Fame and fortune
Growing up in the spotlight.
WHENEVER he goes anywhere, he is greeted with a flood of screams – “I love you, Justin! Bieber Fever!!!” Welcome to the world of young stars. Justin Bieber, Canadian teenage heartthrob, catapulted to fame after partnering with R&B superstar Usher, even cancelling appearances because fans were injured trying to see him.
Willow Smith was a star waiting to happen. Actor Will Smith told People magazine he knew his daughter wanted to be famous, crediting her success to determination and maturity.
Roc Nation released Willow’s debut single, Whip My Hair, on Oct 26. Since its release, the official music video on YouTube has garnered more than 17 million views.
However, David Swanson, child psychologist, said child stars often grow up with a warped view of self-worth.
“If they really thought about it, they’d understand people are interested in them for what they do, not who they are,” Swanson said. “This creates problems because what they learn is that they gain approval, acceptance and adulation for what they do.”
Life in the spotlight is often too harsh for young people who are still trying to figure out who they are. Recently, Disney star Demi Lovato left the Jonas Brothers tour for “medical treatment for emotional and physical issues she has dealt with for some time,” according to a Nov 3 Entertainment Weekly article.
Young celebrities today also have access to large amounts of money from earnings.
In his experience practising in Los Angeles with young celebrities, Swanson said children often lack direct financial access. Parents set the money aside, and children get allowances.
Emma Watson, famous actress from the Harry Potter film series, told Vogue UK she received US$75 weekly despite her millions.
“This as a great opportunity where (children) can be secure for the rest of their lives,” Swanson said.
Watson’s Harry Potter co-star Rupert Grint spent his newfound wealth, valued at US$4mil by Forbes Magazine in 2007, on an ice cream truck, hovercraft and a home for his parents.
“There was a moment where I remember thinking: I have no idea what I’m going to do with all this money,” Grint said.
Grint said he prefers other benefits, like the opportunity to meet his hero Robin Williams.
Swanson advised against full access, comparing the situation to a 16-year-old receiving a 1975 Volkswagen and another receiving a new Range Rover.
“(The Volkswagen) kid is so appreciative that he has a car to drive his friends in. The Range Rover kid is less appreciative,” Swanson cautioned. “If life ever turns on him and money isn’t flowing the way it used to, there’s going to be a great deal of depression.”
For normalcy, Swanson said many teenagers attend school instead of testing out.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen graduated from Campbell Hall in Hollywood, California, where Dakota Fanning currently attends school and is a cheerleader. Swanson said young celebrities attend classes, but pull out for projects, and make up the time later.
In Vanity Fair’s June issue, Watson said she feared not fitting in at Brown University, unable to have both career and regular life.
She feared “people would think that (she) didn’t deserve to have both. (She was afraid they’d think), ‘ You’re famous. You’re given free handbags. Why should you deserve to be normal?’”
However, Watson settled in and experienc-
Justin Bieber has even cancelled appearances because fans were injured trying to see him. es normal student insecurities.
“I think actually I’m the worst person in the class,” Watson said of her drama class.
For celebrities, work can be an exciting opportunity, but fulfilment is in school.
“Working is very isolated. If you’re involved in a project, adults are telling you what to do, where you need to be, when to be there. It can get lonely,” Swanson said.
Still, there is normalcy. According to People magazine, Dakota Fanning was recently crowned homecoming queen at Campbell Hall for the second time. While not what most high school teenage girls do, homecoming queen is slightly more “normal” than a multimillion dollar film role.
Another issue stars face is making friends. With old friends, Swanson said they have fewer problems. However, young stars can have difficulty discerning if new friends are genuine, or merely using them.
Grint also expressed wariness about famemongers.
“I know I could use my fame to meet women, and I definitely notice a lot more attention when I go out because of it,” Grint said in a July 2009 interview with Monsters And Critics. “But I’m still a bit careful. I don’t want to meet a girl who’s specifically trying to take advantage of that.”
Swanson said young celebrities learn to be guarded, which makes it important to have a strong family.
“(Some) parents are the ones who feel that their ego benefits from kids being in the media. They tend to be more lax with kids going out,” Swanson said. “A lot of times, Willow Smith is well on her way to becoming famous as the video of her debut single on YouTube garnered more than 17 million views. these parents capitalise on their kid’s success.”
Young actors can also help local communities, according to Swanson.
“There’s a family I work with where the parents own a corporation chain and on Thanksgiving and some of the other holidays, they make it a point to go down to impoverished areas and serve goods and give gifts,” Swanson described. “The financial security is a great benefit but the greatest one is you can use your celebrity to make a positive change in the world.”
Young celebrities are novelties in themselves, but the idea of them is old. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, Macaulay Culken of Home Alone, Michael Jackson, and even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who toured Europe as a child, were famous at young ages too.
Each grew up to very different fates, venturing past predictions, while others have not.
“It’s a huge emotional battle and a huge emotional struggle,” Swanson said. “The bigger the fame, the bigger the celebrity, the harder to cope with it.” – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Actress Dakota Fanning currently attends school and is