Why it's a jungle out there for beautiful celebrities too
We can't all be beautiful. We all accept that. But try convincing a young woman today, brought up with the dual pressure of the magazine air-brush on one hand and the vitriol of the the Twitter troll on the other.
In two words – Rebecca Adlington.
At 24, Rebecca is a double gold Olympic winner, an athletic star and undoubtedly an inspirational role-model for young girls everywhere. All of which may explain why she has also been targeted on social networking sites by vile, anonymous creeps sniping about her appearance.
She's not L'Oreal make-up ad gorgeous (but then who is?) but there's absolutely nothing wrong with the girl's looks. She's almost certainly a damn sight better looking than any of the cowardly inadequates having a pop online. What motivates their nastiness? Most obviously, jealously.
Thus far your sympathy has to be totally, utterly with this young woman.
But this week she's been involved in another drama over appearance. This time though, it's another girl who's been criticised for how she looks.
Rebecca is in the Celebrity jungle on Bushtucker trial with a group that includes the standard line-up of sports star (her), feisty oul doll (Mo from EastEnders), camp guy (David Emanuel), journalist (Matthew Wright), six-pack (Joey Essex) and bikini shower model (Amy Willerton).
Amy is gorgeous. Even without make-up. Even amid humid sub-tropical afforestation.
She also comes across, and this is the more important bit, as a lovely girl. She is gutsy and upbeat, kindly and agreeable.
She has been sweet to Rebecca in particular. And yet she has also reduced the swimming star to tears. In a dramatic telly meltdown, Rebecca wept as she talked about how she felt inadequate compared to the fabulous Amy.
Most women would. The thing is, why does Rebecca allow it to get to her so very much? A glib answer might be that her competitive nature drives her to endlessly compare herself to others. A more complex answer may be she's being influenced by a growing reverse prejudice where women's looks are concerned. Yes, we agree it's wrong to slag someone off because they're not beautiful enough. But when they are beautiful? Then apparently, it's open shoot.
Good looking has to equate with air-head, hasn't it? Or bitch. You can't be gorgeous and wholesome. If Rebecca is feeling bad about her looks, it's somehow Amy's fault that she's been made to feel that way.
Yet Amy Willerton, who has herself been targeted by the online critics, is as much a role-model as Rebecca. She's used what talents she has to carve out a career for herself.
Like the young women hoping to take part in the recent beauty contest at Stormont, she has her head screwed on and a clear idea of how to progress in the highly lucrative modelling world. This isn't being anti-feminist or anti the sisterhood. It's seizing the opportunity of a legitimate career. (Stormont may not have been the obvious setting for a beauty contest but honestly, did you ever hear such a fuss about so little, given some of the lunatic side-shows that postal code has hosted over the years?)
Just as the Rebeccas of this world do not deserve the venom they face, the Amys don't deserve it either. And let's not kid ourselves that such venom is confined to the Celebrity jungle. It happens in the workplace, too.
The television reality show is usually seen as a bit of escapist oul froth. But part of the reason why it is so enormously successful (this year's ratings are breaking records) is that it tends to be less cruel than the rest. The winner is usually the likeable character. Not necessarily the pin-up.
Hopefully, Rebecca will emerge from the experience with a stronger sense of her own worth and a realisation that the things that make her truly attractive are enviable things like grit and determination and generosity. But she needs to know that that applies to Amy, too.
Prejudice about women's looks works both ways.
'HOPEFULLY, REBECCA WILL EMERGE FROM THIS WITH A STRONGER SENSE OF HER OWN WORTH'