Belfast Telegraph

Michaella McCollum's new look is supposed to portray an image of purity - I don't buy it

By Suzanne Breen

Michaella McCollum has had a makeover and it's certainly no accident. The newly-dyed blonde hair and the white jacket combined to convey an image of innocence and purity on our TV screens last night.

Her 'mea culpa' wouldn't have sounded so convincing from someone in a T-shirt and black leather jacket with her dark hair scraped into a bun. That's the Michaella we first saw in Lima Airport standing with those huge suitcases filled with cocaine.

She looked shady and shifty, exactly as you would expect someone in the drugs underworld to appear. This Michaella is all clean lines and simple sophistication.

Far from resembling someone who has just been freed from a Peruvian prison hellhole, she could easily be an up-and-coming actress stepping off a Hollywood film set. She has the look of a young Helen Hunt, an astute colleague observed.

That comparison is apt because Michaella's first post-prison TV appearance has one objective only - to launch her media career. Don't be fooled into thinking that what you saw last night was an expression of genuine contrition, coming from the heart.

It was about rebranding Michaella so she can start making money. The chat show circuit beckons. Nolan Live, The Late Late Show, Celebrity Big Brother and much more. An army of agents will be vying to represent her.

There will be a big book deal, probably with movie rights too. Michaella is on course to make a mint.

Last night's RTE appearance was neither spontaneous nor sincere. The very fact that Michaella is scrubbed up and on our screens so speedily - just 72 hours after being released from jail - shows how manufactured and manipulative the whole thing is.

We shouldn't be surprised by her new look because, as a former model, Michaella is well aware of the power of the visual image. What irks me is that a man wouldn't get away with this. Indeed, I can't even imagine any having the nerve to try it.

If RTE flew a team across the world to interview a male drug dealer - who presented himself with a new hairdo and a jazzed-up wardrobe - he, and the station, would be subject to endless ridicule.

Michaella referred to her drug trafficking as "a moment of madness". That's not true. It was a lengthy process during which she had endless opportunities to change her mind.

She didn't do so because she was greedy for money and she sees an opportunity to earn easy cash now.

Of course, people can make mistakes and had Michaella thrown up her hands after she was arrested, I'd salute her. But she told us a pack of lies about being kidnapped and held at gunpoint by bad men who threatened her family.

She persisted in spouting the same fantasy to a Sunday Life journalist who interviewed her in prison five months after her arrest, despite the fact that she had secretly confessed to police three months earlier.

Given her track record, I see no reason to believe she is telling the truth to an interviewer now. Apparently, Michaella is to work with Aids sufferers.

From drugs diva to angel of mercy, it's been some transformation.

I, for one, don't buy it.

Belfast Telegraph


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