The season six premiere of Toddlers & Tiaras was chilling in bizarre and unprecedented ways, because I'm pretty sure 9-year-old Hailey had never met the jittery, winking gay man who introduced himself as her father before filming her episode.
Dads with flamboyantly kept secrets are nothing new for Toddlers & Tiaras. Some of the episodes' most clip-able moments have come from fathers who seem to be more invested in pageantry than their wives or daughters. The thing is, the relationship between these parents and their children is usually warm and affectionate.
Even when the kids and parents fight—in one episode, a little girl asked her Mommy if she could tell her a secret, then leaned in and whispered "I hate you"—you get the sense that they are fighting because they know one another. That little girl hates her mother for a reason.
Not so last night.
Throughout the episode, fair, red-headed Hailey interacted with the burnt sienna, frosted tipped man who introduced himself as her "father" in the manner of a child who has had to be dropped off at the home of a strange neighbor, due to an unforeseen family emergency.
It wasn't that Hailey didn't seem to like the man, but that she didn't seem to know what the man was like.
While Christopher mugged for the camera with tales of Hailey's $5,000 pageant dress, Hailey remained mostly mute. In the clip above, an alternately bored and cloying Christopher does his best to prod her into producing speech sounds with her mouth. (Eventually, she mumbles nervously to a manicurist that her dress cost $4,000. IT COST FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS, HAILEY, but, I mean whatever.)
Shortly after this, Christopher speculates that there are spiders and cobwebs in her head, where thoughts should be.
Things got even weirder when the duo finally made it to the Universal Royalty Christmas
Pageant (billed as Hailey's first; it seemed like Christopher's thousandth).
For the outfit of choice portion, Hailey dressed up as an elf and delivered a rendition of "Up on the Housetop" that one of my colleagues described as "nightmarish." For reasons never specified, this routine was billed as a "surprise" to her Christopher, who quickly let his disappointment with it be known on camera.
The episode wound down with Hailey taking home a couple trophies but no major titles. A nice enough kid, but she just didn't have that sparkle.
Suddenly, she was crying in the arms of a redheaded woman, obviously her mother, Like Hailey, she seemed to have no special relationship to Christopher the man to whom she "was married for 7 years."
Did this man pay a woman for the use of her daughter so that he could be seen on camera buying a child a $5,000 dress?
What the hell happened here?