Leave those Kids Alone!

KATIE MAIR would flash her fanny for Jamie Bell, but she’s willing to go much further for Willow Smith.

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It has been inbred in you since the day you were born: the conviction that Child Stars are Bad.

Fearne Cotton, one particularly irritating specimen, began dominating our lives when she started presenting Diggit aged fifteen, and hasn’t stopped assaulting our ears with persistently emphatic inanities since. ‘So. I JUST wanna say, like, how much I am LOVING this tune right now. HUGE. Like my BAFFLINGLY UBIQUITOUS PRESENCE AT ALL MUSIC FESTIVALS AND THE BBC COVERAGE OF SAID EVENTS.’ Nobody cares that you love tattoos and vegetarianism. Nobody cares.

The Olsen twins are equally annoying. Mary-Kate and Ashley, we do know about those movies where you wore flares and took trips on mopeds around generic European cities and sported matching bobs. You can’t expect to shake the legacy of such cinematic triumphs as ‘Passport to Paris’ just by losing 5 stone and your hairbrush. We remember, and you’re still not cool (or maybe, in remembering ‘Billboard Dad’, we’re the sad ones. But the fact remains: annoying then, annoying now).

So we have established that some child stars are Awful News. But sometimes you just have to accept it when someone mind-blowing comes along, changes your life and also happens to be under 18. Charlotte Church, a case in point. Church managed to melt nans’ hearts with her beautiful posh choir voice, and yet still retain her lairy Welsh accent. Highly commendable. And Jamie Bell? Absurdly good-looking at 11, disturbingly attractive now. A man who can do both ballet AND camo; girls love him, boys want to be him (‘I’ll show you me fanny if you want?’, one star struck girl tells him in Billy Elliot. I’d sure show him mine. TMI? TMI. Sorry).

But none of these kids, while both fabulous and under-age, match up to the latest precocious youth to explode into the public consciousness. I am talking, of course, about ten-year-old Willow Smith. At 10 I was pretending to like football because I had recently discovered that pink was sad and allowing my brother to punt balls at my head in the garden was the only way I could get him to acknowledge me. I wore Ellesse fleeces and butterfly clips. I made up dances to 5ive.

Willow, though? Just chilling with Jay Z in D&G leggings, belting some tunes on the Ellen DeGeneres show. All in a day’s work. The quiffs, the inventive use of diamante, the seemingly limitless swagger that somehow resides in such a small human being; she’s incredible, and she is YOUNG. Very young. Before she released the official video to Whip My Hair, Willow’s mates were recorded swinging braids, shaking bootay and generally giving it ‘tude in their local playground. A child krumping next to an a-frame is a very disconcerting juxtaposition, and an ironic reminder that the girl rubbing shoulders with the Jiggaman is only doing so because her hair is so tall, and not because she is of full-grown height, because she is actually prepubescent.

Willow whips her hair

Which leads us to the conspiracy theory. How can it be that a 10-year-old girl is modelling a short back and sides with the kind of confidence that only comes to those who are twice her age? Why isn’t she out getting pick ‘n’
mix and swapping stickers? And when in hell did Converse start making hightops that tie up to the thigh?

Where on earth does one with such limited exposure to Salt’n’Peppa, hormonal fluctuations and the Hard Knock Life acquire such incredible spinal flexibility and flair for fashion? Perhaps her bones still haven’t fused yet. Perhaps she just has a particularly well-stocked dressing-up box. Many of her outfits do have a whiff of Fresh Prince about them. These are possibilities.

Whatever it is, we should hope that her attitude rubs off on the nasty ones who are off boning all the Jonas Brothers and still preaching the Silver Ring Thing. There’s always that risk that by fourteen Willow will have earned enough money to retire, and then prang out and spend it all on bejewelled visors and platinum motorbikes and coke, but she doesn’t seem as susceptible to this kind of early-life crisis as her fellow child stars. When she yells at everyone that she won’t let haters put her off her grind, I’m pretty sure she means business.