning, in the summer, she will get a natural bronze tan by herself. In the winter, we do spray tan her.”