Dear Stage Mom,
I totally understand. Your little angel has it. The voice. The charisma. The moves. The capacity to seize your attention in a way that makes you forget about how expensive schoolbooks and class trips are. It’s amazing—it truly is—how he or she has that magical ability to let you gleam over your Kim Kardashian/Donald Trumpian newsfeed without an iota of disgust. Yes, your kid’s shining talents feel so real that you want to nurture “the gift” and attack Facebook incessantly with vids, gifs and photos of your child. Your sweet baby needs a YouTube channel! STAT!
Do yourself a solid, dial down the dream, take a seat and listen.
So you started things slow: dance classes, vocal coaches, acting workshops, whatever… all the things that can help a hobby turn into a habit (and hopefully a Disney contract). Yes, honey, it’s easy to get caught up in the glamorous whirlwind of it all…head shots, portfolios, read-throughs and before you even know it, you’ve filled your iCal with kiddie auditions, rehearsals and lessons for days on in. The next step is letting go of some of the socializing with “normal” kids because, “there is work to be done.”
You and I both know that Macaulay Culkin wasn’t discovered on some pizza-playdate while mom was sipping Pinot. No, that boy was shopped around. He was prepped, scripted and styled for roles like Uncle Buck because looking loveable takes hours to perfect. It was intense work for him—and his parents—and it was all so cute until it wasn’t. Hey, remember when puberty hit for poor Macaulay and his life became an international joke? He does. So does his Rehab supervisor.
There is a reason why Mr. Culkin went from the cheek-slapping adorable sugarkin on Home Alone at 10 to getting cast in Party Monster as a drug-addled murderer at 23. He could relate to the trajectories; like Chaka Khan once said: “being a star is like going to hell and back in a limousine.” Do not let Brooklyn Beckham’s latest photo-shoot for Burberry or Willow and Jaden Smith’s fresh careers fool you. A star’s orbit has always navigated on dark terrain. The entertainment business is—and has always been—an adult’s only party and isn’t destined to change anytime soon..
But, you know what? I’m not here to preach the same old “Evils of Hollywood” spiel. TMZ is so wretchedly good at showcasing all that shady business (just read up on Lindsay, Whitney, Britney and 89% of the Jackson family). Instead, I’m going to quickly directly you to two movies that you need to watch very closely before you decide to hire a 15%-taking agent for your lil’ darlin’.
The first film you have to check out is Gypsy—a classic film from 1962 which stars Rosalind Russell as a monstrous Momager named Rose Hovick and Natalie Wood as Rose’s minimally talented daughter, Louise. The flick tries to fool you with some very fun, campy dialogue, especially from Rose. She’s Madonna-ballsy and says things like “after three husbands, it takes a lot of butter to get you back in the frying pan” with the spice of an aged drag queen. It’s supposed to be a musical comedy but it’s a full-on horror movie. Rose sees Louise as her meal ticket/second chance at celebrity since Mommy was (shocker!) a has-been actress who never broke Broadway. Everything seems light-hearted and campy until Louise eerily changes her name to Gypsy Rose Lee (partially her mother’s name!). By the end of the film, Gypsy becomes a thankless stripper who wears bad minks and goes around town speaking faux French.
If that doesn’t frighten you off from sending your child to casting agents, The Clouds Of Sils Maria—the best film of 2014—will. It’s all about an aging diva named Maria Enders who is played by Juliette Binoche. Enders grows up in an industry that has some serious deep-dish issues with women—young and old and she’s feeling the misogyny of it all—full tilt boogie and in many moments recalls her first time out as a young actress and how keen she was to please. When she has to star in a film alongside a hot, young, spoiled nightmare of a new actress (played viciously by Chloë Grace Moretz), it all comes together. By the last scene, Maria realizes how many emotional side effects of the spotlight have given her, realizing that show business breeds profound insecurity. It’s as if Binoche is speaking directly to cast of Toddlers & Tiaras when she says: “You can’t get innocent twice.”
What Love, Mom says:
We had a post-mortem about our guncle’s letter and he agrees stars like Scarlett Johansson, Anna Paquin and Emma Watson (who all made their studio debuts around ten- years old) escaped big screen breakdowns. We’re also fans of Nicholas Hoult and Leonardo DiCaprio who have stayed out of the headlines (save for relentless gossip about their love lives). In light of these million-dollar stars, he insists to proceed with caution. “Have your little one decide for themselves if they’re made for the stage and try to hold off until they’re ten- or twelve-years old. Let them be kids first.”