How young is too young to be a pop star?


21-April-2012

The daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith was signed personally by Jay-Z to his Roc Nation label in 2010 when she was nine years old.

"There's no guidebook when it happens to you and there's no support network and nobody has any sympathy for you because the way they see it your dream has come true, like you've won the lottery or something.

"If you haven't got the right people looking after you, you can get really messed up.
"And even when you have got the right people looking after you, you can get messed up."

Public meltdown
 
The music world is littered with casualties who got too much too young, from Britney Spears to Michael Jackson - and more recently Disney star Demi Lovato.

Lovato had a very public breakdown in 2010 midway through supporting the Jonas Brothers on a tour that led to her entering rehab for bulimia, anorexia and self-harm addiction.

"The second I went into rehab I realised this was not going to be a two-week stay," says Demi Lovato about her decision to spend three months in a US treatment facility.

When she left rehab, the singer took a further six months off work.
"If I were to jump back into work it could be a dangerous situation and I wouldn't want to waste those three months that I spent in treatment for nothing."

Lovato began her career aged seven in TV show Barney and Friends, before pop and more TV fame struck when she was 15 and starred in the musical movie Camp Rock and Disney TV's Sonny with a Chance.

Now aged 19 and promoting her third album, does she think she was too young when she started?
She pauses briefly before giving her answer.

"I think it just depends on the person.
"I don't feel like I was too young, I feel like all of my issues and my bad habits, they were created long before I even entered this industry.

"I don't know but I feel like looking back I probably should've got a handle on the things I was suffering from before I decided to embark on such a public lifestyle.
"But you can't always be prepared for everything."

Restricted hours
 
There are laws in place to protect under-16s which limit the number of hours they can work, even in the entertainment industry.

They also mean an adult chaperone must accompany child workers for all activities and they must still receive a full time education, either in school or through home tutoring.

RCA Sony Records James Roberts works in A&R for RCA Sony Records and admits that while a current trend is to break someone in their late teens, age can also be a deterrent.

"The amount of work it takes to become successful, regardless of what age you are, you have to be working 20 hour days in order to fulfil all the promotional commitments," says Roberts.

"You have to put in the hours and for under-16s, because their hours are restricted, the scope for what they can do is therefore restricted in promotional terms."

Most people agree there is a good reason why the age limit on TV talent shows The X Factor and The Voice is 16 and above.

However, anyone, of any age, can apply for Britain's Got Talent.
So does the man in charge on that, Simon Cowell, feel a particular responsibility to the really young children that often apply?

"Well it's a good question," he ponders, "And I think it's the mums you know.
"You have to check out the mums. If they have their mother shoving them on [stage] from the side, then I have a bit of a problem with that.

"Most of them, to be honest with you, they have the time of their lives," Cowell smiles.
"If I think they can't cope with it, cut them."

College or America?
 
Fifteen-year-old Birdy had a breakthrough hit in 2011 with her cover of Bon Iver's Skinny Love.
Her video for that has been viewed more than 20 million times on YouTube and in March 2012 she performed Skinny Love on Ellen DeGeneres' influential US TV chat show.
Yet on Birdy's mind right now is exams.

She's studying for her GCSEs and thinking about what to do this summer.
"It's not really decided yet," she says. "I might take a year out maybe, or maybe just go to college.

"It would be quite nice to be with my friends in the same year."

Birdy's dad Rupert van den Bogaerde visibly cringes when asked if he was ever a "pushy parent".
"There are a lot of things coming up and I think we have to look at what happens in America in the next few months," he says.

"With school, I will always say this because I'm her dad, it would be nice to see her in school.
"I don't know what we'll decide. A lot will depend on pressure and what Birdy feels passionate about."

By Natalie Jamieson
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

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