Kids, Lawsuit of the Day, Media and Journalism, Reality TV, Television

Mother of ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ Star Sues for Millions After Daughter Is ‘Sexualized’ on the Web

Paisley Dickey (left) and Pretty Woman (right)

You don’t have to watch much reality television to understand that these days, many cable networks are trying to capitalize on the drama caused by little girls and their overbearing stage mothers. Take, for example, TLC’s Toddlers & Tiaras, a show that that gives viewers an inside look at the often controversial world of children’s beauty pageants. Apparently the resultant mother and daughter tantrums were just too good to keep off the airwaves.

But in late 2011, viewers expressed outrage over the pageant industry’s tendency to sexualize children. After all, with mothers dressing their daughters like surgically-enhanced country singers, fake breasts and all, or hookers with hearts of gold, how could viewers be anything but horrified? In all honesty, some of these little girls — the ones who don’t aspire to be tax lawyers, at least — look like complete prosti-tots (see above).

This backdrop brings us to today’s Lawsuit of the Day, where the mother of one of these tiara-toting toddlers alleges that a well-known celebrity gossip site had a hand in scandalizing her daughter….

So who is the little ray of sunshine whose name has been tarnished by the tabloids? The pageant princess in question is 5-year-old Isabella Barrett, and in case you’re not familiar with her, she currently holds the title of First Grand Supreme in Eden Wood’s Cutie Patootie Pageant — whatever the hell that means.

Back in December, Isabella gained some notoriety for claiming that 3-year-old Paisley Dickey (pictured before the jump) looked like a hooker. Sigh. Kids these, days, I tell ya.

One month later, the tables were turned, and now Isabella’s mother, Susanna Barrett, is terribly offended that several media websites dared to claim that her daughter was acting like a hooker. Isabella, if you can read, that’s called karma. Have mommy teach you about it some day.

Here’s a video of the incident that sparked the media’s wild accusations:

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It looks like TMZ, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Mail all need to take a seat in the time-out corner, because each publication likened little Isabella to a gyrating go-go dancer. Because really, who do they think they’re dealing with? Toddlers & Tiaras star Alana Holler, of “a dollar makes me holler, honey boo boo” infamy?

Isabella’s mother, Susanna, represented by Nesenoff & Miltenberg LLP, was so mad that she decided to sue for $30 million in damages. That amount seems completely irrational and unreasonable. The lawsuit, in its entirety, is available here. The New York Daily News has the details:

Online articles published by the three outlets “brazenly attempt to sexualize” the girl by “claiming she was gyrating in a nightclub and singing about her sex appeal” the suit charges, when she was actually sitting down during the Jan. 9 taping at a Manhattan restaurant.

In the video, Isabella wears a pink tutu and is seen bouncing in the deejay booth as she sings to a cheering crowd.

The articles claimed the girl’s mother, puppy boutique owner Susanna Barrett, pressured her into performing on the video, the suit states.

But the person seen encouraging the child on the tape is a celebrity disc jockey who was hired for the fund-raising event at Libation, a new bistro on Ludlow Street, according to the suit.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that because of the media’s coverage of Isabella’s Libation lambada, the 5-year-old is now “perceived sexually, erotically and pornographically,” and that the media articles “have placed Isabella in serious physical danger, attracting the attention of others who would seek to sexualize a child.”

While none of us here at Above the Law are parents, now that these media outlets have categorized Isabella as being on the market for sex, we can see why Susanna is upset — like it or not, a little girl in a pink tutu is probably some pedophile’s dream. We reached out to Nesenoff & Miltenberg for comment, and it seems that Andrew T. Miltenberg, partner and lead counsel, feels the same way:

Andrew T. Miltenberg

These publications have turned something as innocent as a charity event for animal organizations, into a salacious tale of sexual and erotic themes. At the center of this fabricated story is a 5-year-old child who has been offered up by these publications as a sexual icon for deviants and child predators.

The complaint speaks for itself, but clearly the fact-checking and editing that you would expect from widely read news websites was lacking when these articles were written. The product was a much more exciting, but incorrect account of the event, and unfortunately Isabella has to suffer as a result.

We agree that these media outlets have potentially opened up a child to be viewed as a “sexual icon,” but what about Susanna herself? What part did she play in this? By virtue of allowing her daughter to appear on Toddlers & Tiaras — a show that features little girls dressed in a JonBenét Ramsey kind of way, complete with fake tans, fake hair, fake nails, and even fake teeth — hasn’t Isabella’s mother already done that on her own?

Barrett v. Warner Bros. Entertainment, et al Summons & Complaint [New York County Supreme Court]
Mother of ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ star Isabella Barrett claims three media outlets tried to sexualize the 5-year-old’s performance in web video [New York Daily News]
‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ mom files $30M lawsuit against 3 news outlets [New York Post]
5 Y.O. ‘Toddlers’ Star Gets DOWN Inside Nightclub ‘I’m Sexy and I Know It’ [TMZ]
Isabella Barrett, ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ Star, Sings ‘Sexy And I Know It’ At Club (VIDEO) [Huffington Post]
Shock as five-year-old Toddlers & Tiaras girl sings to sexy song on stage in nightclub… as her MOTHER pushes her on [Daily Mail]

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