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2003-12-30 Fallen child stars seem to outweigh the successes by quite a sizeable margin

In February 2004 Charlotte Church, the little girl with the unnaturally mature soprano voice, turns 18. Charlotte was discovered at the age of 11 as she sang down the phone on ITV's "This Morning" show, and the money which has been accumulating ever since will become rightfully hers in a few months time.

 

She has performed for the Pope, US presidents, royalty, and on the "Oprah" show, and has sold millions of albums worldwide. Whether you like her or not - Pass - her £16 million fortune is an impressive little nest-egg just about to hatch. At 17, she has declared to the world that she is retiring, which though hard to believe is easy to achieve.

 

Whether or not she uses the money wisely is another thing. The press and media, of course, will keep us informed, especially if it all goes horribly wrong for her. A few years ago, Charlotte famously sacked her mother as her manager, but now after several most unsuitable and failed relationships, and being controversially voted "Rear of the Year" at 16, she has gone running back to the lady whose apron strings she had so publicly abandoned. Charlotte Church is nonetheless one of the more successful and happy child star stories! 

 

I have on several occasions drawn attention to the sad lives of both Michael Jackson and Judy Garland, whose childhoods were stolen from them, and who were used by their employers and indeed their families as `commodities'. If a parent can allow their child to become a commodity, then surely that parent is a bad parent?

 

Lena Zavaroni was a star at 10, but faded in every sense of the word, and died, weighing 4 stone, from anorexia. Macaulay Culkin, star of such movies as "Home Alone", divorced his parents, then got married and divorced his wife at the age of 19. I used to be an avid fan of "Different Strokes", and was deeply saddened to learn of the recent demise of all three child actors in that show. The actor who played `Willis' went on to spend time in prison due to his serious drug addiction, but now seems to have his life back on track. The diminutive `Arnold' (remember  "Wot you talkin' bout Willis?") now works as a security guard at a shopping mall, but has serious anger management problems which continue to get him into trouble. He has turned his back on his adoptive parents. Dana Plato, who played `Kimberley', got pregnant, put her child up for adoption, then turned to alcohol and drugs, even staging an armed robbery to fund her addictions. She almost escaped with $164 except that the cashier recognised `Kimberley'! After two spells in prison and her life in tatters, the actress committed suicide.

 

Children need stability, and peers to look up to, especially if their development is going to be so accelerated. A `normal child' spends his/ her early years searcing for an identity, whereas a child star is labelled with an identity. Despite being hugely talented, Bonnie Langford will always be remembered as the incredibly irritating little `scweeming'(sic) girl on "Just William". The "pushy parent" syndrome is one of my major "Miscellaneous dislikes". Are these children doing it because they love it, or is it to fulfil some void or ambition in their parent's lives?

Of course there are child-stars who turn out to have successful adult careers. Despite spending time in `Rehab' at the age of 13, Drew Barrymore is now establishing a good career inHollywood. The unique Shirley Temple (not the "Telly-Bingo" one, unique in herself) has progressed to become an Ambassador for her country. Aled Jones has clearly made the transition successfully. The incredibly talented Ant and Dec have always been mates, and maybe that has helped their steady rise to fame.

 

One of my star pupils at the Italia Conti Theatre School in London was Martine McCutcheon. Despite extreme highs and lows, she seems at last to be establishing herself as a star to be reckoned with. Her recent fine performance in "Love Actually" is a case in point. Her star talent and mature outlook on life was very evident when I was teaching her in her early teens.

 

It is just a little disturbing that the fallen child stars seem to outweigh the successes by quite a sizeable margin. Parents, I urge you to think, and study the historical facts.

 

http://www.charlottechurch.com/
http://www.geocities.com/soundsofcharlotte/
http://www.lena-zavaroni.net/