Controversy that erupted over a recent episode of TLC’s reality TV series “Toddlers & Tiaras” with female impersonator and Imperial Palace headliner Frank Marino and his “Divas Las Vegas” cast has not cooled, and now it turns out that four girls from Las Vegas, all younger than age 6, took part in the show. “T&T” has been blasted by parent groups, psychologists, psychiatrists and child welfare organizations for glorifying “little girls and dressing them up as beauty queens.”
The Las Vegas episode was singled out for criticism because 2-year-old twins Scarlett and Isabella competed for Frank’s cast in his Imperial Palace showroom in female drag outfits. The other two Las Vegas “babes” were 6-year-old Kiley and 5-year-old Elizabeth. Two other Las Vegas baby girls have appeared in other “T&T” episodes. Here’s a clip from TLC of the Las Vegas episode.
Another “T&T” episode that raised eyebrows was when a 4-year-old stunned viewers and judges dressed as a leather-clad teen from “Grease” complete with a prop cigarette. One TV industry insider told me: “This show has been controversial and making outraged headlines from the start, but the Las Vegas episode went right over the top and really fanned the flames again.”
Pageant coach, photographer and hair and makeup expert Georgina Vaughan, who was Miss Nevada USA in 2009, commented: “The four girls were all properly accompanied by their parents. There was a pageant family, a pageant father and a pageant grandmother looking after them. The controversy was more about the fact that the judges for the episode were female impersonators in full glitz and makeup. The producers didn’t reveal that to the children and their moms until the filming started. That was a big surprise. ”
She added in an interview with me: “It was the lavish, over-the-top, outlandish Las Vegas treats for the children that had critics up in arms. The twins were shown by the producers in a pink Hummer limo. Another child was filmed in a helicopter, and the ultimate was when they hired little people for a Blue Man Group-type photo shoot. It’s what the producers wanted for the scenes, and that’s what fueled the fire.
Those behind-the-scenes photographs shot by Georgina have not been seen until now in this Vegas DeLuxe exclusive. She continued: “At the viewing party, Frank’s stars didn’t come in drag, so the kids were confused not recognizing their judges. One of the 5-year-olds was asked, ‘What is a drag queen?,’ and she answered, ‘At the dry cleaners!’ ”
Kiley won the top award on the show, Elizabeth won the Personality Award, and the twins won in their age category.
Georgina, who has her official pageant website at GeorginaVaughan.com, summed up: “Pageants are quite normal and are healthy and good for girls of all ages. This episode really went over the top with its producers and started the controversy all over again.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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