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So Not Lindsay Lohan: How to Raise a Child Star

Child StarUnless you live under a rock, you can’t help but catch a peak of the train-wreck that is Lindsay Lohan’s out-of-control life careen by. The updates just keep on coming, faster than the paparazzi’s flashing bulbs. The latest: On February 9, she pleaded “not guilty” to felony grand theft for allegedly ripping off a store for a $2500 necklace. (She was caught on surveillance camera wearing the gold bauble shortly before it mysteriously disappeared from the jewelry shop.) In early January, LiLo was released from the Betty Ford Center after a three-month court-ordered stay during which time she may, er, have left her mark.


The actress, who apparently only has time to act out and not actually act, could face battery charges for shoving a Betty Ford staffer. If she ends up going to jail this go ’round, it won’t be the first time. Poor LiLo, who has been in and out of drug treatment programs since 2007, was incarcerated for 13 days last summer for violating probation in a DUI case.

“You’re no different than anyone, so please don’t push your luck,” warned the judge at the most recent hearing before setting bail at $40,000—half for the theft charge and half for the probation violation. She’s due back in court on February 23 to determine if the grand-theft charge does in fact violate her probation.

Got whiplash yet?

I, for one, am closely following reports about the actress. And it’s not because I delight in the salacious details that keep emerging. No, the reason why I’m trolling the web for Lindsay news is because I have a rather personal stake in her story. I really want the actress, the freckle-faced redhead I remember from The Parent Trap, to be okay. You see, my 12-year old daughter recently wrapped her first feature film, the action-thriller Colombiana, which was co-written and produced by Luc Besson (The Professional, La Femme Nikita, Taken). It’s the kind of role that could catapult her into the public eye in a way that’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time. A triumphant comeback for Lindsay gives me hope for my own daughter’s future.

 It’s easy to see how things can derail for a young actress. Life is such a rush when you’re making a movie and everyone’s focused on making sure that you’re getting what you need, whenever you need it! If you’re not grounded and disciplined, you can start to believe that it’s all about you.

The moment my daughter landed the part last June, our lives became an exhilarating whirlwind of phone calls with the agent and the production coordinator, and sessions with the director, coaches, physical trainers and the star, Zoe Saldana, whose character my daughter plays as a child.

“We have so much in common,” marveled my daughter after her initial meeting with the lead actress. “Er, that’s wonderful,” I replied, before conducting a search on entertainment websites to investigate not only the roles Zoe has played on screen, but any acting up she may have done off-screen. (Thankfully, she came up clean.)

Then, for two-and-a-half months beginning in August, we jetted (first class) back and forth from our Los Angeles home to Chicago, New Orleans and Mexico City. We stayed at fabulous hotels and did lots of sight-seeing in our downtime, bonding with the studio teacher who was there to watch over her schooling and overall welfare. Together, we braved early call times and the tempting Crafts Services table, where we behaved like children in a (literal) candy store. On the multi-Iingual set, I brushed up on my high school French and my daughter greatly improved on her middle school Spanish. Most of all, we kept pinching ourselves at our good fortune and all the fun we were having. Among the cast and crew were some of the kindest, smartest and most interesting people we had ever met.

I can’t help but laugh at the irony of it all. Confession: A former reporter for People magazine, I have long cast a cynical eye on Hollywood. I’ve been burned too many times. There was the C-list actor married to an A-list actress who pretended that the home in which I interviewed him was his —a prerequisite for the People story. Later, I learned I’d been duped—we were actually at his manager’s house.

Then there was the time I spent what I thought was an extraordinary afternoon conversing with an up-and-coming actress as she shared her poignant family history, only to have her call me a liar when the fact-checker reviewed the piece with her later. I can only deduce that she regretted having been so open and vulnerable with me, and the only way out was to malign my character.

Through these experiences, I learned that one could never be too sure whether an actor was actually sharing, or well, acting. They seemed to occupy a bizarre netherworld where fiction was more real than reality.

So it was with some reluctance that I agreed to let my husband sign our daughter with a commercial agent when she was just four years old—and only after some prodding from the budding thespian, who articulated with amazing clarity and resolve that this is what she wanted to do. “You’re going to see me on TV,” she proclaimed even before her first audition.

Turns out, she was right. She landed a national commercial immediately. Since then, she has shot numerous spots, appeared in print ads, and nabbed voice-over gigs for both film and television. But an onscreen movie role is what she’s coveted most. And now it’s finally happened.

 To be honest, I’m not too worried about my daughter following in Lindsay’s footsteps. She’s exceedingly bright, self-possessed, humble and grounded. She has an innate wisdom about people that enables her to see through pretense. She’s an old soul. I think there’s little chance she’ll end up in jail, or bare it all for Playboy.

At least not if my husband and I have anything to do with it. We’re actually parents who like to well, parent. We routinely discuss the pitfalls of listening to others instead of following your own inner guidance, and we have deeply spiritual talks with her about life and what really matters. For instance, she’s convinced that smoking and drugs are just plain stupid. And whatever we’re not certain about, well, thankfully, there are plenty of school seminars, not to mention insightful books on adolescent development, and sex and drugs to guide us. You get the picture: we like to study kids in general, and our own daughter, in particular.

Please take note, Dina Lohan: the one time my husband and I partied at a venue into all hours of the night with our daughter was after the Club Nokia taping of a PBS special featuring the minister of our spiritual center.

As for the business, from the start we’ve taught our young starlet that going out on an audition is the win, the “get.” Some kids have to cross state lines to go up for roles whereas casting agents practically live in our backyard in Los Angeles. Just to get seen is a real opportunity! Anything beyond an audition—a callback, a second callback, an actual role—is icing on the cake.

My daughter also understands that none of it is personal. When she doesn’t get a gig, she doesn’t regard it as rejection. For example, when she saw that another regular on the audition circuit she befriended was vying for the same part, she said, “Well, if I don’t get it, I hope she gets it.” When the other actress did land the coveted movie, her comment was “good for her.” And she meant it.

It probably helps that acting is not the only thing my daughter does. It doesn’t define her, it’s just one aspect of her. She’s studied gymnastics, and plays the violin, guitar and drums. She has a way with the camera and is a wonderful artist and writer. She also loves fashion and has a discerning eye, which helps tremendously when viewing television and magazine ads.

One of my biggest pet-peeves is the way actresses are routinely forced to strip in order to sell product and movies. I regularly point out exceptions to the rule: Julia Roberts is a huge star who manages to hold onto her fame without baring it all, and Sarah Jessica Parker has a no-nudity clause in her contracts. In contrast, there’s Miley Cyrus’ pole and lap dances, and Vanessa Hudgens’ nude pictures. Their antics make for great dinner conversation: I like to punctuate our talks with my own personal commandment—”Never ever let a boyfriend, or even your husband, take a naked photo of you!” Sure, she laughed, but hopefully, this rule will guide her through future auditions, role choices—and relationships.

As my daughter makes her way into adulthood, you can bet I’ll continue to guard her fiercely. I also intend to show her tabloid stories about young Hollywood stars. Their cautionary tales—you can bet more are coming—will help keep her on the straight-and-narrow.

Bio: Karen Brailsford has worked on staff for E! Entertainment and for People, Elle, In Touch, and Newsweek magazines. She is a licensed practitioner with the Agape Spiritual Center in Culver City, Calif.

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