That’s the message several former child musicians are sending to current up-and-coming artists in the industry, who may be experiencing exploitation and mistreatment at the hands of music executives and casting agents. Here are some former child musicians who talked about mistreatment and exploitation they faced growing up in the spotlight—and what others can do to avoid suffering similar hardships themselves.
The spotlight is a double-edged sword. Britney Spears has been in it since the age of five, but she knows that it can be a privilege as well as a curse. For some artists, the fame and money come with tremendous pressure and constant scrutiny of their private lives. The biggest downfall for most child stars is that they don’t have any other interests or hobbies, says Britney. You know, if you’re doing this from an early age you may not know what else to do or who else to be.
In the wake of sexual abuse allegations against R. Kelly, singer Justin Timberlake opened up about his own experience with abuse in the music industry. I’m not going to act like I’m some innocent bystander, he said. We’ve all seen and heard things that are wrong, things we wish we could un-see or un-hear.
What is happening now is powerful and necessary, Timberlake continued. People are speaking out for those who don’t have a voice. He urged people to support these movements.
People have to be aware that the music industry is a really fickle, cold place. It is all about what sells and there are people whose job it is to figure out what will sell so they’ll try to figure out what kind of artist you are and how to market you, Aguilera said in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. As a young person, you might not understand all the nuances of the music business and sometimes things are done without your knowledge or permission.
As a 15-year-old, I didn’t know anything about anything when I signed my first record deal.
The people that I met along the way and thought were my friends or mentors, they would just be taking advantage of me, Cyrus said. I’m 16 and they are asking me to put on a show so they can get off. I don’t know what that is. It doesn’t matter how much money you have – nobody deserves it, she added. It’s not like somebody was holding a gun to their head going, ‘You’re gonna do this’. It was more like manipulation.
In the wake of Michael Jackson’s death, many adults who were once child stars themselves are coming forward to share their experiences with young artists in the spotlight. On Saturday night, Aaron Carter took to Twitter and shared some of his own thoughts on the subject. I was exploited at a very young age, he tweeted. All kids are vulnerable. He goes on to say that he hopes that his story will help educate parents and guardians in order to avoid this happening to other children out there.
I was told I could never be on stage again. I was told I would never make it in the business because of my looks, because of my height, Bow Wow said, speaking to a roomful of young people at a Boys & Girls Club in Chelsea. But guess what? You can do whatever you want. You’re not held back by anything that someone has told you or has tried to stop you from doing. If there is something you want to do in life, then just go and get it done, he said. They won’t tell you any different, so don’t listen to them.
I was a child who needed protection from not only the elements of nature that I couldn’t control, but also from people who wanted to take advantage of me, she said. It’s so unfortunate that this industry has such a dark side and can be so abusive to the ones it should be nourishing.
The demands for success make these kids feel like they have to say yes to anything, she told Ellen. They’re under pressure. They’re under intense scrutiny, and they don’t know how to cope with it. There are millions of dollars at stake and if you’re worried about making your record company happy or doing whatever you need to do in order to get your next single off then there will always be people in your ear telling you what to do. And those people will tell you that they care about you, but the truth is often hidden in those words.
I was a child actor and I had this really bad thing happen to me that was really tough to deal with. I couldn’t go to anyone for help. They were either too busy, they didn’t care, or they felt like it was my fault. All those people have come back around at different points in my life. And it’s been hard to share the truth. But it is out now and I feel better than ever having said what I needed to say. There are plenty of great kids’ agents and managers who aren’t unscrupulous. It just takes time to find them. That’s why we need to get rid of these dodgy dudes so more kids can be safe while pursuing their dreams of being entertainers.