Gravity and Augusta Leto came in to this world on a headline. More than the latest production of two Hollywood stars, they were stars themselves. No coattails for these kids.
Born in the spotlight. Quite literally.
A spotlight that hasn’t dimmed for a moment of the sixteen years they’ve spent on this earth. They’re infamous and spoilt. And it’s not entirely their fault (or their parents). They are Hollywood’s miracle babies with a story that never gets stale.
Who could really blame anyone really for how it all began? Innocent enough. Felicity was 31 weeks into an uncomplicated pregnancy, presenting a lifetime achievement award at the Screen Actors Guild gala, when her water broke violently in front of 2.7 million viewers and all of Hollywood’s elite. It was an instant headline. The talk of the town. A premature birth on National T.V. 24 hour news and two beautiful, yet fragile, pink bundles of joy to root for. Those who didn’t watch the birth live, read about it the next day. Watched the recap on the Today show. Found out all about it at the water cooler. A feel good, happy and hopeful story in a post 9/11 world.
Felicity and Jared were touched by the outpouring of love. The gifts. The well wishes. The generosity of a nation transfixed by the twin’s birth story and now invested in their future. They gave regular updates to the press. And the nation hung on every detail. Riding a roller coaster of ups and downs with the young couple for months until the twins were stable.
People magazine paid handsomely for exclusive access that yielded a four page cover story that included such tacky pictures as Jared with his hands on Felicity’s deflated womb as they stood next to not one but two empty pink cribs. A closet bursting with purple and pink and ivory dresses that wouldn’t fit the girls for years. Handmade gifts from all around the world stacked in the nursery for the photographs. Heavily stage and tacky photographs with a sensational headline and story beside it. It made Felicity uncomfortable and Jared felt put out. But it was obligatory and necessary given how much everyone out there lifted them up in the beginning of the ordeal.
Telling one story would save them from telling fifty more, so they thought.
Oprah had the exclusive when the girls came home. A promise of authenticity this time around and an exclusive peek at how normal everyone was. A vain attempt at saying goodbye to the spotlight. You can go back to your lives now. Look at how normal we are! It only endeared them more.
As a result of that special, the world fell in love with Felicity and Jared just as much as their offspring. Their own careers were enhanced. The ball kept on rolling forward.
So, as thanks for the blessings or to assuage the demand (it varied year to year) the girls’ milestones and firsts were immortalized in countless magazines and one-off specials (reality tv precursor programing). Their First Birthday: viewed by nine million people. Second birthday just as well received and over the top. A big top – as in a circus. Complete with elephant. It never ended.
Without written permission, the children became a commodity. Cooing, crawling, giggling, toddling, tricycle riding, milk drinking marketing machines. Little models. Little actresses. Little divas with PR reps, lawyers, agents. Ribbon cutting. Trend setting. Stars.
There was no reining any of it in, unfortunately. The train left the station and the nation was all aboard. And only in retrospect are the hard lessons learned.
Felicity and Jared tried their damnedest to keep the girls grounded. They really did. They set limits and a fine example for the girls. They always made them clean up after themselves, even with a capable staff ready to do it for them. They had to do their homework before they could watch t.v. They said yes ma’am and no sir. Please and thank you. They had to succeed at being normal before Felicity and Jared would let them access the excess. And it worked, for a little while, to a degree. They were proper children even as their egos were becoming a problem. They were angels in the spotlight and they learned the art of manipulation early. Clever and crafty and eventually shady and slick.
Angels until boarding school. Where outside the bubble they came to fully grasp who they were, what their story meant to the rest of the country and most detrimental: they came to understand that they had a “net worth” and what that “net worth” meant in the grand scheme of things. They became aware, as other children dreamed of the future careers and college, that they would never have to work a day in either of their lives. Moreover, that they would make more money in one calendar year off interest alone than their teachers would make in a lifetime – two lifetimes. Their net worth had exceed their entrepreneurial and wisely vested parents nest egg before the twins were age eight. And now they knew that. They could buy and sell the moon. And there was no shortage of adults circling them like flies ready to help them spend spend spend.
With that knowledge and the power that came with, the tables tipped. Personalities changed and no one was in control of what happened next. Not even the girls.