Patricia Krencil whose own skin is a deeply bronze-colored from regular visits to a tanning salon is accused of taking her 5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth in violation of state law, in the process burning the girl's skin.
Through her attorney, Ms. Krentcil entered a plea of not guilty Wednesday in Superior Court to a charge of child endangerment. New Jersey law bars anyone under 14 from using a tanning salon.
Prior to the hearing, Ms. Krentcil called the accusation a lie.
"It's all made up," she said.
She told The Associated Press her daughter got sunburned by being outside on a recent warm day. She said her daughter, however, had mentioned to school officials when she complained of itching that she had been to a tanning salon with her mother.
Krentcil had told various TV stations her daughter was in the room at the salon but not in the stand-up tanning booth.
Her attorney, John Caruso, said outside court that Krentcil will be exonerated, because the evidence will show the child never entered the booth.
"Forget about the presumption of innocence; my client is 150 percent innocent," Mr. Caruso said. "She loves that child more than her whole life. She would never, ever allow her child to go inside a tanning bed."
The child is still living at home with her mother, Caruso told Municipal Court Judge Roslyn Holmes-Grant, though he said the state's child welfare agency is monitoring the family.
Krentcil said she loves tanning and has visited salons for many years but would not do anything to jeopardize her daughter's health.
"Never in my life would I endanger my child by putting her in a tanning booth. I'm not dumb," she said before her scheduled hearing. Outside court, she called herself "a wonderful mother."
Police in Nutley told The Nutley Sun newspaper they were called to the child's school April 24 because the kindergartner was in pain from a "pretty severe sunburn."
The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that tanning beds are unhealthy for all children and supports bans against them using indoor tanning devices because of skin cancer risks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics notes on its website that “there is no such thing as a healthy tan,” and has urged banning children under 18 from using indoor tanning devices because of skin cancer risks.
Toddlers & Tiaras, a TLC series showcasing world of child beauty pageants, has featured spray tanning as a beauty technique favored by many pageant mothers, anxious to give their little darlings an edge over the pint-sized competition.
Pageants often seem to judge these young girls by an adult – that is to say, highly sexualized – standard of beauty that can sometimes be impossible to achieve by natural means.
Tanning is certainly an example of this, which is why the obviously unnaturally bronzed contestants stick out – sending a poor message about the "standards" of beauty in an age group that should be being taught that everyone is beautiful and unique, in their own ways.