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Joey Lawrence Talks Showbiz Kids

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Diane Mizota: He's not just the handsome star of the ABC Family movie "My Fake Fiance" or the witty snarky host of Yahoo's Buzz Session, dishing on "Dancing with the Stars" (co-hosted by yours truly -- shameless plug, I know). He's a parent and a former child actor who's got 30 years in this business under his belt. So who better to talk to than Joey Lawrence about showbiz kids?

joey lawrence

How did you get your start in the business and how old were you?

Four years old. I won a picture contest that my mom just entered me in, and the prize was that you got a talent agent in New York to see you ... I got like forty commercials the first year, and then Johnny Carson had me on after that, and I sang and danced two numbers, and NBC signed me from that.

As your career progressed, what was your mom's role in the business?

She was influential. My mom not only instilled in me the morals and ethics that kept me out of the tabloids and rehab centers ... [she] always taught me it's about your work. Keep your focus on the fact that you love this work. It's not about the lifestyle it affords, it's about the work. It doesn't give you a get-out-of-jail-free card on your behavior.

How did you and your family manage such huge success while avoiding the childhood star clichés?

That's it. Family ... She was with us every step of the way, otherwise it would have never worked. I never thought I was special for what I did ... It was about school, I was stressed out about the normal things. My mom kept the perspective really spot-on ... I was more stressed about tests coming up and pop quizzes than I was about work ... It was a release more than it was my life. My mom rocks.

Did you ever have a hard time dealing with the rejection?

I'm always a glass half full guy. It gets very tough to deal with it the older that you get, because you want things more, and there are more reasons why you want them, y'know? As a kid, if I didn't get it, I didn't even think twice about it, my mom shielded me from so much of that stuff. When you're an adult, man it's a problem. It's your livelihood, especially if you've got a family, it's about support, all the things it's about for me now ... there's a lot more involved now, it's not as pure as it used to be.

Do you ever have any regrets that you didn't have a more "normal" childhood?

Not really. One of the best things my mom did was, she pulled me out [of the business] from like 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and I went back to middle school ... You know, there are certain things you miss out on, especially as you get older, but the rewards for it were so great. I got to spend a lot of time with my family, I met my wife because of the business ... I traveled the world, I was able to dance with Sammy Davis Jr. and Bob Hope ... That's priceless stuff.

Do you have any advice for parents looking to get their kids into the business?

Make sure the kids want it. Don't look at your cute, adorable kid and think, "Oh, this'll be great." ... But if they really want to, if they're the ones dragging you ... That would be my advice, let them tell you.

So if your daughter comes up to you and says, "Daddy, I really want to act ..." what then?

I don't want to be hypocritical here, but my goal would be for her to do it as a hobby and to get through high school and college, not unlike what Ron Howard's daughter did ... I would not allow her to do it professionally until she is at least eighteen, and then I would encourage her to finish college. That would be my goal.

next: Growing Up Autistic
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