Adoption should be one of the clearest and honourable actions in life — an act to help lift children out of downtrodden circumstances to give them a family and hope for the future. Yet when you add celebrity parents to the equation, suddenly it seems to stop being so clear — is it altruism, good publicity or a trend among the style-conscious?
Bringing these questions to the fore this week is singer Lady Gaga, who was reported as looking into adopting three Indian orphans, according to the British tabloid Daily Star. Quoting an unnamed source ‘close to Lady Gaga’, it was claimed that the star was looking at adopting the three as well as “more from around the world”.
This follows closely on from the claims made at the end of October by The Sun that Lady Gaga visited two orphanages in New Delhi, where she was visiting before performing at the Indian Grand Prix, and only a few days before she announced on her Twitter feed that she was starting a foundation to support children, the Born This Way Foundation.
Gaga is not the only celebrity drawing attention to the welfare of orphans in India. The Express Tribune reported that Pakistani actor Veena Malik will be sponsoring — although not personally raising — an orphaned girl via India’s Sahaara Charitable Society, an organisation set up to provide help for trafficked women and children.
International adoptions by celebrities have long proven controversial. Lady Gaga’s apparent claim to want children from around the world has quickly drawn parallels with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, who have adopted children from Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam. However, attention is more often given to the children’s individual nationalities than the family as a whole. They were described as “a miniature League of Nations” in an interview with the Financial Times in August this year, and Vietnamese newspaper Tuio Tre described the family’s visit to the country a week ago as “[bringing their] adopted Vietnamese boy home”.
Other celebrities who have adopted internationally include female actors Meg Ryan, who adopted a child from China in 2006, Katherine Heigl, adopting a child from South Korea in 2009, and Madonna, who adopted two children from Malawi in 2006 and 2009 amidst some controversy. While allegedly not qualifying to adopt by Malawian law, which called for a prospective parent to live in the country for at least a year, her applications were successful. This led to ABC News in 2006 then asking “Has Madonna’s celebrity status allowed her to steamroll Malawi’s legal system?”, also mentioning in the same article a $3million donation she’d made to helping children in the country with HIV.
Spending so much time in the public eye, it is likely impossible for a celebrity to ever adopt a child quietly — probably the quietest adoption managed was by Sandra Bullock, who in 2010 told People Magazine of adopting, three months after doing so. But this week when renowned singer Queen Latifah — who never speaks of her private life — told More magazine that she would like to adopt next year, it once again made a simple want into a complicated public spectacle.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2011.