Touré on why his one-year-old son is like a tiny celebrity: frighteningly self-absorbed, all id—and frequently half-naked.
Earlier this month, my son Hendrix turned one. People have been asking me what I’ve learned over the past year. I tell them: I’ve learned that babies are tiny celebrities. As Bonnie Fuller might say, they’re just like stars. I know a little about being a celebrity—several people think I’m a quasi or semi-celeb (my wife is not one of them)—and I’ve interviewed and observed countless stars. When you walk in a room a few feet behind Jay-Z or J-Lo, you see everyone’s face light up and you watch the focus of the room taper into full attention on them. The same thing happens when you walk into a room with a little baby: every face explodes with joy and all eyes turn to the little one.
They’re far, far more likely than the average person to spend time in public half-naked.
That’s the least of it: when you’re a star, even at my low level, people come up to you on the street all the time—strangers just start talking to you as if they already know you. Stardom is a great familiarizer. Babies get the same treatment. No matter what block I’m on with my boy, a passersby will stop and just start talking to him, even though they’ve never met him and know that he won’t respond to them. He’s too big a celeb to talk to any commoner on the street.
Like most big stars my boy’s got an entourage—personal assistants to get him whatever he wants (Mom, Dad, nanny), a chauffeur (Dad), a stylist (Mom), a bather (Dad), a private chef (Mom). And he can just grunt at his people to get what he wants. When he makes a mess, someone else will clean it up and when he gets in trouble there’s always someone right there to bail him out. For Britney it’s the lawyer, manager, and publicist who hide her arrest from the media, for Hendrix it’s me grabbing him when he’s about to fall off the bed and hurt himself. But that’s just a difference in scale.
The similarities between babies and stars go on and on: people are always taking pictures of them. They’re frighteningly self-absorbed. They’re all Id. They go by one name. They spend all day playing with their toys. People travel great distances just to see them do their thing. And they’re far, far more likely than the average person to spend time in public half-naked.
But I think the best baby/star perk of them all is being able to get away with murder. To enjoy this one you have to be way higher on the celeb food chain than I am. And I think somehow my son knows I envy him this perk and he shamelessly flaunts it in my face. For example, at his birthday party he pimp-slapped his five month-old cousin Petra. Seriously. He looked like Ike Turner in ’76.
Touré is the host of BET’s The Black Carpet and the host of Treasure HD’s I’ll Try Anything Once. He is the author of Never Drank the Kool-Aid, Soul City, and The Portable Promised Land. He was a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, was CNN’s first pop culture correspondent, and was the host of MTV2's Spoke N Heard. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker and The New York Times.