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MOST parents would prefer to bubble wrap their precious little ones and preserve their innocence for as long as possible. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear them sigh: “They just grow up too fast.”
Then along comes a show like TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, which sees moms doing the polar opposite as they dress their little girls up to resemble catwalk queens in order to compete for the title in a slew of pageantry events, and it has caused outrage.
How could it not after seeing little girls gyrate like the dancers in a rapper’s video, some having their chests padded à la Dolly Parton and one mother even going as far as asking her toddler to smoke fake cigarettes on stage. It is horrifying to see these little girls robbed of their childhoods, when they should have play time with their Barbie dolls and tea sets. Instead, they are going through the rigorous routine of having their fake eyelashes fitted in place, their nails done, their hair styled and practising their strut down the ramp.
But as controversial as Toddlers & Tiaras is, it is also one of the most popular shows on the channel. And now one of its stars, six-year-old Alana Thompson, aka Honey Boo Boo, who has been mentioned in the TV series South Park and 30 Rock, and has celebrity fans, features in one of the spin-off series, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.
The new show follows her family: mom June, dad Mike as well as sisters Lauryn, 12, Jessica, 15, and Anna, who is 17 and pregnant.
In an interview with June Thompson who, by the way, was heavily criticised for giving Alana a mixture of Red Bull and Mountain Dew to drink, which she called “go-go juice”, she paints a picture of the typical American family.
As for the attention they now receive, she says: “Nobody could have predicted it would be this big, but you should prepare for anything. I didn’t realise the paparazzi would hang around this much. I also didn’t realise fans would approach us this much, but we do love them and don’t mind them at all. It’s great to meet people from all over the country.”
As a mother, Thompson was asked how she shields her loved ones from the negativity that arises from them being in the spotlight.
She offers: “I just tell the kids to ignore them and not to care what anybody thinks of you. People are usually really respectful, and we haven’t really dealt with rude people face-to-face. We don’t represent rednecks or the state of Georgia – we represent our family.”
In the show, viewers get to see a fresh-faced Honey Boo Boo doing what little girls enjoy doing – spending time with her family, where they four-wheel drive through mud pits, pick up road kill for the family cookout and basically enjoy loud and crazy outings.
At least all that innocence isn’t lost competing in pageantry, eh?
• Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, TLC (DStv channel 172, TopTV 453), Wednesdays, 9.10pm.