Is Will Smith merchandizing his kids?

OPINION - Kudos to the Smiths for supporting their kids, but at what point does a parent's enthusiasm for their child's talent go too far?...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

The Jacksons. The Osmonds. The Winans. And now let’s add the Smiths to the list. In the tradition of showbiz families, looks like Will and Jada Smith are in fast pursuit to transform their family into an entertainment dynasty.

Will Smith’s newest stage dad project is remaking the classic Hollywood film Annie, starring his ten-year-old daughter, Willow. Jay-Z (who signed Willow to his label) is on board to help develop the film.

The Smiths are obviously following the typical recipe for merchandising and branding a 10-year-old…

Step one: Have a very opportune connection to the industry. Most plebes will have to go the YouTube route, but if you’re really lucky, you will be born into it.

Step two: Release a crazy catchy upbeat pop song that even adults are forced to love.

Step three: Slap them in the lead role of a well-known and endearing movie remake. Bonus points if the resulting movie is a musical.

Will Smith’s decision to create a film for Willow kind of makes sense — if you are going to produce a movie that stars a little kid, why not hire your 10-year-old daughter? It’s nepotism at its best; keeping the money in the family and helping to make sure your children’s children are set for life. Some precocious tween was going to make a mint of wealth and fame off the flick, so by all means Will should let someone he knows and loves rake in the cash.

And Willow Smith will make the perfect Annie. The kid has more than her share of spunk and moxie, and a brilliant smile that would soften any curmudgeonly old millionaire. Will’s doing what any other parent would — fostering his child’s talent. However where most parent’s would support their child’s dream by throwing them in a few dance classes and a role in the school play, Will has the power and money to propel his kids to international superstardom. Remember that cute Karate Kid remake he produced for his son Jaden last year? It pulled in a cool $359 million worldwide. Not too shabby for your first starring role.

So it looks like it is Willow’s turn on the silver screen. Kudos to the Smiths for supporting their kids, but at what point does a parent’s enthusiasm for their child’s talent go too far? At what point does Will Smith go from encouraging dad to modern day Joe Jackson? The Smiths are wandering dangerously close into overkill territory, exacerbated by the fact that the vehicle of choice for family branding is a pint-sized pair of tweens. It’s one thing if Will Smith is a work-a-holic, but it’s another if two kids who aren’t even allowed to drive are pulling in working hours that would make an investment banker blush.

Granted the Smith kids were never going to be as normal as the average brood, however their burgeoning careers in entertainment may be pushing the extremes. Willow recently spoke to UK’s Daily Record about her life as a young celebrity. “I never really get to go to school because I am always on tour, or with my father,” she told the mag. “There is a tutor most of the time, but usually I am working so I never get to do the lessons. The worst thing about math is all the kids are ahead of me because they go to school.” In an age where children are already being ferried into adulthood too fast, Willow is missing out on the most innocent and carefree years of her life.

Count author Terry McMillan as one of the Smith family’s critics. She recently took to her Twitter account to air out the clan, writing “It feels like the Smith children are being pimped and exploited. Or, they’re already hungry for fame. What about 4th grade?” She went on to tweet, “The Smith children already act like child stars. There’s an arrogance in their demeanor and behavior. I find it incredibly sad.”

No one would be judging Will Smith if he was just a regular guy from Philadelphia trying to make his kid’s dreams come true. But there is a nagging question as to why so much and so soon — couldn’t Willow and Jaden at least made it quietly to their teens before releasing them into the often dangerous and harsh world of celebrity? If your child has talent it is important to nurture it and help it grow, but careful to remember they are a child — not a cash cow.