A parenting group has opened fire on TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, criticizing the series for showing a 3-year-old dressed as Julia Roberts’ prostitute character from Pretty Woman. The child beauty pageant reality hit’s new promo (below) includes a scene of the girl, named Paisley, wearing a variation on Roberts’ hooker garb.
“We have a serious problem when The Learning Channel* features a toddler, who probably hasn’t even learned to read, dressed as a prostitute showing off her sexy strut,” says Melissa Henson, director of communications and public education for the PTC: “There’s no question, TV executives are complicit in robbing these small kids of their childhood. For years we’ve seen adult sexuality being inappropriately and aggressively foisted on innocent young children, but children today are being sexualized at younger and younger ages.”
The network had no comment, but the girl’s mother, Wendy Dickey, explained the outfit to EW:
“Well, at this pageant there was an option to do celebrity-wear,” Dickey says. “And we thought about what we could wear with her being a brunette and Julia Roberts is my favorite actress of all time. I thought it was real cute to do Julia. She’s 3, if she was 10 I never would have considered this. But as young as she is I thought it was very comical.”
Dickey adds that she made the skirt longer than Roberts’ outfit in the film and was stunned by the media’s response. She says that if people saw Paisley’s entire routine, which later has her daughter dressed as Roberts’ reformed character in a demure brown dress, they wouldn’t have quite the same outrage.
“I’m amazed it’s caused this much of a frenzy,” Dickey says. “The judges loved it. Everybody except one particular mom went nuts over it. It was the cutest thing ever. It was very innocent. A lot probably would have been different if they aired the whole entire routine instead of just the hooker part.”
Here’s the promo for the episode, which airs tonight:
*TLC changed its name from The Learning Channel in 1998.