Kidz these days, you guys. Amiright? Actually, kids are pretty much doing great. But celebrity kids are always a different story.
Take, for instance, Jaden Smith's recent and carefully orchestrated path to not merely fame, but super stardom. As the son of two big bold names -- Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith -- 14-year-old Jaden has a leg-up in the movie and music industries. The sci-fi bomb After Earth has been carefully designed and marketed as a Jaden Smith vehicle, a superstar father passing on the torch to his son. But even with these elements set carefully in place, it's still on Jaden to bring the talent, poise, and drive needed to turn opportunity into success.
And then there's Sophia Grace. Sophia Grace Brownlee, for those of you who don't remember the name of every child who enjoys roughly 900 seconds of online fame, is the little girl who captured the internet's attention after performing a rather adorable cover of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass." Her video's popularity earned Sophia Grace and her younger cousin/hype woman, Rosie, a spot on The Ellen Show, where they performed their rendition of Minaj's song and even got to meet their idol. At the time, Minaj told the audience that "we feel like we're watching a journey that's about to be, like, amazing." And, after a few more celebrity-studded appearances on Ellen's show, Sophia Grace's (and, to a lesser extent, Rosie's) journey has borne a music video for her song "Girls Just Gotta Have Fun." It sounds like nothing so much as a Ark Music Factory product created after binging on Pixy Stix and passing out in front of Claire's Accessories.
It is abundantly clear that Sophia Grace has the confidence, enthusiasm, and nascent talent to become a bonified performer (and not merely a human interest story-turned-marketing gimmick). But there's a lot of opportunity for hand-wringing over what will become of this bubbly, tutu-clad munchkin. Since it's been a while since our hands have enjoyed a good wringing sesh, let's get right to it.
Jaden and Sophia Grace's journeys are similar in that they're both so young, have big names helping them on their paths, and have dreams of fame. I mean fame, sure. But also FAME. However, there's a marked difference between being a singer and a star, or being an actor and a celebrity. There's overlap, sure, but these are ultimately two distinct end goals.
Slate had a recent piece exploring why one those goals, particularly when combined with the accusations of nepotism at play in Jaden's rise to fame, can be so much more off-putting than the other. "While Jaden appears eager to follow in his father's footsteps, he doesn't seem fully ready," they write. "Acting-wise, certainly, he's got a long way to go."
And this is a reality that's often forgotten when people worry over the fate of young performers. While their emotional and mental well-being should be taken into account, it's worth remembering that this well-being is in no small part tied to these young people's collective ability to be at the top of their game and to grow and learn and adapt as artists and performers.
Some people are able to do this at a young age, but it's clear that both Sophia Grace and Jaden have been set on a path towards fame, and not necessarily artistry. That's a fine choice to make, but only if you have the maturity and self-posession enough to understand and deal with it. With so many external forces, personalities, and agendas paving their paths for them, it's not too clear whether Sophia Grace and Jaden have been allowed the space to cultivate this self-awareness.
We'll see, I guess. We'll see it all over the place. In HD. And sponsored by sneaker brands.