Lily-Rose Depp and childhood fame

There is something highly fascinating about Lily Rose Depp. Her mother is the beautiful French singer and model Venessa Paradis, whilst her father Johnny Depp is one of the biggest names in contemporary cinema. At the mere age of sixteen, Lily Rose is set to co-star in Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers later this year. And as if that isn’t enough, she is both an ambassador for, and the new face of Chanel. Chosen by designer Karl Lagerfield to be the face of the brand’s new pearl eyewear (due September 2015), Chanel has described her as a “baby doll in a world imbued with sweetness and femininity”. Yet surprisingly, Lily Rose’s parents have received a backlash of anger at their eldest child’s ‘controversial’ debut into the world of fashion, with many pointing out that Depp is too young to be exposed to the industry at such a young age.

The debut Chanel clip shows Depp peering under her lashes at the camera in a pink pair of Lagerfield’s glasses. Despite it being a mere ten seconds long, concerns have been expressed about the ‘seductive’ looks and Depp’s ‘pouting’. Child psychologist Dr Michelle Elliott says, “Sixteen-year-olds are not mentally, emotionally or intellectually able to cope with the pressures that these modelling situations place them in.” Whereas it is true that Lily Rose Depp is still very young, the upset over the campaign and over her ‘tender’ age seems largely excessive.

Both of Depp’s parents achieved world fame at a very young age. Johnny Depp became a teen icon after collaborating with the band Rock City Angels and Venessa hit international stardom at the age of fourteen with her debut single Joe le Taxi. By eighteen, Venessa was herself the face of Chanel. Her wonderful Coco L’esprit de Chanel campaign in 1991 shows Paradis enticingly swinging from a bird cage in a Parisian apartment. It is no surprise that Chanel want a younger version of Venessa Paradis to represent them once more, and if they deem her daughter fitting enough at the age of sixteen, why should they have to wait another two years?

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There is no denying that the modelling industry is harsh, and high-end modelling is undoubtedly an even tougher environment, but it is a difficult business regardless of whether the model is sixteen or twenty-six. Nonetheless it is necessary to point out that Depp will always have it a little easier than other models. Her parent’s combined fame has rocketed her popularity, and it is unlikely that she will be used or severely mistreated by the industry; as is often the risk with young models who don’t have her claim-to-fame or who cannot afford a good enough agent.

The expressed anger at Depp’s parents also serves to highlight modern day perceptions that often discharge a child’s capability to succeed. It was not very long ago that children were generally expected to behave as adults from much younger than the age of sixteen. Thankfully our culture has evolved since such pressures were placed on youngsters. This does not mean however, that a sixteen year-old is incapable of starting a successful career, nor of coping with ‘adult’ pressures. The word ‘child’ is often used in a dismissive sense by adults; for someone who is weak, incapable of managing themselves, and unqualified to deal with ‘adult’ situations.

Yet Lily Rose Depp’s parents are both fully aware of the pressures that come with child-fame. If they have been able to recognise that she is capable of starting her career at the age of sixteen, and willing to assist her with it, criticism is the very last thing they should be receiving.