Darling Divas or Damaged Daughters? The Dark Side of Child Beauty Pageants and an Administrative Law Solution

Ever since TLC first aired the popular television show Toddler and Tiaras in 2009, the network has brought international scrutiny to this country’s child pageant industry. Viewers of all ages have been captivated to watch as a variety of colorful pageant parents (mostly moms) try to transform their young children (mostly girls) into pageant princesses, teaching them to dance on stage in tiny, sequined outfits, pumping them full of sugar and energy drinks, and adorning them with spray tans, fake hairpieces, and plenty of makeup. Scathing media reports suggest that pageant parents have already been tried and convicted of bad parenting in the court of popular opinion. This Comment addresses the question of whether they can and should be tried in a court of law as well. It investigates the physical and emotional harm that overzealous pageant parenting can inflict on young children, as well as the long-term effect that these practices can have on greater societal ills such as gender stereotyping and domestic violence. This Comment ultimately argues that existing legal frameworks provide an inadequate remedy for this harm and proposes an administrative law solution that can be implemented at federal, state, and local levels.