Katie Price has, yet again, avoided prison. She was up at Lewes Crown Court on Friday, this time for breaching a restraining order; from what I can work out from the asterisks-laden news reports, she had texted her ex-husband’s fiancée, calling her a ‘gutter slag’. As an avid Katie Price fan, I have watched the last few years of her life unfold through my fingers. In between her facelifts, numerous reality TV shows and her eight engagements, a week rarely goes by without her being in the headlines for something serious. Over the last decade she has been banned from driving six times and earlier this year she dodged prison after failing to repay £3.2 million in debt by declaring herself bankrupt.
Where did it all go wrong? Although she has never been far from controversy, recently there has been a clear deterioration. We’re all allowed to behave badly in our twenties, but she’s now a 44-year-old mother of five. A shtick that was once charmingly chaotic has turned into something slightly sad. Katie Price may have never been a national sweetheart, not in the conventional sense like Emma Watson or Keira Knightley, but there was something totally lovable about her. Her nonchalant attitude – a page three girl with a gob – saw her carve out a unique place in public life.
Her career as a glamour model started at the Sun, where she would bare all at just 17-years-old under the pseudonym Jordan. The fake identity would later play a part in her downfall, a kind of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde dynamic in which she’d often jokingly wave away criticism saying, ‘That wasn’t me, it was Jordan’. As time went on, and her boobs got bigger, more fame led to more drama. The crescendo came in 2004 when Price met Peter Andre on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. The nation watched these two tabloid stars begin what papers like to call a ‘whirlwind romance’, with Price promising to drop the ‘Jordan’ moniker forever.
Their very public marriage didn’t last long, and after four years, two children and a nine-series reality show, Katie & Peter, out came the divorce papers. At the time it was publicly accepted as Katie’s fault. She admitted herself that her out of control drinking and party lifestyle didn’t help. But then, that’s why so many of us love her: there’s something naively confessional about the way she talks about her own failings. In hindsight, Peter Andre seems as much to blame. But blame isn’t Katie’s style.
Old clips have resurfaced showing patronising Pete appearing to goad his former wife. Most women would at least give him a stern look or a passive-aggressive poke, but Katie seemed to just take it with nothing more than a Botoxed smile. Throughout their appearances together she was often the punchline to his jokes, telling strangers that she became famous for ‘putting out.’ Evidence of Pete's behaviour towards Katie has formed a new TikTok sub-genre: 'Pete Andre is a narcissist.'
Andre seems to be part of a precedent. In May 2002, while Katie was secretly 14 weeks pregnant, she found out live on camera that the father, Premier League footballer Dwight Yorke, had cheated on her. The British press did what they do best, asking incessantly what she would possibly do to get him back, suggesting that she was the one who had done something wrong. Since then, Yorke has had no part of Harvey’s life, blaming his absence from his severely disabled son on scheduling issues and ‘being based up in Manchester’. Dwayne, like Pete, was supposed to love and take care of her. But there’s no space for difficulty and suffering in showbiz.
In reality, few would have heard of Katie Price unless she got her top off. Her life was made between the pages of tabloid newspapers and now that’s where it’s falling apart. Even now when her life is visibly in a state of decline, TV crews will happily give her airtime. What she really needs, like so many wayward women in the public eye, is a stern word and a hug. What she gets is an ever diminishing dose of media attention. Last September, after appearing on This Morning for the umpteenth time, she drove home and rolled her car after an all-night binge. A car-crash TV joke seems cheap. But Katie, for all her flaws, has still got a sense of humour.
She’s no angel. A few months ago a judge told her that she has the worst driving sheet they’d ever seen. Her outbursts are becoming more frequent and each boyfriend seems more vacuous than the last. (The latest has even been banned from her sister's wedding, brought forward so that Katie could attend in case she was imprisoned). A few years ago she even brought a TV crew to rehab. Perhaps she feels ITV3 is the safest place to hide: if people at home are watching, at least she still matters. Katie Price has always been the butt of other people’s jokes, but she has never seemed to begrudge the soft cruelty. Price is a kind of Estuary Dolly Parton, committed to kindness and entertainment above all. Now, as her life seems to be coming apart, she’s doing the only thing she knows how to do: monetising her suffering to pay the bills and stay relevant.