Just to give my eyes a rest from the six hundred plus pages novel I was reading, I picked up the television remote and started channel surfing—two hundred channels and I have perhaps four that I visit on a regular basis. In my travels I reached PBS and stopped. An aria was in progress and the soaring rendition of Nessun Dorma grabbed me. Please understand that I am not a huge opera fan, although I have some favorite songs, Nessun Dorma being one of them. However this time, it wasn’t the song which caught my attention, but the singer. She was 11-year-old Jackie Evancho.
Since her debut on America’s Got Talent, Miss Evancho has taken off like the proverbial house on fire. It’s amusing to watch the faces of the audience as they sit, stunned by her voice. Watching and listening to her, however, made me reflect on the lives of child stars. The annals of Hollywood are filled with tales of super talented kids who have taken off, soared high, then crashed and burned. From Jackie Cooper, who was the first child star to win an Academy Award nomination, to Melissa Gilbert, who grew up on Little House on the Prairie and on to Jaden Smith, Dakota Fanning, Joey King and China Anne McClain, these are young lives which changed because of their gifts. Sometimes I wonder, have we done these “mega minis” a disservice? If fame is hard for adults to handle, will children fare any better?
Whether you believe all gifts, regardless of the gifted one’s age, belong to the world or instead, feel a “normal” childhood is best, there are a number of interesting books which address the issue. My favorite title is Get That Cutie in Commercials, Television, Films and Videos. Additional reading includes Teaching a Young Actor, Raising a Star and Shirley Temple: A Pictorial History of the World’s Greatest Child Star. There are also countless articles addressing the pros and cons of child stardom.
When I read about the tortured lives of some of today’s Hollywood starlets, I am in one camp. However I loved Melissa Gilbert in Little House and along with countless others, am awed by Jackie Evancho. Take a listen to her, then choose your camp: