The horrors of the ‘Upskirt Decade’

The subject that Sarah Ditum addresses in Toxic is why the early part of this century was ‘such a monstrous time to be famous and female. It’s about how the concept of privacy came undone and why that was a catastrophe for women’. The concept of privacy was actually undone by a judge in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2006. A 16-year-old girl was browsing through greetings cards in a shop when a man crouched down beside her and took photographs up her skirt. A security guard saw him and called the police. The whole scene was captured on CCTV, so there was no shortage of evidence. But the judge ruled that

In praise of the Casio watch

Of all the accessories one might expect a celebrity with millions in the bank and army of stylists at their disposal to choose, a bargain watch is not the most obvious. Yet Casio timepieces – some of which sell for little as £10, and most of which cost under £50 – appear to have become something of a status symbol among a certain strata of the well-off and well-connected. Take former Manchester United footballer Gerard Piqué (estimated net worth £66 million), who split up with pop star Shakira last year. Recently the Colombian singer, 45, released a ‘revenge’ single with lyrics ridiculing the retired Spanish player, her partner of 11 years,

Eva Green and the death of the Hollywood diva

The HR department has killed day-to-day divadom. No longer can you tell your co-worker that her hair needs a good brush; nor can you explain to Richard from accounts that his tan brogues and shiny blue suit sting your retinas. That might upset them. People would be a lot more presentable if you could say these things, but you can’t. Nobody can.  French actress Eva Green, who starred as James Bond’s love interest in Casino Royale, seems to have escaped the great diva slap-down. She was at the High Court this week suing White Lantern Films over a $1 million fee for a film that never got made. It seems

The rise of the nympho nepo daughters

Only a mother could love a nepo baby – but there are some professions in which the far reach of the dead hand of nepotism strikes me as worse than others. In such frothy fields as modelling and television presenting, the prettiest face will still usually win out: look at Maya Jama, the new compere of Love Island, daughter of a teenager and a jailbird, who resembles a film star from the golden age of MGM – Fortuna’s apology for Brooklyn Beckham. Nepotism becomes far more damaging to the culture when it sidles out of light entertainment and into newspaper columns, novels and stand-up shows; when it moves the undeserving into

Gina Lollobrigida and the changing face of fame

Gina Lollobrigida, who died this week at the age of 95, was known in the 1950s and thereafter for the kind of beauty which drove Italian men to self-destruction; and for performances in films which seemed to define a scrappy, energetic, self-possessed Italian womanhood.   During her career, ‘La Lollo’ sculpted, took photographs, did a little journalism and maintained a chaotic personal and political life, in which both her husbands and her male executive assistants always seemed to be in their late twenties. But she ought to also be famous for something else: being the subject of one of the most exciting and vital early experiments in television, a great short film

Crying shame: the weaponisation of weeping

‘Tears are not enough,’ ABC once sang defiantly – but these days, they’re more than enough for handsomely rewarded celebrities to assure us that they suffer like the rest of us, so please don’t hate them. Watching the BBC Breakfast presenter Sally Nugent – a 51-year-old woman – boo-hooing recently after watching a clip of some cute guide dogs, I sincerely wished that Lord Reith might rise from his grave and bundle the heaving hack under a cold shower. I’m just so bored by celebrity tears. Or take Frankie Bridge, the ex-Saturdays singer, an attractive young woman with an adoring husband and adorable children, who like her footballer spouse Wayne

There’s nothing new about ‘nepo babies’

One of the neologisms of 2022 was the phrase ‘nepo baby’. Short for ‘nepotism baby’, it was coined by younger people, the so-called Gen Z, to describe the syndrome of the increased attention and opportunity afforded to the children of celebrities – in practice giving them a leg-up into a career in modelling, acting or singing.  A curious aspect of the trend is that these newly cynical youths are only belatedly realising that many of the young stars in their firmament have famous parents: Lily Collins of Emily in Paris, for example, is the daughter of the rather-better-known-to-their-parents Phil.   But it’s only the term itself that is new. The syndrome has been

The strange feminism of Ivana Trump

For a woman whose life was all about ascent, there is a cruel irony to the fact that Ivana Trump was found dead at the age of 73 at the bottom of the stairs of her Upper East Side apartment last Thursday. Born in 1949 in Communist Czechoslovakia, the girl whose father was an electrical engineer made her name on the basis of dizzying verticals: first as a professional skier and then as billionaire’s wife and manager of her second husband Donald Trump’s eye-bending skyscrapers in New York and Atlantic City. After her acrimonious tabloid divorce from Donald in 1991 following his affair with chorus-girl Marla Maples, Ivana made her

Is Brooklyn Beckham fooling us all?

Brooklyn Beckham, the eldest son of David and Victoria, has launched a new television show Cookin’ with Brooklyn which allegedly took £70,000 and a team of 62 professionals to create. The result is an 8-minute episode that produced a fish-finger sandwich. Brooklyn oversees an assembly of chefs preparing the ingredients, he looks into the camera, totally deadpan and informs his audience, ‘With sandwiches you can go so many different ways. It really does help to be creative’. Is this show the epitome of everything that’s wrong with our society, as some have claimed? Brooklyn Beckham is rich. He is the amusing celebrity-child kind of rich. The sort that spends winters skiing

Who’s to blame if Britney Spears has been ‘devoured’ by celebrity?

All the questions around Britney Spears can be condensed into this one: who should we blame? For a long time, there was a comfortable narrative that the pop star’s decade-long descent — from virginal queen of teen in 1998, to junk-food scarfing, twice-divorced single mother, to broken woman being transported to hospital in restraints — was wholly her own doing. Britney was a train wreck, white trash, a hot mess and, all in all, no better than she ought to be. The fact that her career recovered dramatically after she was placed under a conservatorship arrangement in 2008 (giving her father ultimate control over her life and finances) seemed to

The bogus business of stigma-busting

Our society is bristling with social stigmas, we’re told, even in the progressive West, even in London. Life is so horribly stigmatised that celebrities are increasingly keen to raise awareness not of diseases or disabilities, but of the stigma that’s said to surround them. So: less campaigning for cancer research, more for breaking the stigma around talking about cancer. Less feeding the world, more brave standing up to the stigma attached to food poverty. Once you’re alert for stigma, it’s astonishing how much mention of it there is. There are the obvious and much discussed stigmas surrounding mental illness and sexuality, but also (I’ve read) there’s a stigma around having

The problem with ‘role models’

Watching the funeral of the Duke of Edinburgh at the weekend — that Land Rover, that lack of eulogy — I felt an alien emotion steal over me. Shortly after the last blast of the bagpipes faded away, I realised what it was: I’d like to be like that. Amusingly, the only person this working-class radical feminist has ever felt this emotion towards was a reactionary prince. Somehow, the very incongruity made perfect sense; I can’t think of anything drearier than having a ‘role model’ who was in any way like me. There are quite a few modern phrases which annoy the heck out of me. ‘Reaching out’ should only

Why I’m glad to see the back of Call My Agent!

For the past few weeks I have been binge-watching the Netflix series Call My Agent! (or Dix pour cent, as it is more satisfyingly known in France). Though it’s not quite as exquisite, multilayered and beguiling as my all-time favourite French drama Le Bureau, it has a similar appeal: strong, well-drawn characters in a distinctive setting in another country (France, obvs) where they do things differently because everyone is just so damned French. This time it’s not about foreign intelligence services but a movie talent agency which, though perpetually on its uppers (for the purposes of that TV concept known as ‘jeopardy’, I suppose), nevertheless seems to have on its

Alexandra Shulman’s unlikely career in fashion journalism should have made a Hollywood movie

Alexandra Shulman says that she had ‘no desire to write an autobiography’ — so instead she has written about her clothes, and given us some scintillating reading. For despite having edited British Vogue for 25 years, until she retired in 2017, Shulman’s relationship with fashion at times reads less like a love affair than a marital tiff. Take, for example, the bra, which is the subject of chapter three. ‘There’s a point in most women’s lives when shopping for bras is consigned to one of those special places in hell,’ Shulman writes, revealing that, aged 17, she gave up, and didn’t wear a bra again for 20 years. (‘It wasn’t

The disconnected language of ‘connectivity’

Facebook recently told readers of the Sun that satellites could ‘bring broadband connectivity to rural regions where internet connectivity is lacking’. Sajid Javid in happier days not long ago told the Telegraph that HS2 would ‘create greater North-South connectivity’. Connectivity seems an unnecessarily abstract way of expressing it. E.M. Forster didn’t attach the epigraph ‘Only connectivity’ to Howards End. It was not the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connectivity. No, the novelist, with the epigraph ‘Only connect’, wanted to connect ‘the prose and the passion’ and the Countess wanted her Connexion to be precisely whatever she said it was at any one time, whether Methodist, or Calvinist or dissenting. The dominant application

Poster boy

You don’t need to be much of a psychologist to understand the trajectory of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Born to aristocratic first cousins, in a family never shy of consanguinity, he was blighted by congenital deformities and weaknesses. When his brittle legs broke in his teenage years, they stopped growing altogether, leaving the adult Lautrec tiny as well as weird-looking, with his heavy lips and thick-lidded eyes. Fortunately, Montmartre was waiting for him, offering a boozy and bosomy refuge from his peculiar family and woeful self-regard. In the dance halls of the capital, Lautrec found his people, and in his art they found themselves. His paintings tell the story best, all

An untouchable star

This slight book comes with heavy baggage. In 2009, Rampling handed back a hefty advance for her contribution to a conventional authorised biography, and then used the Human Rights Act to prevent Barbara Victor from publishing anything based on their collaboration, on the grounds that it would violate her right to privacy. The Mail typically demanded to know ‘what can possibly remain untold in her audaciously open life’. What it meant was that, having been so extensively naked on-screen, Rampling had no business pulling down the shutters on her private life. But Rampling’s extraordinary sexiness has always derived from an immaculate meeting of exposure and reserve. Even with her breasts

Bear essentials

In Yoko Tawada’s surreal and beguiling novel we meet three bears: mother, daughter and grandson. But there will be no porridge or bed-testing here: these are bears with a difference. Tawada has form in animal-linked fiction: The Bridegroom Was a Dog won a major Japanese award. Writing in Japanese and German, she is a prizewinner in both countries. This three-part novel, felicitously translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky, draws us deep into the lives of her ursine trio. Transcending anthropomorphism, her beasts retain their essential ‘bear-ness’ in the human world. Mama bear, an ex-performer in a Moscow circus, is savvy, opinionated and scatty: ‘I hate making small talk about

Donald Trump and the end of the age of celebrity

The ongoing war between Donald Trump and the Hollywood A-list has entered a new and unpredictable phase. Celebrity criticism of Trump — keenly anticipated as the chewy takeaway from last week’s Academy Awards ceremony — was instead overshadowed by a celebrity cock-up. Thanks to a mix-up of the sacred envelopes, presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway temporarily awarded Best Picture to La La Land, rather than the real winner, Moonlight. The result was an unforgettable tableau of confusion at the ceremony’s crowning moment. Trump had earlier let it be known that he wasn’t watching. Like a kid talking too loudly about his maths project while the others are getting ready

Diary – 2 March 2017

A fortnight ago I got a taste of what being far too famous might feel like. A leak that I’m a contender for the Mary Berry slot on The Great British Bake Off morphed into the fake news that I’d got the job. For 24 hours it was a lead story — then it was yesterday’s non-news. My daughter, Li-Da Kruger, has made me her plus-one on the maiden voyage of Viking Sky, the swankiest cruise ship imaginable, all spacious showers, leather handrails and the surreal experience of sitting in the hairdresser’s with a roiling sea of black water and white-topped waves rushing past. Li-Da was booked to show her