I'm worried about Sophia Grace, guys. Not in the way that I think she might be in immediate danger and someone (Ellen) needs to intervene immediately. She seems happy, healthy and like she's genuinely enjoying massive amount of attention she received since, at the age of 8, she went viral with her precocious version of Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass."
Over the past couple years, Sophia Grace — now 10 — has had recurring appearances on Ellen, interviewed her favorite pop idols on the red carpet and, as of this week, released her first original song along with a professional music video. Throughout all of this craziness, she's remained relatively normal. She continues to shriek (and I mean shriek) with enthusiasm when she meets Katy Perry and she still babbles away like a kid on Christmas whenever DeGeneres presents her and her cousin/hype girl Rosie with lavish gifts.
This is the heart of Sophia Grace's appeal. Throw her into the jaded world of celebrities and she still acts like a funny, authentic, messy little kid. Her presence at the Grammys and MTV Music Awards was like a breath of fresh air. While the other (grown up) presenters are clumsily attempting to walk the impossible line between obsequiousness and camaraderie when interviewing celebrities, Sophia Grace and Rosie are refreshingly uncontrolled. Like children. They don't play the Hollywood game (because they don't know it), they don't try to be the celebrities' friends — they act like themselves and everyone loves them for it. I love them for it.
So why can't I enjoy watching them? It's not because Sophia Grace's new video is freaking nuts (it is). It's because I'm worrying about her future. I'm a childless, 26-year-old broke person and the thought that's keeping me awake at night is "Whatever will become of poor Sophia Grace?"
Sophia Grace and Rosie's gimmick — and it is a gimmick, cute as it may be — is designed to expire. The girls are getting older and, if they spend too much time in Hollywood, their sweet little Essex accents will start to fade. Meeting celebrities will eventually become de rigueur and, when that happens, so goes their genuine enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it's their youth, accents and excitement that gives them a spotlight to begin with. Take those things away and the spotlight goes with it.
Maybe the girls' parents are great. Maybe they've prepared them for this and they'll slip back into civilian life with ease. Still, it's hard to imagine experiencing that scope of attention at such a young age and then easily adjusting to being an average kid again. Every time their classmates talk about a new Taylor Swift song, they'll be able to respond with "Who cares? We've had tea parties with her, like, a dozen times." (Taylor, as it turns out, will no longer be returning their calls.)
Sophia Grace is in a unique position. While we've seen countless child stars disappear into obscurity (where you at, Jonathan Lipnicki?), the flicker and fade tends to occur behind the scenes. Sophia Grace, on the other hand, is a modern anomaly. She's not an actor, she's not a musician (well, sort of) — she's a personality. An entire fifth of her life has played out in front of the public eye so if she goes away, we'll have to watch it happen.
I don't want to watch a sweet little girl burn out.
What are the options? We could try to keep Sophia Grace in a bubble so that she stays young and optimistic forever. We could force her to wear tutus well into her teen years, but we've seen how that ends — she'll either start tweeting about how she wants Drake to murder her vagina, she'll get a pet monkey and abandon it in Germany or she and Rosie will have a bitter fallout which Rosie then discusses in an episode of Behind the Music that premieres forty years from now. ("Those Ellen days were heady," she'll say. "Not that I remember. We were both fucked up on dust the whole time — y'know, Pixie Stick dust. It'll ruin your life.")
As I said before, Sophia Grace is a new type of child celebrity. We don't know what the best case scenario is for her because we've never encountered anyone like her before. She's charting new territory.
Here's what happens in my ideal world: Sophia Grace's parents pull back a little bit. They bring her back to her hometown of Harlow and make a rule where she only gets to visit her Auntie Ellen during summer holidays. She appears on Ellen a couple of times a year to demonstrate how well-adjusted she is and fully reemerges upon reaching adulthood with a music engineering degree in one hand and a physics degree in the other. She then goes on to win several Grammys of her own as well as a Nobel Prize. She eventually becomes the British Prime Minister, but still freaks out when meeting Zac Efron at a UNICEF gala.
Yeah, it's a pipe dream, but whatever helps me sleep at night.
Image via Getty.