Belfast Telegraph

Tulisa Contostavlos's only crime is for daring to hope she could escape her past

By Jane Graham

The Press campaign to bring down Tulisa Contostavlos suffered a setback this week when the drug case against her died. But the eagerness to "expose" and ultimately destroy the N-Dubz singer and one-time X Factor judge has resulted in some of the most grotesque assaults by the UK tabloids I've seen inflicted on a minor celebrity in years. And it's not hard to see why; the girl is the wrong type.

It's not simply that Tulisa, who grew up in a Camden housing estate with a single mother, is working-class. The tabloids like lots of working-class girls; Cheryl Cole, the brave, gorgeous, shiny-haired rags-to-riches people's princess being the most obvious example. But where Tulisa's tale is unnerving and messy, Cole's is inspirational, and relatively clean and healthy.

There were some early mis-steps – apart from the little punch-up with a toilet assistant in 2003, there was the potentially calamitous decision to marry Ashley Cole three years later. But Cheryl rose up and away from the infidelitous footballer to be lauded as a courageous survivor whom her ex-husband would forever covet but never again touch. Since then she's maintained an A-list status, kept her story free of sleaze, flashed her fabulous teeth and been nice and beautiful.

Tulisa's story has always been much murkier, more complex, more ugly, sadder, and peopled by the kind of sadistic mercenaries who often prey on the unusually vulnerable. The Sun on Sunday is just the latest of a long line of tormentors who have stalked her throughout her life. Since she became the sole carer of her bipolar mother at the age of nine, Tulisa has been tossed from one greasy predator to the next.

Her first serious relationship was with a much older man who was "violent and abusive". Afterwards, she developed anorexia, began to self-harm and twice attempted suicide. Outside of the social loop due to demands at home, regularly bullied at school, she was easy pickings for anyone who offered an escape or an embrace which might lift her from her dark existence.

The success of N-Dubz, the band she started with a couple of schoolmates in Camden, must have knocked her for six, but she had enough smarts and ambition to maintain it for a while, despite constant poking from the Press, who smelled a rat-infested hinterland, and the lack of a well-intentioned guide to keep her away from men with big promises and low lives. Like the charming ex who posted a sex tape online as soon as she was famous. Remember the X Factor contestant who called her a "dog" and a "scumbag from the hood"? He was not the first, nor the most powerful, to regard her thus.

Perhaps the cruellest aspect of Sun journalist Mazher Mahmood's attempt to entrap Tulisa was his dependence on her urgency to improve her standing, to move into a world filled with "betters" who would accept her. He offered her a high-class film role alongside Leonardo DiCaprio if she could convince him of her authentic experience of the drug-addled streets. How clever – if she convinced him she was proper ghetto, he would give her a golden ticket to Tinseltown.

In the end, while the public humiliation of having her naivete and desperation exposed publicly must have hurt the woman who has fought hard to create an image of strength and independence, I'd guess the pain was nothing compared to how she felt when she realised yet another dream of escaping her past had turned to dust. I wish her the best.

PM to be admired for stand on FGM

David Cameron has done very little good as a Prime Minister, presiding mainly over a series of poverty-enhancing measures, though I'm sure he would tell me that he was hamstrung from the start, blah blah.

However, his stand over gay marriage is a highlight, as I hope his latest assault on female genital mutilation will be. His call to end it "within a generation" is bluster – this is a global problem.

But if we really do begin to prosecute, en masse, families which allow it to happen here – more than 100,000 girls have already been victims – it will be one of Cameron's better legacies.

What really made it Games on in Glasgow

The Commonwealth Games opening ceremony began with a cringe, adopted a smile, developed a soul and finished with a big old laugh, with fireworks and dancing around one of Glasgow's best loved landmarks; the sombre Wellington statue, topped with the orange traffic cone which locals always gift it within hours of the council's regular jobsworthy removal.

In the end, the overwhelming atmosphere was one of merry intoxication. But it speaks volumes that most locals' favourite bit was Prince Imran of Malaysia failing to get the lid off the baton and Chris Hoy, after stepping in to unscrew it, making funny gurning faces at a giggling Queen.

The spirit of Glasgow!

Belfast Telegraph


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