A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Life as a Six-Year-Old Body Double

Suri Cruise

By Nicole Rowlands

From “Toddlers and Tiaras” to “Dance Moms,” we’ve seen parents subject their children to outrageous, and sometimes demeaning, situations. But in February, we read about a little girl who is used as a body double for Suri Cruise, TomKat’s uber-famous daughter, as she travels around New York City. This was taking things, we think, (more than) a bit too far.

The press reported that Katie Holmes and Suri hopped into an SUV heading downtown.  Shortly after that, an SUV pulled up outside a Tribeca eatery, and out came an unknown woman carrying Suri, who was covering her face with her ubiquitous stuffed animal.  The paparazzi snapped their shots, and everyone was happy.  Until it turned out that little Suri was already downtown with her nanny, and Ms. Holmes met up with her daughter a bit later.

The news spread like wildfire. Suri Cruise – the most famous child on earth (at least until Prince William and his wife have their child this July) – comes fully equipped with a doppelganger.

I can (sort of) understand the obsession with security if your child is as famous as Suri Cruise. But what parent in her right mind would allow her daughter to serve as a body double? I mean, if Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were so worried for their daughter’s safety, why would parents subject their own daughter to any danger or threat that the real Suri Cruise was trying to avoid?

Is employing your daughter to act as a body double or decoy even legal?

The press didn’t say. LASIS will.

New York State Child Labor Laws prohibit employment of minors under the age of 14 in connection with any “trade, business or service.” So (child entertainment laws aside) it’s not even legal for a six year old to work in New York State, let alone as a body double.

Under Article 10 of the New York Family Court Act, child neglect occurs when the physical, mental or emotional condition of someone under 18 years of age “has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as a result of the failure of his parent… to exercise a minimum degree of care.” The standard to measure against is how a reasonably prudent parent would have acted in a similar situation.

Would an ordinary parent allow her child to parade down the street as a body double and thus, potentially making her the target of violence, kidnapping, or anything else Suri’s parents are worried about? We sure hope not.

Of course, courting danger is not in and of itself the problem. Last month we read about a (possible) person (the White House has not confirmed this) who acts as a food taster for President Obama. This person eats from the president’s dish before the president does, to ensure that the food is not poisoned. Of course, this makes sense. He is the leader of the free world.  Doctors are surely on hand, just in case. And the food taster is an adult capable of making his own decisions. This is much different than a six-year-old girl who is potentially exposed to harm because her parents want a paycheck.

When a child is put into a potentially dangerous situation by a parent, criminal charges can be filed. Last October, an undercover police officer in the Bronx arrested a woman who used her 11-year-old son during a drug sale. After making an illegal sale of narcotics with the undercover, the woman realized that she was $20 short. She sent her son to retrieve the missing money from a buyer. After a month long investigation of the woman, which found other instances of her using her children in her drug sales, she was charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Her children were taken away by the Administration for Child Services.

We note that Katie Holmes has categorically denied the allegations of using a body double for her daughter.  The photos tell another story.  But the outrage that greeted the news of a Suri body double make it unlikely that we’ll be seeing more of the Girl Who Would Be Suri.

Ms. Holmes might want to look into a more productive way of creating a safe environmnt for Suri, and call Halle Berry.  Ms. Berry is lobbying for a legal ban on unauthorized photographs of celebrities’ young children.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Great article

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