By NICOLE LAMPERT
Family fortunes: Is it too much too soon for Will and Jada Smith’s children Willow and Jaden?
At the American Music Awards, one of the biggest nights of the music calendar, the Smith family are all working hard on the red carpet.
There is mum Jada, sashaying in her draped Pucci dress, and actor son Jaden, 12, his adorable smile just visible under his insouciantly placed cap.
But stealing the scene is the new star of Will Smith’s family. Her name is Willow and she is just ten years old.
Dressed in a cute grey, cut-off jumpsuit with sexually suggestive belts and straps, she waves at the adoring crowd. Some have applauded this latest outfit as another example of her amazing fashion sense; others may simply deem this get-up inappropriate for a child.
Willow — having tried the acting thing — has decided (or had it decided for her) that she is now branching out into music. A catchy song, Whip My Hair, was found for her, and a video produced by Ray Kay whose work includes Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and Justin Bieber’s Baby.
With such august backers it quickly became the best-selling debut single on Billboard’s digital song chart. It’s an excellent R&B song, but the fact that the singer — in revealing clothes and posturing in an overtly sexual way — is a ten-year-old makes for unsettling viewing.
Willow has been signed by Jay-Z, the husband of Beyonce, mentor of Rihanna and current kingmaker of the American music scene. There is already talk of an album and a tour. British fans will be able to buy Whip My Hair from December 6.
Talking about her record contract, Willow said she was thrilled: ‘It felt like all that hard work that I’ve done — like recording Whip My Hair — it’s paid off.’
Karate Kid: Jaden Smith starred in the re-make of the popular Eighties film
It’s surprising that Will Smith’s daughter feels she has to work so hard. At 42, he is the most successful actor in Hollywood commanding upwards of £10 million a movie.
His wife Jada, 39, combines acting with being a producer, novelist, musician and philanthropist. Last year alone they earned £20 million. But it seems that is not enough; their ambitions for their children are also boundless.
Both Jaden and Willow (whose names are twists on their parents’ names) have been involved in showbusiness from a young age; they starred as their father’s on-screen children in I Am Legend three years ago and have had small parts on shows with their parents. But this year their profile has taken off.
In the summer, Jaden had his first starring role in a £25million remake of the Eighties hit The Karate Kid. Handily, the film was produced by his parents’ own company Overbrook Entertainment.
The family decamped to China for the shoot — with Will and Jada acting as both producers and chaperones. As Jaden promoted the film around the world, his parents were there, taking centre stage at press conferences and premieres.
When the bandwagon was in London, Will was open about how there were often rows between him and his wife, as he would constantly try to get more out of his son — and employee — while Jada would urge rest.
‘It was a struggle for Jada to keep the pressure off,’ he said. ‘Jaden is so disciplined and hard-working, it is difficult not to push him for more.
‘There is no telling what this kid could do, and that is one thing that stands out between him and other children I have worked with. Six-day working weeks, another take — he has the mentality, he is there. Jada had to remind me that this family had to come first and the project second. Which was really difficult.’
Growing up fast: Jaden and Willow dress older than their years at a film premiere
While the film took £180 million at the box office, it soon emerged there was another star waiting in the wings.
Willow was making sure she was getting just as much attention as her brother with a series of eye-catching looks on the red carpet, including a Mohican hairstyle and Givenchy handbag.
Can all this exposure really be good for a ten-year-old?
‘Becoming a star when you are a child can be too much too soon,’ says psychologist Corinne Sweet. ‘You exist in a strange bubble where people make you think you are somebody very special.
‘When child stars grow up they can have a problem with the reality of the world. They also have no goals to aim for as they did it all when they were young.’
But Will and Jada, both from poor backgrounds, insist things will be different for their offspring.
‘One of the advantages our children have is that their parents have been doing this for a long time,’ Jada says.
‘When your dad is still the biggest movie star in the world, that keeps things grounded. They grew up in the industry; it’s not like they are moving into something different.’
Following in his footsteps: Will Smith found fame as a teenager as the star of TV show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Movie stylist Phillip Bloch agrees: ‘It’s a balanced family situation. It’s just that when Mum and Dad’s friends come over, it’s Jamie Foxx or Tom Cruise or Queen Latifah.’
A family friend said: ‘Will and Jada expect only the best from their children, there is very little room for failure. They’re a very competitive, high-performing family.
‘It’s almost like the kids have never known what it’s really like to be a child. They were launched straight into the limelight. A lot of their friends think it is way too much too soon.’
While Willow records her album, Jaden has other films lined up. Sony is keen for a Karate Kid 2, but there are rumours it is baulking at her father’s demand that Willow sing the theme song. One movie insider said: ‘No one can believe how pushy he is being.’
Surely they can’t be that surprised? Jada and Will have taken pushy parenting to a new level.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
By NICOLE LAMPERT