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Peru drugs mule Michaella set to cash in with showbiz deals

But top agent warns against trying to exploit her notoriety

By Claire O'Boyle

Peru Two drugs mule Michaella McCollum stands to make up to £250,000 if reports of her plans for a TV career pan out, according to a top publicist.

The 24-year-old flew into Liverpool's John Lennon Airport this week amid rumours of meetings with showbiz bosses about fronting a new prime time programme about prisoners, and even starring alongside her Scottish accomplice Melissa Reid on the next series of Big Brother.

But, warned Amanda Stocks, who runs Exclusive Press and Publicity in London, the Dungannon woman should be wary of cashing in on her notoriety.

She added that Michaella, who returned home to Northern Ireland last August, could secure a more successful and longer-lasting career if she used her experiences to help other people.

"I can absolutely see Michaella's appeal," said Amanda. "She's young, she's beautiful, she's obviously got lots of personality and extraordinary experiences to talk about.

"TV bosses and agents will be drawn to her. She could make an appearance on a show like Big Brother for as much as £150,000 - top that up with a book deal and accompanying publicity and you're easily talking a quarter-of-a-million.

"But as far as I can see, that's not the best way for her to go if she wants her career to last more than the blink of an eye. Documentaries and more serious options would work better to start."

Amanda, who manages publicity for celebrities and people behind some of the UK's most high-profile headlines, said Michaella should think long and hard before she signs up for anything.

"I really think she could do quite well long-term if she makes the right choices," she added.

"Yes, reality TV bosses would naturally be interested for the instant big audience figures. But if she's seen to be cashing in on something that was essentially breaking the law, then she's risking a big backlash.

"I'm not even sure TV bosses would be allowed to pay her at this stage. In any case, people wouldn't take kindly to any sense she's glamorising criminality or making money from the fame she gained through what was a very serious crime. Instead, she would do better to use the platform she has to help other young people, to tell them about the serious consequences of the mistake she made, and try to discourage anyone from doing the same thing."

This, said Amanda, needed to be done away from shows like Big Brother, at least in the beginning.

"Reality TV might seem like the sexy and most lucrative option," she said. "But it's not going to help her long-term. Michaella should take her time and establish herself away from what we know her for already."

Along with Scottish accomplice Reid, McCollum was caught trying to smuggle 24lb (11kg) of cocaine worth £1.5m out of Peru in 2013.

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