The castration of Cheryl Cole

The Geordie blubberer is set fair to take over Princess Di’s conspicuous compassion job, if all personality isn’t ironed out of her first.

Emily Hill

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In her new column, Emily Hill will write regular dispatches from the Republic of Celebrity. In this issue: the castration of Toon bruiser Cheryl Cole by her celebrity advisers.

Whatever stance you want to take on Jade Goody – whether reaching for the Kleenex or the exit – one fact is incontrovertible: the poor hen sold newspapers. Slap Jade on the front of a newspaper sucking a morphine lollipop and sales went up. She will, no doubt, continue to flog copies of OK! magazine for the next decade quite as effectively as Princess Di props up the lagging circulation of the Daily Express.

Shortly after she died from cervical cancer last month, the Sun, which, lest we forget, branded Jade ‘The Pig’ when she appeared on Big Brother for the first time and fulsomely denounced her as a racist during her appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, tried to change the name of one of the horses running in the Grand National from Parson’s Legacy to Jade’s Legacy. Allegedly, the idea came directly from the editor Rebekah Wade in order to make a nice tie-in with Jade’s funeral – allowing the Great British betting punter to ‘back Jade’ in the National, all thanks to your 30p Sun. The paper’s managing editor explained to the London Evening Standard: ‘We tried to make arrangements for one of the horses to be named after Jade as a tribute to her as part of the country’s most popular horse race, but this was not possible because of strict rules surrounding the event.’

As Brendan O’Neill has already pointed out, the bout of mourning sickness which broke out on the deaths of both Jade and Di had less to do with spontaneous human reaction than with the press’s enthusiasm for a new media martyr (see Jade, Diana and the myth of public hysteria). The pattern went the same way in each case: first photographed, then objectified, then praised, pilloried, bullied and cajoled, accused of using the press for their own purposes, popularity on the wane: public death. In the absence of Jade, press attention may transfer back to Kate Moss or Madonna (ticking off new wrinkles by rote) or on to younger candidates such as Amy Winehouse… or Cheryl Cole.

Cole, née Tweedy, is perhaps the best bet for picking up the Princess Di conspicuous compassion baton and running with it. First of all, everyone hates her husband, who gets paid a lot of money for playing football and apparently cheated on Cole with a hairdresser. Secondly, like Jade, she has had her own brush with allegations of racism. In 2003 she was accused of a racially aggravated attack on a toilet attendant; cleared of using racist terms during the incident she was sentenced to community service for causing actual bodily harm. Thirdly, she is extremely beautiful and already the nation’s sweetheart in a far more straightforward way than the ‘Bermondsey chav’ Jade ever was.

And she seems to be taking lessons from Di more than Jade, whose mouthy, schoolgirl argumentativeness made her a national hate figure in the aftermath of Poppadomgate. Cheryl, from being the ballsy one from Girls Aloud, who called Lily Allen on her essential bogusness, has been chipped away at like a balsawood doll. Nowadays, she is famous principally, not for being a singer in her own right, but for weeping copiously on ITV1’s X-Factor (on which she is a judge) probably because she’s avoided those Toon chip shops so dedicatedly, whippet-thin as she now is, and is no doubt really, really hungry.

Now, in the latest bulletin from Cheryl-land, X Factor and American Idol supremo, Simon Cowell, has apparently told the former Newcastle bruiser that she needs elocution lessons if she wants to become a star presenter on American television and has lined up a Los Angeles voice coach ‘to do the necessary’.

Yet her Tyneside lilt is the last thing about Cheryl that is recognisably Cheryl, and were a man poised for transatlantic stardom you can bet your bottom dollar that his quirky accent would be seen as an offbeat asset rather than an ugly impediment. The last demonstrably working-class element of Cheryl, the reasoning seems to go, must be ironed out of her. One can only hope that Cole will tell Cowell where to shove it and, while she’s at it, give up all the prime-time crying and start dishing out some putdowns. There’s something nauseating about how all famous women these days must be re-programmed victims, thriving on confessing how they really ought to eat a bit more and raising money for charidee. Once upon a time, Cheryl Cole was a purveyor of panty-liner punk – she could certainly do with getting back some of her spit-in-your-face attitude.

Emily Hill is a reporter on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard. Visit her personal website here

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