Pint-Sized Phenoms: The Non-Olympic Edition (Music, Art, and Business)

In the past week the Olympics have brought us pint-sized phenoms like Gabby Douglas (and her hair), Missy Franklin, and Katie Ledecky.  But even in the midst of the Olympic Games it's important to remember that pint-sized achievers come in a variety of forms. Sure, a lot of them are athletes.  Some excel in Olympic sports that receive less attention than the events dominating primetime (tape-delayed) broadcasts.  For instance, I found this piece on five- and six-year-olds competing in triathlons in the Boston area quite interesting. Others excel in sports not currently included in the Olympic games, like golf.  Based on yesterday's New York Times article about 10-year-old golfer Latanna Stone (the youngest woman to ever play in the United States Women's Amateur golf tournaments) I'm sure her family would be pushing for her to compete in the Olympics at some point.

Athletes are great, and definitely deserve recognition, but we should also remember kids who love music, art, and even business.

I was moved by this recent story of a 7-year0ld drum "prodigy," Jaxon Smith, who amazingly was only one pound when he was born:

I'm not sure Juilliard would let him in, but it is clear that Juilliard is interested in developing more international young musical talent.  I found it fascinating that they will be opening a new campus in China.

If there are big bucks to be made as a prodigy on the musical scene, the young art market is even more promising.  Check out the kind of money child artists have been raking in recently; 5-year-old Aelita Andre creates paintings with price tags around $12,000 and nine-year-old Kieron Williams 24 paintings for $386,000.

That's impressive until you consider 12-year-old Willa Doss.  Four years ago, with the help of her mother, Doss started her own cosmetics line focused on sophisticated, tween skincare.

Now described as a mogul I'm sure Willa (and her mom) are raking in more than her pint-sized artist counterparts.

I don't think 12-year-old Ophelia Horton is making as much money as 12-year-old Doss, but she is establishing herself as the next big preteen fashion blogger.  That mantle has been worn very successfully by Tavi Gevinson (recently profiled in the Times and wonderfully profiled a few years ago in The New Yorkerwhere I first read about her) who has now started an online fashion magazine.

I wonder if Horton and Gevinson will blog about Doss, or if they use her products? Or if they plan to but any pint-sized phenom artwork? At the very least I hope the British Horton has taken a blogging break to enjoy the London Olympics, whether she roots for other pint-sized phenom athletes or not.

Pint-Sized Phenoms: From Playtime to Professional Work

Perhaps it's time to start Carston's art career. In fact, I may be too late if I want him to compete with five-year-old "prodigy" Aelita Andre. Aelita started painting at 22 months. Her "Abstract Expressoinist" work sells for upwards of $10,000. But if you watch this video of her working (and it is clear based on her statements about watching the sun rise and painting for 24 hours that there is some work going on here) you'd be excused if you thought she was simply playing around in her tutu.

In some ways this might be every toddler and small child's dream: get as dirty as you want, take over a whole room of the house, and fling liquid and glitter about. She looks like she's having fun. If there is any phenom in this family it's clearly Aelita's parents who have some savvy marketing and sales skills.

Given the focus on early achievement and profits it's hard to imagine that Aelita would ever act as selflessly as Meghan Vogel. Vogel, a high school junior in Ohio, made headlines for helping a fellow competitor cross the finish line-- in front of her-- at the state track meet.

Just when you think youth sports have become too professionalized and focused on winning at all costs, a story like this comes along to remind you that they also are a site of life lessons and uplifting stories.

When genuine prodigies come along, like golfer Andy Zhang who made the cut to play in last week's U.S. Open at just 14, it's not as hard to celebrate them. Especially when their parents don't seem overly pushy; Zhang's father actually told him he shouldn't expect to make the cut and so shouldn't fly from Florida to California (note that in the linked New York Times article, the father of another pint-sized phenom, Lexi Thompson, is quoted). Zhang, who spent much of his childhood in China, now lives and trains in Bradenton (presumably at IMG Academies, which I've also written about before).  Seems like we'll be hearing much more from him in the future.

His talents are clearly immense enough to make him a professional at an early age (though not as early as Aelita Andre's).  We can only hope his love for playing the game helps give him an attitude as wonderful as Vogel's.