Why child stars have it rough

Wednesday, October 7th, 2020 00:00 |
Maisha magic TV Star Aisha Wanjiku. Her nine-year-old son is also an actor and model. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Little celebrities grow up in the spotlight; are forced to mature early and  people watch them, judging them for every step they take.

Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine

Child stars grow up in front of our eyes. But while the fame that comes along with being a celebrity seems glamorous, it can be taxing for a child, who sometimes has to give up his or her childhood, work extra hours, get an education and deal with the pressures of maintaining an image in front of millions of fans.

And while some move from child stars to adults with relative ease, many don’t.

Recently, popular child TV star, Ngovi, from local TV show, Machachari broke down on social media.

“… Sometimes, I ask myself, was growing up a sin? ...You all loved us when we were at the top, when we were winning awards and entertaining you all on your screens… we grew up knowing that you were the ones to hold us up even at our lowest point, but growth showed us otherwise,” he lamented.

He added: “Criticising, hating, abusing to say the least became part of the norm on our side… All I’m asking from you guys is give us time to grow, to make our mistakes..

Nobody owes you anything

Twenty-four-year old TV star, Bilal Rashid, concurs it’s not easy for child stars.

“Sometimes, you find that no one wants to walk with you through the process, at times, even family members.

But when you finally make it, somehow they all seem to re-appear and show you overwhelming support,” he says.

“Fame can be toxic, especially when you don’t know what to do with it. But you just have to keep in mind that no one owes you anything.

Also, stay true to yourself, always have limits. Be sober, separate yourself from your life as an actor and the real you,” shares the Aziza TV show actor.

Clinical psychologist Sophie Muriuki, says as much as exposure may be of great benefit to child stars and their future, it depends on how it balances out.

“Are they still going about school and other age-appropriate activities? Are they still spending time with family?

Learning right from wrong? Being taught skills such as chores and age appropriate tasks?

Do they still play with friends? Balance is key in trying to provide a holistically nurturing environment to the child,” she advises. 

Conversely, it may mean they grow up faster than anticipated, for instance learning about budgets and income among others.

“Consider what adult celebrities go through— the stresses and strains and put that pressure on a child.

A child does not have the same capabilities as an adult and lacks resources such as discernment, judgment and insight.

If they are then burdened with negative and undue pressure such as that experienced in cyber bullying for instance, then this could turn into an adverse childhood experience rather than a spring board to success,” shares Sophie.

As a child star, there’s an element and/ or expectations that things will get done or go your way because of your influence or status.

And so, trying to deal with the probability that you do not always get what you want or the probability that the limelight will dim may be a challenge. 

Another challenge that may arise is self-esteem issues. One could get used to basing their popularity on TV ratings, how many likes they get on a post on a certain social media platform, how many shares their post attracts.

When they see a decline in this, they may interpret that as being worthless. 

Role of a parent

“Parental role is crucial. It’s important to determine if a parent is pushing or exploiting the child for monetary gain,” says the expert.

Bilal concurs: “Parents should be number one fans and supporters of whatever vision their child has, they should make it their goal to see to it that they succeed and it reduces the unnecessary tough decisions one has to make at times.” 

Maisha Magic TV star Aisha Wanjiku’s nine-year-old son started out as a model when he was three years, modelling outfits and shoes for top brands.

This slowly changed to bagging commercials, which made him confident in front of the cameras.

Finally, he landed his first TV film in 2019. He now stars as Benji on TV show Junior. 

As much as the young boy is intelligent and has learnt at a young age how to balance school and work, the key to keeping things together has been their close relationship. 

“Be besties with your child. This brings about openness when having conversations.

They are able to speak their mind and explain their emotions based on what they go through everyday either on set or in school.

This helps you as a parent not only to realise the changes they are going through, but you are at the front and centre in their lives to help with decision making. This builds trust between the two of you,” she says.

“I believe I am raising him right. I trust him to make solid decisions. I have to remind him and teach him time to time about humility and the importance of prayers,” shares Aisha about her child star, Lamar Munene.

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