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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Profound thoughts from kids


Send us your children's most profound words.

Children have a different way of looking at the world. They have their own thoughts, opinions and ideas – all we need to do is listen.

To celebrate Universal Children's Day on Nov 20, we want to hear their most profound thoughts.

If you have heard any recently – from your child or somebody else's child – write and send them to us (together with child's name and age; must be 12 years old or under).

Shortlisted entries will be published on Nov 20. All emails must reach by Nov 15. Please include the line "Profound thoughts from kids" in the subject box. 

Chic children


These tots are dressed to the nines.

HE'S been dubbed as the second coming of George Clooney, with his dark Ray Bans, Gucci outfits and Cristiano Ronaldo hairstyle. But Alonso Mateo won't be going on dates or voted 'Sexiest Man Alive' by People Magazine anytime soon.

You see, the devastatingly gorgeous chap whose suave style on Instagram has earned him 59,337 followers – and counting – is only five.

Yes, you read right: five.

His mother, Luisa Fernanda Espinosa, is a freelance fashion stylist who posts her son's pictures and made him the improbable style icon.

In each photo, Mateo – who's always fully kitted out in an endless array of Tom Ford, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry and Alexander Wang – strikes a pose that's worthy of a high-fashion magazine: a hand in pocket, gazing off into the distance, or sometimes staring smugly at the camera lens. Interspersed with these micro fashion shoots are a few pictures taken on the iPhone by Mateo himself.

This so impressed celebrity stylist Ugo Mozie last year that he tweeted "Style icon. Get familiar and take notes" along with pictures of the tiny trendsetter. There are also several Facebook and Instagram accounts dedicated to Mateo's incredible élan.

The kid's got swag....and a pair of orange Hermes shoes.

Jacob's got swag ... and a pair of orange Hermes shoes.

However, the kid is by no means the latest in an Internet lineage of child style icons. These days, a quick search on the world wide web is bound to yield hundreds of snapshots of young 'uns dressed to the nines and even a handful of kids' style blogs – all posted by fashion-savvy parents themselves.

This phenomena, which sees average mums and dads feel their kids need to compete in the fashion world, has been nicknamed by British tabloid The Daily Mail as the "Suri Cruise effect" after Tom Cruise and Kathy Holmes' seven-year-old Burberry-loving kid. In turn, fashion labels are responding with their own line of clothes catered to the little ones – American designer Michael Kors apparently wins the game hands down by creating high heels for little princesses as young as six.

But we're not just talking about the West.

In Malaysia, one tiny tot has been creating a lot of buzz. Jacob – who's also known as Jaco3oy on his Instagram account and blog – may only be nine months going on 10, but has almost 23,000 followers, thanks to his mother Shaine Wong.

A full-time mum who has surprisingly little prior experience in fashion, the 27-year-old Wong started out by sharing pictures of her smartly-dressed newborn early this year, but only with family members and friends. But as Jacob's style repertoire grew, so did his fans.

They oohed and aahed, not just over the infant's toothless grins and chubby cheeks but also his all-too-adorable dress sense, from fashionable onesies to skinny pants and tees by high fashion labels such as Paul Smith, Burberry and Ralph Lauren. But Wong's brand of choice? Little Marc Jacobs.

"I thought it would be fun if I dressed him in lots of Little Marc Jacobs since his name is Jacob," says Wong, who styles the photoshoots by posing her son against a variety of backdrops at their home in Kuala Lumpur.

When not rocking the latest Italian-inspired runway look, Jacob can be spotted flaunting his playful side in themed ensembles. One picture, which featured Jacob dressed as a minion complete with dungarees and geeky glasses, generated much awe – and a sponsorship request from Nikon.

One fan was so impressed that she sent Wong a drawing she made of Jacob.

Meet five-year-old Alonso Mateo, the Instagram star who puts most straight men to shame with his sense of style.

Meet five-year-old Alonso Mateo, the Instagram star who puts some men to shame with his sense of style.

Nice, but necessary?

It's easy to criticise these families for encouraging their children to be materialistic. Wong, however, denies she is doing so.

"He's our first-born," she says. "His father and I like to dress up when we go out, so it doesn't make sense if our child dresses sloppily."

Wong's good friend Sally Quah echoes Wilson's sentiment.

"When you buy a mass-produced label, everyone has the same thing, the same princess dresses," says Quah, who prefers brands such as Burberry, Dior and Kenzo for her daughter.

The 28-year-old financial controller also thinks nothing of spending RM500 and above to dress her eldest child and only daughter, one-year-old Kylie, up in the latest fashion and then posting her pictures on Facebook.

Quality and comfort are her top priority, but on special occasions, style matters most. As such, she gets a tailor to custom-make Kylie's dress to resemble her own.

Having such an eclectic wardrobe doesn't come cheap, but both mothers are more than happy to splurge on their children.

Mom Sally Quah thinks that a little bit of Burberry doesn't hurt, even if it is on her one-year-old.

Sally Quah thinks that a little bit of Burberry doesn't hurt, even if it is on her one-year-old daughter Kylie.

Shaine Wong likes to upload self-styled pictures of her son on Instagram so others can coo over them.

Shaine Wong likes to upload self-styled pictures of her son on Instagram so others can coo over them.

Wong usually pre-purchases Jacob's clothes several months in advance, spending up to a four-digit figure on her son's outfits each month.

The most expensive item in Jacob's closet right now is an orange Hermes shoes that Wong's father-in-law bought while on vacation in Europe. The damage? Over a thousand ringgit.

Of course, having a spouse who possesses a good sense of style and the money to buy it helps – a lot – and Wong and Quah's husbands have both. As successors to the family businesses, both men's paychecks allow the family sufficient funds to support their shared hobby – shopping.

"Whenever we go to malls, Vincent (my husband) spends a lot more on Jacob than I do! And he doesn't have a budget; he just buys what he likes," says the beaming Wong.

Quah, on the other hand, admits that she might have gone overboard with the buying.

"Kylie has a huge closet to herself but she doesn't get the chance to wear all her outfits. I suppose I'll keep them for my second baby," says Quah.

Not all mothers take to social media, however. Masleeza Othman, an investment banker in her 30s, prefers to remain low-key because of the danger it might pose to her children.

But this does not mean her son, nine-year-old Adam, has less swag – the boy doesn't just have a wardrobe, but an entire room to store his clothes.

"I used to dress him up, but he's very much into fashion now. He's much pickier for one and he's into certain brands like Paul Smith and Ralph Lauren," she says.

The family makes an annual jaunt to London and Paris – or "worst-case scenario Singapore" – to shop because Masleeza thinks the choices available in KL's high-end boutiques are extremely limited.

This snap of Jacob generated much awe and a sponsorship request from Nikon.

This mother-of-two says her shopping bills have increased as her children got older.

"There are so many things to buy and their tastes broaden as they get older. They don't just need clothes now, but also accessories," she says.

Masleeza recounts a story of the day she bought a dozen and a half pairs of shoes for her children.

"My husband usually gives me free rein over what to buy for the kids, but he completely freaked out one day when I walked out of a boutique carrying eight pairs of shoes for my boy and ten pairs for my girl. But his anger dissipated when he realised that I can't possibly return them."

Like the other mothers, Masleeza also insists that she isn't spoiling her children.

"At the end of the day, I'd like them to know that dressing according to the occasion is important. I'm also teaching them how to match high street with designer labels. It's much classier than wearing head-to-toe brand names," she says.

But according to Nathan Greenberg in his article Children's Fashion Is Not Important for the Huffington Post, fashion shouldn't even be a priority for kids.

"Of all the things we want our kids to enjoy, looking cool shouldn't be one of them. Kids have so much adventure to experience and so many lessons to learn that plaids and polka dots shouldn't even register on the radar. Let them get paint in their hair, sand in their shoes. Let them make mud pies with their best friends."

The founder of also adds: "Imagine the time and money you would save if you stopped caring about your toddler's colour combinations and pattern matches. The possibilities are endless and your child will love you for it. Really."

The little ones, meanwhile, seem to have their own say on things.

Made from the softest, finest calfskin leather or not, his Hermes shoes don't seem too impress Jacob too much; the tiny tot twitches restlessly whenever mum tries to put it on.

Meanwhile, Masleeza's five-year-old daughter Aisya prefers her Disney and Hello Kitty princess bags to her posh Gucci one.

But until they grow up, they'll be stuck with their Guccis, Pradas and Burberrys – not a bad prospect, really.

Fit mum: What's your excuse?


There is now relentless pressure for mothers to be 'hot mums'.

THERE was a time when being a mum was about raising your kids. But somewhere between Demi Moore's naked baby bump and Kate Winslet's new, unreal Vogue cover, motherhood has been reduced to glam.

Hot mum or go home. This is the message we've allowed the fashion mags and media hags to push. We will buy the November Vogue and think, wow, Kate Winslet looks gorgeous. Never mind the fact that her full face has been thinned out, wrinkles removed, belly bump minimised. Never mind that they Photoshopped her into a hot, well-dressed robot.

We want to look like that. But let's keep it real, we won't because, you know, Winslet doesn't even look like that. The star spoke out back when GQ slimmed down her thighs, but she has yet to say anything about Vogue. It seems in the world of fashion and entertainment, even the prettiest people can stand to be a little prettier.

It's our superficial obsession, our hang-up with this unattainable beauty that made us lash out against Maria Kang, a California mum with the Facebook picture that's been around the virtual world to the tune of 16 million views and counting.

In her sports bra and itty bitty shorts, the 32-year-old blogger shows off her ripped abs and her three sons, who at the time were three, two and eight months old. Her provocative caption: What's your excuse?

Some women say it's Kang's genetics that give her that hot bod. Others feel attacked, wondering why Kang expects them to look like her. She's been called a fat-shamer, among other names. It's the brouhaha over who is bullying whom.

But here's the truth: Kang is a fitness enthusiast. It's her passion. She works out 30 to 60 minutes a day, six times a week. It's common for fit bloggers to use pictures of themselves to motivate others. The problem with her picture and that loaded caption is how we feel about ourselves. We have bought into one, very specific ideal of beauty and forgot what being a mum means.

We've happily digested the idea that Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian cannot be pregnant and gain weight and wear comfortable clothes without being called fat, frumpy or a fashion don't. We keep count on the months it takes for celebrities to shed the baby weight and show off those post-baby bods.

"In a lot of ways, women can't win for losing," says Erin Best Margolin, co-director of Listen To Your Mother Kansas City, a series of live readings celebrating motherhood. 

"Creating and carrying a life inside of you is a miracle and something to be celebrated. Instead, it's about how much weight you gain and how much weight you lose. Celebrities are being held up at both ends of the spectrum, and it's unfortunate. Motherhood has nothing to do with how you look."

If Kate Winslet can't be pregnant without being airbrushed to perfection and Kim Kardashian can't put on a few pounds, what does it mean for us everyday women? Still, the word "excuse" in Kang's picture struck a nerve.

"The word 'excuse' carries weight, pun unintended," Erin says. "If she would have just said, 'Look how far I have come' or 'You can do it, too,' it would have changed things. 

"The other side of the coin is I respect her. She is allowed to celebrate her body and use that to inspire. The guilt I feel when I see that is my own voice, that's my own stuff, and I can't blame her for my feelings of self-worth and my struggle with body image. Instead of bullying her, why not click away from the picture? Why look for an ax to grind?"

Body shaming: Aishwarya Rai looking good at her 40th birthday last week, but the actress was heavily criticised for her post-pregnancy weight gain last year. — AFP

Loren Ochoa Walsh, a 32-year-old mum, points to the new culture of mum-on-mum bashing.

"Mums are not always supportive of one another," Loren says. 

"It's a lot of judgment about everything – how fast your body bounces back, vaccinations, breastfeeding. As a mum, you are constantly treading water. It's rewarding but hard. So, when someone throws down the gauntlet, it is not well received.

"I think it's kind of sad, honestly. Becoming a mum is a really beautiful thing, even if parts of it aren't. It's not easy to get back into shape. Not everybody has the same body type. I do think it's important to make healthy choices and take time for yourself to teach your kids by example. 

"But I think there is a lot you can't control, and we should focus on embracing it rather than competing with other mums or putting pressure on ourselves."

We have to take motherhood back from the media, the magazines and the blogs. It's about parenting, not sex appeal. We have to push health over washboard abs. Healthy is Mo'Nique and Kate Upton. It's Kerry Washington and Heidi Klum. And yes, it's Maria Kang, too. 

Health and beauty look different on everyone.

And before we can wake up to any of that, we have to see beauty within. That's part of being fit, too. Self-confidence and love. The minute we start to own our beautiful, there will be no breaking us down, period. – The Kansas City Star/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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