Opposing tales of childhood fame came to the fore on Wednesday. At her inquest, we learned that Peaches Geldof, the daughter of a rock star who lived and died in the spotlight, took a fatal dose of heroin after struggling for years with addiction; her tragic death the final tortuous chapter of her open-book life.
In other news, Angelo Adkins, the toddler son of internationally acclaimed singer Adele, and whose face you would not recognise, was awarded a five-figure sum in damages to settle a privacy case over paparazzi photos of his “milestone moments”.
Barely a day goes by when we’re not invited to ogle at pictures of the newest celebrity sprog. Whether it’s a blurry snapshot of Suri Cruise’s latest tantrum or a glowing, high definition depiction of Prince George’s first steps, showbiz babies are big business. So we should applaud Adele for her fierce protection of her son’s privacy and condemn the snap-happy few who sought to breach it.
Other celebrity parents take the opposite approach, however, parading their unassuming offspring on the covers of glossy magazines in exchange for heady sums of money. But as Peaches Geldof’s sorry story shows, too much publicity at a young age can be deadly. If famous children are to grow into well-balanced adults (as is their right) they must be afforded the same obscurity as their non-famous counterparts.
No child is public property, not even the ones which spring from the loins of fame-hungry creatures who court the press. A photo of a child on his way to playgroup might, for a time, quench the public’s thirst for gossip.
Before long, though, the paparazzi will be thrusting a camera into a bewildered child’s face as she leaves primary school, or stalking a teenager on his first date in a desperate attempt to abate our burning desire for updates on the lives of children we’ve observed since birth.
Social media plays a part too now, of course. Here celebrity parents take on the role of the paparazzi they’ve spent an entire career “avoiding”, uploading photo after photo of their children, with apparent disregard for who might be sitting on the other side of a desktop greedily lapping up the pictures.
Peaches, a child of the media, was a regular sharer of baby snaps. Pictures of her two young sons filled her Instagram and Twitter pages. Her grieving husband, now well aware of the foibles of fame, has since chosen to remove his children from the public eye, leaving thousands of Twitter followers bereft but the Geldof-Cohen boys protected by their newfound anonymity.
Adele is an example to all celebrity parents: the understated pregnancy announcement; the merciful lack of a “Demi Moore” style photo shoot showing her cradling her bump in a dewy-eyed manner; the fact she didn’t publicize Angelo’s name, choosing only to wear a necklace bearing his moniker.
The singer, who once found herself the subject of intense media scrutiny over her weight, shields her son from public view, knowing the damage unwanted publicity can do, prepared even to resort to legal proceedings to protect his privacy.
It is my hope and belief that Angelo's story will have a happy ending. If his mother has her way, he will grow up unrecognised by the braying masses who helped push Peaches towards her untimely demise.
He could become a singer, an author, a plumber, or a teacher. When he hits adulthood, he’ll be able to decide whether he wants to embrace his mother’s fame, or shun it. It’s a life-changing choice, and one a baby cannot make.