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‘Honey Boo Boo’ accuses mother of draining her fortune, exposing child stars’ vulnerabilities: ‘Why was my money even being used, or being touched?’

In World
April 05, 2024

Honey Boo Boo is all grown up, but her bank account has shrunk. During last week’s episode of Mama June: Family Crisis, Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson confronted her mother, “Mama June” Shannon, for draining the money she earned as a child star. It’s all brought up labor laws from back in the Charlie Chaplin days.

Now 18, Thompson catapulted into early-reality-TV fame back in the 2000s, as a breakout star on the TLC show Toddlers and Tiaras. She revealed last year to ET that she would be attending Regis University in Denver after getting a $21,000 scholarship to pursue nursing. But almost a year into trying to fund her future education, Thompson found her mother had allegedly siphoned some of the money she initially thought she could depend on.

“Why was my money even being used, or being touched?” Thompson questioned Shannon, referring to the money she earned from Honey Boo Boo and Dancing with the Stars. “What the f*ck was you making a Coogan account for… I don’t have really the money for it,” she continued after finding an account had less money than she thought it would. “To be honest, if you think about it, Mama, what the hell is $33,000?”

The disputed Coogan account stretches back to the age of silent acting. The Coogan law is named after Jackie Coogan, a child actor who catapulted to fame after being discovered by Charlie Chaplin. While he was the titular kid in the movie The Kid, Coogan’s stardom didn’t equate to financial stability. According to SAG-AFTRA, “it wasn’t until his 21st birthday after the death of his father and the dwindling of his film career that Jackie realized he was left with none of the earnings he had worked so hard for as a child,” since statewide law meant a minor’s earnings “belonged solely to the parent.”

After the former child actor sued, the Coogan Law was born in California, wherein 15% of a child’s gross wages must be withheld by an employer and put into a Coogan account. Similar legislation is required in New York, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, according to Morgan Stanley.

State-law gaps leave certain child actors in a legal quandary: While Georgia—the state where Thompson lives—doesn’t have these protections, children who provide services within said states are covered.

And laws for child entertainers haven’t caught up to our current media landscape fully. For instance, child influencers aren’t covered by the child-entertainer labor laws, per Morgan Stanley. The rising trend of social media stars broadcasting every movement of their children to millions of followers becomes a bit less cute when you realize that the subjects of the family-friendly content aren’t legally protected. Since then, some child influencers have grown up and opened up about the work they put in. “I try not to be resentful but I kind of [am],” an anonymous former child influencer told Teen Vogue of being her family’s breadwinner.

Meanwhile, a statewide debate over child-labor laws is brewing in the background. Sharpening into a larger issue, 28 states have introduced legislation that pokes holes in child-labor protections, according to the think-tank Economic Policy Institute. There’s a pushback to this movement, though, as 14 states have introduced counter bills to strengthen these child-labor laws.

“Child labor remains a key issue in state houses across the country in 2024,” Nina Mast, state economic analyst for EPI, told Fortune.

When Thompson’s mother pushed back to say that many don’t start off at 18 with so much money to their name, Thompson countered that she’d earned that income. “I’ve been on TV since I was 6, and now I barely have what to show for it, Mama,” she said, taking Shannon to task for not even chipping in for even a semester of college.

Threatening to take her mother to court and floundering to pay for her education, Thompson challenged her mom for not thinking of her daughter’s future needs. Shannon admitted she pocketed 80% and left 20% for Alana, per People. Meanwhile, Alana’s sister Lauryn “Pumpkin” Efird called her mother “smart” for contributing “the bare minimum” to the account, noting she did what was “legally right and then pocketed the rest, Lord knows what she did or where it went.”

This story was originally featured on Fortune.com

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