Toddlers and Tiaras mom Susanna Barrett is suing three major media outlets, claiming their reporting presented her her 5-year-old daughter Isabella in an overly sexualized manner. The $30 million libel suit against TMZ, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail was filed in Manhattan on Tuesday, according to The New York Daily News. The Barretts are hoping for
the grand supreme title a lawsuit win of $30 million.
The hubbub stems from media coverage of a videotape showing the kindergartener performing a rendition of the LMFAO song “Sexy and I Know It” in the DJ booth of a Manhattan restaurant.
The New York Daily News reports:
“Isabella Barrett did not act or portray herself sexually, erotically or provocatively; she was not gyrating’ at a nightclub’ or singing about her sex appeal,'” Susanna Barrett claims in the court papers.
“On the contrary, it is the defendants who, through their articles, have thrust these false and vulgar characteristics on to Isabella.”
“As a result, Isabella is now perceived sexually, erotically and pornographically,” and the articles “have placed Isabella in serious physical danger, attracting the attention of others who would seek to sexualize a child.”
The reality-show star simply “mimicked the disc jockey’s words,” according to the court papers.
“She did not understand the concept of sex, let alone sex appeal’ and could not have been singing about her own sex appeal,” the suit says.
A letter issued by the Barrett’s attorney asserts that the Barretts were attending “a pet charity event” at Libation NYC. I’ve seen the video, and I have to agree that Isabella is most certainly not gyrating. She’s sitting, wearing a distinctly non-sexy pink tutu-style dress, doing her best to sing along to the song at the encouragement of the DJ.
The lawsuit takes specific exception to the pet charity event venue being described as a nightclub. I checked Libation NYC’s website, which proclaims itself as one of Zagat’s Top Ten Hot Spots in New York City and “one of the most premier venues in the nightlife industry.” They also offer “bistro” food. Libation NYC’s promotion video on YouTube shows young women in tight dresses who are, in fact, gyrating. Apparently Libation NYC also has neat-o “flair” bartenders who twirl flaming champagne bottles or something.
However, Libation NYC does offer space for private events and promotional parties. Its client list ranges from the Royal Bank of Scotland to Snoop Dogg. I mean, if Goldman Sachs has rented the place out; how racy can it possibly be?
The actual event was hosted by Cocktails That Care, a group which raises money for chosen charities by hosting cocktail parties. This event, “A Barktastic Night for Two Amazing Causes!” benefited New York animal shelter Bideawee and helped fund an off-off-Broadway comedy play called “Dog Park.”
According to The Examiner, the event was also attended by American Idol’s Julie Zorilla and Jersey Couture’s Anthony Scalli. The Examiner also reported that “only one pup was in attendance, but there was one nicely built man whose body was painted like a dog.”
Listen, I’m not really a fan of glitz pageants for little girls. The tanning, bleaching, and fake hair give me the heebie-jeebies. And I would not have taken my child to an event–even a charity event–that was clearly a cocktail party. And I’d be uncomfortable with my daughter singing “Sexy and I Know It” at home, let a lone in a DJ booth.
That being said, it isn’t child abuse to take your kid to a questionable restaurant or to let her sing an inappropriate song. If it was, a lot of us would be in trouble. My kids know a lot of Katy Perry lyrics, and we’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese, which is as questionable as it gets.
At the very least, the little girl did have a nice time.
In a CNN interview, Isabella said,
“I had lots and lots of fun. I pet all the puppies, and I bought a sweater for my dog, and I bought cookies for my dog.”
Isabella also once famously announced on TMZ that “my mom doesn’t dress me like a hooker,” referring to another girl’s “Pretty Woman” costume on TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras. Frankly, I’m way more creeped out by the TMZ guy hanging out at the tanning salon with a video cam, chatting up a five-year-old, than I am by Isabelle’s use of the word “hooker.”
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