"Toddlers & Tiaras" has always caused a controversy among viewers, with many criticizing the show for glamorizing the child pageants and exploiting the young contestants. Now, outrage has erupted after a 4-year-old contestant smoked a cigarette as part of her routine with the encouragement of her mother.
"Don't forget to smoke," the youngster's mother, Lisa, yelled from the sidelines.
Destiny was performing a scene from the hit musical "Grease," in which character Sandy wears leather from head to toe and smokes a cigarette. Destiny and her mother took that scene very literally, including the lit cigarette in her small hands.
"You know, Sandy was a good girl. She didn't smoke either but she used it for image," Lisa explained to the cameras. That didn't stop the pageant judges and audience from being shocked by what they saw, though.
"Destiny has a cigarette- what is she thinking?!" one judge exclaimed.
TLC's series has made headlines for its behind-the-scenes look at child beauty pageants. What has been revealed is in some cases frightening. Parents give their children exorbitant amounts of sugar and caffeine in order to provide energy for the pageant; some children even dress like prostitutes.
While child pageants are nothing new, the public controversy and scrutiny of them is reaching an all-time high. "Toddlers & Tiaras" has exposed parents' extremes and shed new light on the drastic measures some will take to see their child win.
Not many have forgotten the story of JonBenet Ramsey, who was murdered in 1996. She was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in the basement of her home. Her parents adamantly denied that they had anything to do with her death.
Her father, John, later told ABC News that he had regrets about letting JonBenet participate in beauty pageants.
"I think about these things now, and it makes me cringe. We were so naïve. I now believe with all my heart that it's not a good idea to put your child on public display," he explained.