Friday, April 22, 2011

Is this the most precocious five-year-old in the world? The strange and troubling world of Suri Cruise

By Alison Boshoff

Cruise shoes: Suri in high heels and co-ordinated outfit while out shopping with Katie's mother Kathy at shops in New York

A sunny day in Beverly Hills and in a beautifully manicured garden a little girl is celebrating her fifth birthday. She sits at the head of the table, dressed in her favourite turquoise sunglasses and a pretty pink dress.

Nothing out of the ordinary, then. Except that while she unwraps a doll, the guests have to shout over the whirring of helicopters above.

Because this is no ordinary five-year-old — this is Suri Cruise, and the helicopters contain paparazzi desperate to get a shot of the little girl who is surely becoming the most photographed child in the world.

Welcome to Planet Suri, where the other inhabitants are, of course, her A-list parents Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

And the truth is that on this planet Suri is not just a little princess being doted on by her parents. In accordance with the doctrine of the Church of Scientology — of which her parents are devoted followers — she is apparently treated as an adult, free to make decisions on her clothes, make-up and diet.

There’s no doubt that Suri is adorable, with a long curtain of conker-brown hair and the most bewitching slanted green eyes.

But here the comparisons with most other children of her age end. Her taste in clothes runs to £1,300 Dolce & Gabbana trench coats and £500 miniature Marc Jacobs heels. She’s been credited — and blamed — for sparking a multi-million-pound mania for putting pampered kids in designer labels. Thanks to a serious shopping habit that has been indulged ever since she was a toddler, her wardrobe is said to be worth £2 million.

Little Suri has been wearing make-up for two years and was spotted earlier this year making selections at beauty chain Sephora in New York.

Luxe look: Toting a designer bag on the way to a restaurant, and right, with a flower in her hair and wearing a heart-print dress to see a musical

She favours pink lipstick for daytime and a dramatic slash of red at night. She also has her own designer bags to carry her books and cuddly toys — she has a smaller version of her mother’s Ferragamo Sofia bag, for instance, and often carries her very own £11,000 Hermes handbag.

Little Miss Cruise even has such decisive views about her outfits that she has never been seen in trousers. And why shouldn’t she?

Her father Tom, who was 43 when Suri was born, calls her his ‘fountain of youth’ and is clearly happy to spoil her rotten. ‘She likes to dress herself and wears whatever she wants,’ says Tom. ‘I’m not gonna tell her different.’

Suri also still uses a dummy, even though the majority of children are encouraged to stop the habit around the age of two, due to implications for teeth.

A source said: ‘Scientology encourages you to make your own decisions. She’ll know herself when it’s time to throw the pacifier away, plain and simple.’

There is no sign at all of anything so prosaic as schooling taking place or of her having friends her own age. Instead you see her out until midnight in New York, where Tom Cruise has an apartment, with Katie Holmes.

Recent pictures show the two of them looking fatigued while exiting Broadway shows or fancy restaurants such as Il Cantinori and Serendipity 3, as if they were a couple of women in their 30s onthe town. On one unfortunate occasion earlier this month, Suri picked up a packet of Penis Gummies — jelly sweets in the shape of genitalia — and was photographed waving them blithely around.

Katie later sheepishly explained that the child had picked them out before she was really aware of what the item was.

Glossy: Suri shops for make-up at beauty chain 'Sephora' in New York while wearing a long blue dress and pink shoes

Suri’s social schedule is such that if she has a designated bedtime, it’s difficult to work out what it might be. As one parent commented on an internet message board: ‘Poor Suri. Even animals at the zoo get to sleep at night.’

But it seems there is no rest for this girl, whose parents show her off with relentless zeal.

When Katie Holmes was on the David Letterman Show recently, Suri was brought to the taping and accompanied her parents for dinner afterwards — which went on until the early hours.

You wouldn’t catch Victoria Beckham, or even Angelina Jolie, allowing their children out so late — even though both women are noted for their love of publicity.

Suri’s first photo shoot came when she was five months old and provided the cover for the biggest-selling edition of Vanity Fair in the magazine’s history. She was then photographed extensively at her parents’ wedding in official pictures of the event that the pair sold across the globe.

More recently, you will have seen her sporting sparkly silver heels in Vancouver, in Uggs with a Dolce bag flung over her tiny arm in Barneys department store, attending the Superbowl with her father in Miami and playing with an iPad while waiting for her meal to arrive in restaurants.

Suri is even said to offer advice when it comes to her mother’s fashion line Holmes and Yang, with Katie consulting on shoe design, such is her belief in the girl’s talents.

Last year, Holmes said: ‘Suri picks out all of her own clothes.’ Cruise is as gushing. In a recent interview, he said: ‘I say to Suri, “I really want you to eat this protein if you’re going to have that sugar.” She looks at me and she goes: “Dad, I don’t think you should try to force me to do something I don’t want to do.”’

Proud parents: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, both devout followers of the Church of Scientology which states children should be treated as adults

That’s a lot of clout for a little madam, who apparently calls her parents Tom and Kate and has decided that she is to follow them into the entertainment business.

Let’s hope that she has more luck than her mother, whose career has yet to recover after marrying Tom Cruise and whose latest foray, playing Jackie Onassis in The Kennedys mini-series, was panned by critics.

Reports in the U.S. have long suggested that she feels trapped in a marriage to a controlling man. This suggestion is denied — and it is possible that her wan appearance is due to the demands of looking after Suri.

Take the birthday party. According to some reports it cost £13,000. (Incidentally, it’s been reported in Australia that her gift from Daddy was £3 million.)

‘She helps to plan her party,’ Holmes said on U.S. radio. ‘Because I want her to be happy, we have meetings.’ Meetings? With a five-year-old? Perhaps this is why magazines in the U.S. are claiming that Katie Holmes’ Midwestern parents Martin and Kathleen are concerned about the effects that Cruise’s Scientology is having on their family.

Scientology expert Rick Ross says that none of this should be a surprise: ‘Scientologists treat kids as if they are individuals capable of making their own decisions.’

This is because, according to the religion’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, the human body is a vessel for alien spirits. Children, therefore, are vessels for these aliens and so there is no reason to treat them any differently from adults.

In reality, this appears to mean Suri is allowed to rule the family. ‘She will throw temper tantrums when she’s out with Katie and Tom,’ says a source. One claims that after a trip to a restaurant last month, no amount of pleading to get in her car seat by Holmes could persuade Suri — and so she just didn’t.

Child psychologist Vicki Panaccione warns against allowing a five-year-old to behave in this way: ‘Their reasoning abilities, nervous systems, decision-making processes and moral judgment are just not up to adult development.’

So what is family life like for the rest of the Cruise family? For all three of his children — adopted Isabella, 18, and Connor, 16, and biological-child Suri — the answer has been that it’s a world with every possible luxury but a place very few strangers enter.

Isabella and Connor have been home-schooled since they were small. The role of teacher has been taken by Tom Cruise’s sister Cass Mapother, a stern brunette with three sons.

The whole set-up is one of an extended, devout and enclosed family. The family live in a home that cost in the region of £18 million in 1997, which boasts 13,000 square feet of space.

All the children have been raised as Scientologists. It is expected that Suri will start being ‘audited’ to check her for negative influences from the age of six onwards.

And when they are in New York, Suri has a nanny and bodyguard and is taken around in an SUV or a helicopter.

Has there ever been such an indulged girl? You can only wonder what she will be like when she’s blowing out the candles on her 18th birthday cake.


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