I found an old article that I wrote for the Hodder website when The A-List Family came out on seven reasons why I’d hate to be a celebrity. One of them was that you wouldn’t be able to have a big lunch without pap photos coming out with a big arrow pointing at your supposedly pregnant belly. It seemed pertinent at the moment as poor old global magnet of our sympathy, the very rich and beautiful Jennifer Aniston, has had this happen to her yet again.
Here it is:
Seven reasons I wouldn’t want to be a celebrity
My novel, The A-List Family, is about a child at the centre of a celebrity household. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be an eight-year-old who gets papped every time they leave the house and whose wardrobe choices are analysed to ‘get the look’. How would that skew your sense of who you are and how others respond to you?
It would be awful. I would pull out my toenails rather than expose my children to such scrutiny. And yet, apparently, fame is what we all crave. Here are my own personal reasons why I’d hate to be a celebrity.
- They don’t have bodies, they have ‘bikini bodies’.
Celebrities, well the female ones anyway, are not allowed simply to ‘wear’ a bikini, they are in fact ‘flaunting your curves in a tiny two-piece’. They’re not putting on swimwear because that’s what people tend to do when they go swimming, they’re ‘showing off their fabulous abs’.
- She’s pregnant!
If a (again female) celebrity eats a large lunch or forgets to pull in her stomach, there will be speculation that she’s pregnant.
I remember when I was nervously in the early stages of pregnancy with my second child after a miscarriage and a man I know jabbed me in the stomach and said ‘you’re pregnant aren’t you?’. If I was and I wanted people to know about it, I’d tell them. If I wasn’t, I might be desperately trying or offended that he’d just called me fat. Either way, his remark was inappropriate. I cannot imagine what it is like to have the whole world and his website metaphorically pointing at your mildly bloated tummy.
- Urgh look at her love handles!
Obviously it’s the pressure to be thin is not confined to celebrities. Most women in the western world feel a pressure to look a certain way. And most men for that matter. But bad as it is, our livelihoods don’t depend on our weight. When I went on one of those traditional bridal pre-wedding diets, I realised that being a bride was the nearest experience I’d ever have to being a celebrity – everyone staring at you, being judged primarily on your looks, the hair and make-up. And, though I enjoyed my wedding, I was glad it was only for one day.
There’s the line that Julia Roberts says as the film star in Notting Hill: ‘I’ve been on a diet every day since I was 19, which basically means I’ve been hungry for a decade’.
Pass me the peanuts.
- The perks will pass.
There are wondrous things about being famous. It’s like being the prettiest girl in school – doors open for you and it becomes so automatic you don’t even notice that the doors are there in the first place.
But you’re paying for the best restaurants and the free clothes in other ways and your currency is your fame. And once you’re no longer famous (the world is littered with those filed under the ‘where are they now’ column) then your currency becomes as devalued as a Deutschmark in the Weimar Republic.
While most of us happily grub along without these perks, how poignant is must be to have once enjoyed them and now find yourself in the economy seats of life with the rest of us ‘civilians’.
- Your children will be celebrities.
Many actors are successful without being celebrities. Ditto singers, footballers and bestseller writers. Those that are regularly papped have, to some extent, chosen or allowed this to happen. They have, knowingly or otherwise, made a deal.
This is not true of their children. If they are photographed in a babygro in Hello! Or filmed for a reality series, it is not a choice that they have made for themselves. Children have such a fragile sense of self that it is one of the jobs of a parent to help them to find out who they are. I would argue that this is near impossible if they are never allowed to see themselves from within, only through a camera lens or through the hyped up responses of other people to their fame.
I would love for Suri Cruise to become a lab technician or Harper Beckham to train as a teacher. But I don’t think it’s going to happen.
- Strangers will analyse your love life
I spent my teens and twenties ricocheting from one dating disaster to another. My relationships always imploded at the weirdly specific time of ten months (at least half a dozen). But I was aware that this was happening and in a dramatic way enjoying it. Aged 31, I met my lovely husband, settled down and did all the usual conventional stuff. There was nothing in my previous history to suggest that I would ever get to a first anniversary, let alone a thirteenth.
This was all possible because I hadn’t had a lot of columnists speculating on the deep-rooted psychological reasons why I was unable to maintain a relationship. No ‘why can’t Christina keep her man’ articles and so I was able to burble along in my chaotic fashion until the point where I no longer wanted to.
- The foam ball effect
The best book I’ve ever read about the effects of fame is Chris Heath’s Feel about Robbie Williams. In it, he compares being famous to being pelted with foam balls every time you leave the house. If occasionally someone throws a foam ball at you on the street, you’d shrug it off, no biggie. But if every time you go out everyone on the street throws a foam ball at you then you’d feel hounded and paranoid.
And this was written before camera phones…