Sunday 4 December 2016

I'm a celebrity's child, get me out of here

Through no choice of their own, kids are now living in the media glare that comes with their parents' fame, writes Andrea Smith

Published 23/01/2011 | 05:00

Unless your mother's name was Joan Crawford, if you are the child of a celebrity parent you can generally expect to grow up enjoying the perks that come from mixing in glittering circles and being raised in a household where wealth smooths your way forward in life.

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The downside is that there are certain expectations placed on you, and the normal experiments and mistakes that accompany the average person's passage to adulthood are likely to end up splashed all over the media.

So when it comes to the sensitive issue of sexuality, the situation becomes even more of a minefield, particularly if your celeb parent is famous for his or her raunchy sexual allure, or has named you after the most famous pin-up model of all time!

Step forward Jonathan Ross and his screenwriter wife Jane Goldman, who called their elder daughter Betty Kitten after the late Fifties' pin-up, Bettie Page.

Ross revealed last week that his 19-year-old daughter is a lesbian, which places her in stark contrast to her iconic namesake, who became famous for the fetish photos that made her a huge hit with men, and was one of the earliest Playmates for Playboy.

Ross, who has another rather sullen-looking but sweetly named daughter, Honey Kinney, and a son, Harvey Kirby, said that he just wants his children to be "good and happy", adding that their sexual preferences were none of his business and he would be thrilled if his daughter brought home "a nice woman".

If poor Betty Kitten might have preferred to explore her emerging sexuality more discreetly, she had no choice when her dad publicly announced she is gay on air. She announced on Twitter that it was all "very eventful".

But at least that will help Ross's argument that he wasn't being homophobic, following a gay joke he made on his BBC Radio 2 show in May 2009 that sparked 61 complaints. Following investigation, broadcasting watchdog Ofcom cleared him of the charge of making "offensive and derogatory" comments towards gay people.

The whole "living up to expectations" area is an interesting one, because from the time celebrity babies are conceived, we seem to have this fascination with what they will do and become.

Victoria Beckham is pregnant with her fourth chid, and while all anyone really wants is a healthy baby, the speculation about whether she will have a girl this time -- after three boys -- is intense. As someone who has carved out a successful career as a fashion designer, was a member of one of the most popular girl bands of all time, and is the most famous WAG of them all, the common assumption is that Posh is longing for a daughter to dress up prettily, and pass on her vast collection of girlie bags and shoes.

It doesn't always work out like that, however, and you just have to look at Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's daughter Shiloh, 4, to see that.

"[Shiloh] is like a little dude," admitted Angelina, who is regularly voted the most beautiful woman in the world. "She likes tracksuits, she likes regular suits. She likes to dress like a boy. She wants to be a boy. So we had to cut her hair. She likes to wear boys' everything. She thinks she's one of the brothers."

When Brad revealed to Oprah Winfrey that Shiloh prefers to be addressed as John, it caused controversy in the US. Some experts claimed that indulging Shiloh's masculine behaviour was a mistake, while others said that children needed to be given the freedom to experiment with how they want to be seen.

While most young children grow out of these phases, the most dramatic example of one who didn't has got to be Cher's daughter Chastity Bono, who had gender realignment surgery and has now become Chaz. As a teenage girl and young woman, Chastity appeared to be staging the ultimate rebellion against her famous mother by dressing in plain, masculine clothes. And when she came out as gay, Cher revealed that she was disappointed that her daughter wouldn't get married and have a family.

Now that Chastity has had a sex change and become an extremely overweight -- and, it has to be admitted, pretty ugly -- man called Chaz, Cher revealed that she still calls him "her" by mistake. One can only imagine the turmoil that Chaz endured growing up trapped in the wrong body, and the contrast couldn't really be more marked between him and his cosmetically enhanced mother, whose raunchy, barely-there clothes were so controversial that MTV banned the video for the 1989 hit If I Could Turn Back Time from being aired during the day.

The rest of us can take comfort in the fact that, while we may not get to fly in private jets and attend glitzy premieres, we can experiment and change anything from our hair colour to our gender without the whole world judging and commenting on it.

Sunday Independent

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