Suri Cruise Turns 10: How the World of Celebrity-Kid Worship & Scrutiny Has Changed

The level of worship and the scrutiny has reached new highs—but at least parents are in control more than ever before

By Natalie Finn Apr 18, 2016 12:00 PMTags
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They grow up so fast…

Suri Cruise is turning 10 today, despite the fact that we just saw the first baby photo of Katie Holmes' mini-me yesterday.

At least, it seems as if it was only yesterday.

But no, that was in 2006—and we're not only in the middle of a whole new decade, we're also in the middle of a completely new era in the relationship that the media (and through them, the world at large) have with the offspring of the rich and famous.

In her 10 years, Suri has seen it all (without even knowing it, which is all the better for her), as the nature of celebrity-kid worship—and scrutiny—ramped up to all new levels after her birth before entering a new, quieter yet still tricky phase thanks to social media, revamped laws and the general phasing out of certain practices that, in hindsight, were of their time and not of the future.

Suri Cruise, first name meaning "the sun" in Sanskrit and "rose" in Persian, was born on April 18, 2006, to perhaps the most talked-about couple ever at the time, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. So life wasn't going to be exactly normal for the girl.

And even her famous parents couldn't have known that Suri's arrival would coincide with the birth of the real 24/7 news cycle—not the TV version dreamed up by CNN, but the fervid, cameras-everywhere, we-know-you're-getting-arrested-before-you-do business that TMZ ushered in when it launched in November 2005.

But Suri was born while the non-stop coverage was more about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, so she remained merely talked about for four and a half months until the world got its first glimpse of her on the October 2006 cover of Vanity Fair—the Annie Leibovitz-shot homage to Paul and Linda McCartney's famous baby-in-the-jacket pic also serving as brand-new CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric's first big get.

And the fact that the first pic of Suri was indeed a major get for a broadcast network's flagship newscast meant plenty.

After the carefully choreographed unveiling, however, Suri became not just another celebrity kid whose picture was worth a thousand words and even more money, but for years she was the celebrity kid. The craving for more and more news about everybody, from A-lister to no-lister, naturally spilled over into the celeb kid arena—it was a free-for-all as to who got followed around and when, tender age be damned. With so much product available, more than ever before, no one was quite sure what to do with it all—so more often than not, almost everything ended up online.

Tony Barson/

Katie and Tom's divorce, in 2012, only served to boost interest in every move that mother and daughter made as they split their time between New York and Los Angeles.

But while Katie Holmes somehow managed to meet the hordes of paparazzi that seemingly lay in wait for them wherever they went with a fair amount of grace, and Suri continued to be the object of ever so much fascination, the times were starting to a-change.

While the Suri situation seemed to reach a new low in July 2013 when the 7-year-old told a man identified as a professional autograph seeker to "stop it" and "get out of the way" as she and her mom were navigating through a phalanx of paps as they tried to get into their car—and the guy was heard on video calling the child the b-word—famous kids all over were experiencing similar (and worse) issues with the paparazzi on a daily basis.

"My daughter doesn't want to go to school because she knows ‘the men' are watching for her," Halle Berry testified before the California Assembly Committee on Public Safety about a month before the aforementioned Suri incident, part of an ultimately successful effort spearheaded by Berry and Jennifer Garner to expand an existing harassment law to protect children from the paparazzi's increased brazenness.

On a family trip to Hawaii, Berry continued, photographers tried to pick a fight with her then-fiancé Olivier Martinez, prompting daughter Nahla to later ask, '"Mommy, are they going to kill us?'

"She didn't get to sleep until 3 a.m. because she can't get this out of her mind, and she doesn't understand what just happened to her."

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

The anti-paparazzi bill was passed and signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown in September 2013.

Just last month, Garner, who also testified in Sacramento, told Dr. Mehmet Oz how her youngest child, son Samuel, "hates" the paparazzi—and always did.

When the now 4-year-old sees photographers, according to his mom, he says, '"I don't like that. There are two things I don't like, Mom. I don't like cameras. I don't like men with cameras and I don't like being laughed at. I don't like if I feel like you're laughing at me.'" (Garner would explain to him that she's not laughing at him, she just can't help but be charmed by his seriousness.)


Overall, she said that the 2013 legislation "has made things better." At the time, though, Garner said she considered leaving California, it had gotten so bad.

Despite the stricter law, though, there were still countless opportunities for paparazzi to snap pics of celebrity kids in a technically legal fashion. And that didn't sit well with Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, new parents at the time to daughter Lincoln.

Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Instead of taking the issue up with a higher power (i.e. the courts or legislature), however, Bell and Shepard made their case in the press and on social media for a big change as to how things were done when it came to famous people's kids.

The unlikely crusaders didn't try to take down the paparazzi directly, but rather they were determined to take down the market for their wares. And, well… They did. In February 2014, a number of entertainment publications agreed to stop posting photos and videos of celeb kids that weren't taken on red carpets or at official public events, or otherwise permitted by their parents or actually posted by them or a guardian on social media.

Not everyone got on board, but who did and who didn't was perfectly telling.

"Right now, I feel like children need to be left out of it. It's too much to rope them in, they're babies, they don't understand. You cannot be stalking 6-year-olds," Bell told The Huffington Post in March after some sites, including E! News, implemented the new policy. "To me, it's consent. If a parent consents, that's like signing a permission slip. Because I signed up to be an actress, I also signed up to be a parent and I take my role as a mother very seriously and you do not have permission to photograph my daughter. So, if someone gives you permission, that's fine. If a celebrity sets something up, I'm not here to come down on them, but it really should be up to the parent."

And while not all parents are going to choose the cover of a national magazine to show off their babies, moms and dads have managed to wrest back some of the control and devalue the average paparazzi pic in one fell swoop.

Because also in 2006, just a few months after Suri Cruise arrived, Twitter was born.

Facebook was in existence, but it had just emerged from being solely the stomping ground of college students, and little could anyone have seen (except Ashton Kutcher, apparently) just how much Twitter would change how we share information—and how it and Facebook would spawn Instagram, Vine, WhoSay, Tumblr, Snapchat and hundreds of other likeminded sites and apps, plus countless ways to keep them all in sync and organized (or entirely separate, depending on your audience).

At first Twitter didn't seem like a must-do, because who cared about 140-character messages when you could be reconnecting with everyone you ever met in life on Facebook. But by 2008, 100 million tweets were being posted every three months and the rest is "tweets reax…goes on Twitter rant…gets into Twitter feud…shares first pic on Twitter" history.

While the paparazzi haven't exactly given up, Twitter and photo-sharing services like Instagram, especially, have helped put the power back in the celebs' hands when it comes to disseminating info and sharing photos, particularly of their children.

Some parents delight in sharing pics on a near daily basis (just like your actual Facebook friends), while others make it into a more special occasion (subsequently causing a "rare pic" frenzy while they're at it).

Others, such as Zoe Saldana, share pics without giving away too much, the actress happy to let fans sneak a peek at her domestic life all while keeping her twin sons' faces away from the camera.

#travelingwithkids #workingmom #nonstop #twins #currentmood ------ #gemelos #situacionactual #mama #hermanos

A photo posted by Zoe Saldana (@zoesaldana) on

"I just don't want, 16 years from now, to get that 'you are so disrespectful, you invaded, you exposed me, I wasn't ready' [from her kids]," the actress explained her calculated photography process to E! News. "I don't want to have that conversation. Even though they're babies and they're under our care, it's still their face. So right now they're not in the position to speak for themselves, to make a decision as bold as to be exposed that way—so I don't want to make it for them."

Then there are the celeb kids who are already naturals in front of the camera, Jessica Simpson's daughter, Maxwell, coming to mind, as well as Mariah Carey's twins, Monroe and Moroccan.

My beauty has no fear #MAXIDREW

A photo posted by Jessica Simpson (@jessicasimpson) on

But the best part about the "new" way of things (which isn't really new anymore but wasn't even in existence when Miss Suri was born) is that the parents get to choose what works for them. If they're into posting pics, cool. If not, cool.

Katie Holmes has an Instagram account, but it's predominantly a kids-free zone, the Ray Donovan actress perhaps feeling that the world was treated to enough pics of her daughter back in the day. Not that she's been taking inordinate steps to keep Suri away from the public eye, either, a mother-daughter meet-and-greet with Hillary and Chelsea Clinton having made the Instagram cut along with a few other pics here and there, but no one could blame Katie for being warier than some about how much public exposure her still only 10-year-old child receives.

Mothers and daughters #wearewithhillary ??

A photo posted by Katie Holmes (@katieholmes212) on

And being able to post pics at her own pace on Instagram must be a nice change from the marketplace paying top dollar for any and all pics of Suri.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Garner isn't on social media, and Halle Berry just joined Instagram. So far in the kid department, she has shared an adorable video of her children (but only their feet) dancing in honor of National Siblings Day, as well as a shot of son Maceo's teeny shoes.

?? my little ?? #MCM

A photo posted by Halle Berry (@halleberry) on

Ten years from now we'll be marveling at the new ways we see images and get our news, and there will be a bunch of new kids that haven't yet been born, plus celebs who'll have made a splash whom we can't yet imagine wanting to know about—though we will.


But what we do know is that during Suri Cruise's first 10 years, the amount of coverage of celebrity kids hit an all-time high, enough to prompt an industry-wide reevaluation of what makes the news and what doesn't. Most famous parents have come to terms with being objects of constant fascination, but it's easier to choose now than it was just a few years ago whether their children come along for the ride.

The power is back in their hands—right alongside their smart phones.