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Overbearing. Forceful. Fame hungry. Dictatorial.
These are just some of the titles attributed to that breed of parent who has taken on the dual role of caregiver and career manager to their offspring; fathers and mothers who have effectively given up their day jobs (if they had one to begin with) in order to nip, tuck and train their kiddies into becoming superstars.
Some will say they simply want to help their children fulfil their dreams. Others claim they’re guided by idle curiosity, a “what if” outlook. A good number are in it for the money and a taste of the celebrity pie they were never able to attain when their own sporting/screenwriting/singing/ acting aspirations came to nought. Even if they won’t admit it.
Probably the most notorious among the momagers – as they’ve been dubbed – and their male counterparts, the dadagers, is Joe Jackson. The man who brought us the Jackson 5 and ignited the flame that was to become the King of Pop fire ran a tight, tyrannical ship. His penchant for emotionally and physically abusing his family to force them into doing his bidding is also well documented.
Currently topping the momager charts is Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner.
Already regarded as something of a domineering control freak when it comes to her darling daughters, the latest scandal surrounding Mama K follows posthumous revelations from her ex-hubby’s (aka, Papa Kardashian) journals that, so determined was Kris to get her own way, she even allegedly resorted to beating her kids – Kim in particular.
From Emmanuel Agassi, Kit Culkin (father to Macaulay) and mother of Breakdown Britney, Lynn Spears, to monster of a stage mom Ethel Gumm, the list of parents pushing their offspring into the limelight is a long and winding one.
But while society at large and, in some cases, even their own children, are quick to brand them as opportunistic parasites, you have to wonder if the world would have known of the sensations that were Michael Jackson, Andre Agassi or the iconic Judy Garland, had the Joes, Emmanuels and Ethels not relentlessly yielded their whips.
Consider: were it not for Kris constantly driving her daughters and doggedly capitalising on their every sexual exploit, tawdry fashion choice or dim-witted remark, the Kardashians would never have made it on to the map – much less become a reality TV phenomenon. Particularly since none of the girls has any talent to speak of.
Nevertheless, look at how the likes of Britney, Lindsay Lohan, Miley Cyrus and (back in the day) Drew Barrymore deteriorated into substance-abusing, law-breaking, wanton and unstable young adults thanks to the pressure put on them by their parents, you might counter.
But can such behaviour really be blamed on their parents’ approach, or is it actually the result of the deluded existence that is the shallow showbiz village?
After all, if Beyoncé, Usher and Biebs have managed to keep it together despite their careers taking off on the back of mom and dad’s often heavy-handed persistence, it follows that Lohan et al went down the dark path because of their own choices.
So unless the Kardashian sisters and their ilk are willing to relinquish the designer wardrobes, luxury getaways, bulging bank balances, flashy cars and mass (if misguided) adoration their parents’ efforts have afforded them, perhaps they would do well to simply shut up and put up.
LARA DE MATOS