2011/02/04

Obsessions: It's good to be a Smith kid



Jaden and Willow Smith, if you haven't noticed, are having a moment.
In the past year, the children of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have gone from standing beside their superstar parents at red carpet events to having the red carpet rolled out especially for them.
It began last summer with 12-year-old Jaden's box-office hit, "The Karate Kid," which pulled in $55 million in its first weekend and went on to gross $359 million worldwide, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. The soundtrack featured a song from teen pop star Justin Bieber, with Jaden showing off his rapping skills.
Now Jaden's headed for the Grammys on February 13, where he'll perform alongside Usher and Bieber. His 10-year-old sister, Ms. "Whip My Hair" Willow, is gearing up to join the Biebs as he tours Europe in March.
The youngest Smith recently unveiled a preview listen of her second single, an uptempo track called "21st Century Girl." An album, she promised on Twitter, is coming "VERY soon!!"
The spotlight on these two has only gotten brighter recently, particularly with news that Willow is set to star in a remake of "Annie," being produced by her parents and Jay-Z, who also has signed her to his Roc Nation label. (Anyone up for a game of six degrees of separation from a fifth-grader?)
But the children's ascent hasn't been without criticism. Some question if the two are being shoved into the spotlight at too young an age, while others are put off by the Smith parents actively creating opportunities for their kids. The conspiracy theorists may fret that the Smiths are strategically trying to take over the world (of entertainment, at least).
Yet neither of these preteens is new to showbiz. At 5, Jaden popped up on the sitcom "All of Us" (on which his older half-brother Trey, whom Will had from a previous marriage, also appeared), and followed that with roles in his dad's film "The Pursuit of Happyness" and Keanu Reeves' "The Day the Earth Stood Still." At 7, Willow appeared in the Will Smith vehicle "I Am Legend," and by the following year, she was acting alongside Abigail Breslin in "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl."
"We knew that Will and Jada had these two kids -- and that Will had Trey -- but they were so quiet," recalls Rachel Chang, editor-in-chief of teen celebrity magazine J-14. "And then they just exploded out of nowhere."
So how did they go from Will and Jada's cute kids to actor/musicians? Well, a few things happened in the past year -- namely, a sense of individual style.
"They started killing it on the red carpet during the 'Karate Kid' premieres," Georgia Toomey, editor of Yahoo's young Hollywood, Crush. "It was obvious right from the start that they had someone styling who knew what they were doing."
Indeed. Willow's red carpet attire in particular -- the Day-Glo colors, the animal print mixed with hammer pants, the hairdo that called to mind an older pop ingenue from Barbados who's also known for her signature looks -- became a conversation piece. The young star has been styled by the same sartorial minds that work with Rihanna, and the attention paid to her eye-catching (for better or worse) get-ups only snowballed after the colorful music video for "Whip My Hair" was released.
"To be totally honest, the first few times she appeared in our magazine was for her crazy fashion," says J-14's Chang, "but that's what got her noticed. For a little girl to dress crazy and confident like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha, that got her noticed first."
Her look may have started the buzz, but what drove it home was the kids' self-assurance, says Tamar Anitai, editor of MTV's Buzzworthyblog, where talk about Willow can nowadays be a weekly occurrence.
"It's almost like a lot of adults are surrendering," Anitai jokes of the kids' popularity. "They have so much personality, and it seems like it's their own. It doesn't seem like they've been media-trained, or (that) they're speaking in sound bites. They're good kids, but precocious -- they have swagger."
Plus there's the obvious, Anitai adds: "Their parents are such megastars." The Smiths, not unlike the Brangelinas of the world, are "the closest thing we have to American royalty."
With the duo gearing up for more work -- Willow with an album and "Annie," Jaden reportedly doing M. Night Shyamalan's "One Thousand A.E." -- it looks like the fever for these two will only escalate, not quite unlike the stronghold their pal Bieber has created.
"I think the thing is, they've proved themselves," Toomey says. "Yeah, there's a bit of nepotism involved, but they're actually talented. ... Jaden was successful in ('The Karate Kid') role, and he's a great little actor." She adds, "You see Willow in that ('Whip My Hair') video and she's so full of energy and has a great vibe. They're out to conquer the world basically."
Chang agrees these two have enough talent and personality to sustain them through the bumps of growing up in the spotlight.
"When you hear that another celebrity kid is trying to make it famous, you think, 'Oh God, here we go again,' " Chang says. "But they did it uniquely in their own way and separately from each other. These two have an appeal that goes beyond just our audience; even moms and dads can recognize them. I think they have a long career ahead."

Miley Cyrus gets tattoo No. 5



Miley Cyrus has added another tattoo to her collection.
The 18-year-old singer-actress now has a dream catcher inked on her torso, a friend close to Cyrus tells PEOPLE.
"It's a picture of the dream catcher that hangs over her bed with four feathers to represent her four brothers and sisters," says the friend. (Miley's siblings are Brandi, 23, Trace, 21, Braison, 16, and Noah, 11.) "The dream catcher is to protect them."
That brings Cyrus's current tattoo tally up to five.
She also has a heart and a small cross on her fingers, the word 'love" on her ear and the phrase "just breathe" on her rib cage in honor of a close friend who died of cystic fibrosis.
"All of Miley's tattoos have a deep meaning to her," says the friend. "They all represent family and friends close to her."

Will millions of people pay for iPad news?



Media companies are making big bets on tablet-friendly newspapers and magazines -- even as they bleed cash chasing a still-tiny audience.
"I've never seen anything quite like tablets taking off. I don't think you can afford not to make those investments," said Scott Ellison, mobile/connected platforms analyst at IDC.
But the investments are hefty, and fishing in a tablet-only pool is limiting. Apple sold 14.8 million iPads last year, and its nearest rival, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, shipped 2 million devices. That means there's 17 million potential readers at the moment.
Forecasts are bullish for the coming year: Tech companies have a staggering 100-plus iPad rivals in the works, and research firm eMarketer expects total tablet sales to hit 44 million in 2011. In 2012, it predicts tablet sales will top 81 million.
"Clearly the media industry is in need of a transformation, and they see tablets as an opportunity," said Allen Weiner, media analyst at Gartner. "We're about to enter a period of extreme experimentation."
The iPad-only newspaper: The most extreme example is The Daily, the iPad-only publication that News Corp (NWSFortune 500launched on Wednesday. CEO Rupert Murdoch committed around 100 staffers and an investment of $30 million to get it launched, and will spend $26 million a year to keep it running.
"Look at the massive investment News Corp. is making -- how many newspapers are willing and able to do that?" Weiner said. "The Daily is kind of a pilot program that everyone else will look to."
The Daily costs 99 cents a week, or $40 for a yearly subscription. To break even on its operating costs from subscriber revenue alone, The Daily would have to sell more than 650,000 subscriptions -- and that's without accounting for the cut Apple (AAPLFortune 500) takes for selling The Daily through its App Store.
Drawing more than 600,000 subscribers would be a gigantic feat, putting the publication among weekday subscription figures for big newspaper stalwarts -- somewhere between The Washington Post's 550,000 and The New York Times' 913,000.

NBC orders 'Office'-like comedy, 'Inception'-style drama


NBC made four more pilot pickups, including a couple intriguing titles with similar overtones to major hits.
First up, NBC ordered "Free Agents" as a cast-contingent pilot from "Party Down's" John Enbom, a workplace single-camera comedy about two quirky co-workers (at a Hollywood talent agency, no less -- now that's how you get power players to relate to your script).
Both are on the rebound from relationships, one from a divorce and the other from the loss of a fiancé. Like "The Office," it's based on a British comedy.
Next, "Lone Star" creator Kyle Killen has sold what's described as an "Inception-style" drama to the network.
"REM" is a "procedural hybrid which follows the simultaneous and parallel lives of a detective who can not let go of any aspect of his fractured family after a horrible car accident." BWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHM...
NBC also picked up an untitled project from Dan Goor, one of the producers of "Parks and Recreation." The concept is about a young doctor who "joins his parents' medical practice and spends as much time tending to his family as to his patients."
Also, "Love Lives," a multi-camera comedy from Chris Sheridan ("Family Guy"), described as "a sophisticated and adult multi-camera comedy about two couples and their challenges of love and infidelity."