By ARTHIA NIXON
Upon hearing my daughter’s accomplishments, people are quick to ask how I am able to balance her life with mine. It’s not easy being full-time journalist and consultant and keeping an active tween in place – especially, when that tween is a kidpreneur, actress, athlete, scholar, volunteer and then some.
I never set out with the goal of being a manager to a child, but like other parents of immensely talented prolific prodigies, I found myself in the role and had to adapt quickly. Fortunately, my background in journalism and public relations combined with several friends having experience in the entertainment industry gave me an insight of what to expect.
Who knew that after being raised a backstage baby in studios and on sets that my own little girl would carve her own path and be so good at it, she would be in demand. When she decided to try acting, I signed her up for a background gig, reminding her that in the real world it’s never instant and don’t expect anything from it. The first photos I sent off landed her a three month stint on the film ‘Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life’, where she got to meet James Patterson, the author. A year later, we were in New Orleans for her first Disney callback which she didn’t get, but a Cartoon Network booking amid three films after that were actually a pretty big thing.
She wasn’t content being a competitive cheerleader, art apprentice or library volunteer, so she went out and became the youngest card carrying member of the NAACP in her region. Then she wanted to be an entrepreneur and made it through her ExCel Youth Mentor course and was offered to become an ambassador. A friend said, “Wow Miss Allie you’re in all kinds of action” and Allie in Action sorta stuck. She became a journalist, an author all before age 12 and single parent me with my limited income had to make it all happen.
Funny enough, it was the film ‘Beyond the Lights’ and an interview I had with Matthew Knowles father of Beyonce` and Solange that gave me the best information I ever received.Combined with a few lessons I learned on my own, I had to become a momager in order for my kid to succeed.
Your child’s talents are not to be shared for free. Sure, starting out. Yes, now and again for a charity, but the publicist in me reminded me that if they can pay for a venue, catering, etc they can certainly pay a stipend to your child for their time and talents. You have to learn to sit in the room and listen before you sign. Watch YouTube and news videos, read old news stories and do not be fooled by the fast talking folks who know how to lure parents in with “I can make it happen” promises. Atlanta, Hollywood, New York… sharks swim in many seas so beware because your signature is what seals your child’s fate.
I’m known for being a fiercely protective Mama Bear, but not to the point of telling a director what to do. My job is keeping my kid in line while ensuring they are not being taken advantage of while working. On the other hand, my job is to ensure my kid is fed, sleeping well, has school work completed, is not a spoiled brat and not left alone with people I have not had the time to research and vet. Yes, you have to be careful because sometimes kids will be exposed to situations, attributes, words and people that you may not have prepared them for. So talk it over to make sure your child understands and if you can, stay with them but at a distance so you can sense their discomfort and quietly step in but not be so annoying you cost them their gig. Also, discretion in terms of roles is a must when you sign that non-disclosure agreement. Do not go on social media immediately. Wait until AFTER the production to brag big time.
Trash must be taken out, chores must be done and they must understand that school work is still a priority. No pressure, but other kids and parents do look to you both for advice and sometimes that can be much more than you want to handle.
Boundaries must be set at home and on set and at the end of the day, you have to remember that you have to stop worrying about whether or not your kid likes you and think about the public expectation and the 100 adults waiting on a set for your kid to give a certain emotion or say a line correct so they can get paid and go home. As for those checks, talk to your child, take them with you to the bank, discuss that a portion is going to be taken out. And at night when they’re asleep, you have to go through the social media accounts because there are some people who thrive on being horrible to young people doing positive things.
The thing is you can manage your child if you know how to manage yourself and put in the effort to study whatever they are in. They will need you to be a cosigner, to grant permission and to look at an event organizer and say “Absolutely not, on behalf of my child and client, we cannot agree to those terms”. You also need to learn that what happens in your house, your dynamic, stays there. Don’t focus on what the child didn’t do at home in the public eye because once you put that out there, a perception can change.
If you are ready to balance both, go for it. But at the end of the day you have to see the term momager from your child’s eyes. Anyone can be hired to be a manager, but at the end of the day, a kid can’t hire a mom.
1. Do your research even if you hire a team to help. When you go into a meeting, it’s good to go in having an idea. This will also give you an insight so that you can test to see if the agent, expert or manager really knows what they are talking about.
2. Don’t get blinded by the money or fame to the point you don’t put your child’s best interests first.
3. Distinguish between your dream and your child’s passion. Your childhood is over and you have to be the adult your kid needs.
4. Put aside at least 20% of earnings into a Coogan account or trust fund that your child can access at age 18 or 21.
5. Being a momager is a job not a hobby so take it serious because you are your child’s adult representative and voice.
6. See the term momager from your child’s eyes. Anyone can be hired to be a manager, but at the end of the day, a kid can’t hire a mom (or dad).
7. There is a time to be talented and a time to be a kid. Always remember that you can’t expect your child to be in business mood 24/7 because they are still growing and learning.
BONUS: Surround yourself with like-minded individuals. I personally found a village in the group of fellow momagers I connected with and rely on them for advice. No one understands what you are going through quite like those who have gone through it too so find your village and call on them if you need it.
Read more in Nixon’s book ‘Managing the Momager: How to Navigate Life While Raising a Kid in the Spotlight. Coming fall 2017.