Toddlers & Tiaras and viral star Kailia Posey dies at 16

Image source, @kailiaposey @bianchaa.a
Image caption,
Posey was remembered as "such a bright and happy soul"

Kailia Posey, a former child star of US reality TV show Toddlers & Tiaras, has died at the age of 16, her family have said.

Posey's mother Marcy Posey Gatterman announced the news online on Monday.

"I don't have words or any thoughts," Gatterman wrote, sharing a picture of her daughter dressed for a school prom. "A beautiful baby girl is gone."

Posey was also known after her cheeky grin at the age of five became a widely-shared gif on social media.

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Toddlers & Tiaras, which aired on the TLC network between 2009 and 2013, followed the families of contestants in a child beauty pageant.

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office in Washington told entertainment website People that an official investigation had been launched into her death.

Posey's best friend Bianca paid tribute on Instagram, describing her as "an amazing, beautiful person inside and out".

"You were such a bright and happy soul. I'm so thankful for you Kailia, you truly brought out the happiest side of me," she wrote. "You reminded me to always be kind no matter how hard it was."

After her stint on the show, Posey continued to compete in pageants. Earlier this year she announced she was competing in Miss Washington Teen USA.

Toddlers & Tiaras went off air for several years after having courted controversy for showing children dressed provocatively, but returned for another series in 2016.