New Delhi, March 4: Rivkah Reyes, who rose to stardom as a child star portraying Katie in the 2003 hit, The School Of Rock, has joined the list of former child stars who have spoken up about navigating their teenage years through the darker side of harsh spotlight, often being sexualised by fans and the media alike.
“Especially after production wrapped, when I first came back to school, people were really nice or really mean. There was no middle ground. I was literally followed around the school with people chanting ‘School of Rock’,” Reyes told New York Post recently.
The subject has come to focus ever since the documentary Framing Britney Spears was released last month. Promoted as an effort that “re-examines her career and a new assessment of the movement rallying against her court-mandated conservatorship”, it has led to a slew of child stars talking about the perils of fame at an early age.
Former child actress, Mara Wilson, who rose to fame as one of the three children, Natalie Hillard, in the 1993 comedy film, Mrs. Doubtfire, alongside Robin Williams, wrote about how, despite coming from different backgrounds, she and Spears followed a similar trajectory in the industry.
In an opinion piece in New York Times, which was published last month, Wilson recalled being sexualised in the media, despite conscious efforts from her family and friends to project her as just a child. “People had been asking me, ‘Do you have a boyfriend?’ in interviews since I was 6. Reporters asked me who I thought the sexiest actor was and about Hugh Grant‘s arrest for soliciting a prostitute. If it wasn’t reporters asking me inappropriate questions, then it was adult men sending me love letters. It was cute when 10-year-olds sent me letters saying they were in love with me. It was not when 50-year-old men did,” she wrote.
The now 28-year-old Reyes, who uses they/them gender-neutral pronouns, revealed something similar and recalled how they too were “sexualised” as a minor, with grown men telling them they “couldn’t wait” for Reyes to “turn 18”.
With the movement #FreeBritney, which accused her father of controlling and being in charge of her pop career, already on a high, the release of this documentary has added fuel to fire, leading many to talk about how child actors, especially women child stars, are often sexualised, asked inappropriate questions, and are controlled by the media on how they look, dress and behave in public.
Tavi Gevinson might not have been a pop star or an actor unlike the rest of the names, but she too had to travel down the path of being sexualized, since she had become a teenage sensation, thanks to her blog on pop culture and fashion. The now 24-year-old, who is also an actress, wrote an opinion piece for the Cut recalling a photo shoot, when she had just turned 18.
“Like Britney Spears, I was professionally photographed, lying across the bed in my childhood bedroom, when I was a teenager. I had been 18 for a month. I am lying on my side with my head propped up on my hand and wearing a vintage hounds tooth romper my friend had just given me, my arms and legs bare,” she wrote.
“When I see the photo now, I just see another thin white able-bodied blonde girl being sexualized. There is absolutely nothing else happening in it. It is not a portrait of someone with a discernible personality, just a pout. Now, at 24, it represents many things that I despise,” she added.
Looks like Spears’s documentary has opened up a can of worms, and will probably see more former child stars come forward.