On a recent episode of TLC’s “Toddlers and Tiaras,” 4-year-old pageant contestant Destiny Christian appeared on stage with a fake cigarette in her mouth. The girl, dressed as Sandy, Olivia Newton-John’s character from “Grease,” she then threw it on the ground and stepped on it.
“Sandy comes out and throws down a cigarette, so Destiny’s going to do that,” her mother, Lisa Christian, explained earlier in the show.
Pageant judges called the use of the prop “inappropriate” and “in poor taste.” “What is she thinking?” one of them said afterward.
Appearing on HLN’s Nancy Grace Wednesday, Lisa Christian defended her daughter’s routine.
“We just wanted her to be competitive with the other girls,” Christian said. “To me, pretending is not harming her. I smoked candy cigarettes when I was little. I don’t smoke, my parents don’t smoke, and she has been taught that it is a health risk in smoking. She is not your typical 4-year old. She does know the difference between right and wrong.”
Asked if she would let Destiny go out there with the prop again, knowing the furor it would set off, Christian had mixed feelings.
“You know, I’m not sure, with all the controversy that’s going on, but I mean, as far as her pretending, yes, I’d let her pretend again,” she said. “Because to me, I think a child with imagination is going somewhere.”
TLC did not return calls seeking comment on the episode Wednesday.
Destiny is just the latest of several toddlers featured on the hit show to generate controversy with their antics both on and off screen. Check out some of the others above.