Peaches: hereditary celebrity

Sir Bob used Africa to puff up his ego - his daughter just falls out of night clubs.

Emily Hill

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In her new column, Emily Hill will write regular dispatches from the Republic of Celebrity. In this issue she asks: is Peaches Geldof the most inexplicable celebrity of all?

When Gordon Brown was limbering up to become prime minister in 2007 (capping his gnashers, practicing smiling), he announced that we were moving away ‘from the age in which celebrity, if you like, matters’. During his recent troubles, he conveniently forgot he ever said this – the phrase airbrushed from official record rather like Stalin’s comrades in Soviet photographs – trumping the current notion that we live in a ‘celebocracy’ by ushering in a brave new era: the dictatorship of the celebritariat.

Having failed to tempt GMTV star Fiona Phillips to unleash her powers of early-morning sofa-sitting to shake up the NHS, Brown has now got Sir Alan Sugar, who shouts ‘You’re fired!’ at contestants on BBC1’s The Apprentice, to give the economy a shot up the backside as enterprise tsar. This may appal anyone keeping an eye on Viglen shares but that is beside the point. Brown’s logic is clear-cut: Sir Alan was an entrepreneur; now he is famous; he therefore speaks for entrepreneurs.

But it is not just Brown who promotes celebrities as being uniquely able to ‘speak’ for significant sections of the populace. The media does it, too – and often with even less promising candidates than Sugar. Take Peaches Geldof, press-appointed Minister for Young People. In 2006 (when Peaches was still at her public school) her documentary Teen America (which nobody watched) tempted Robert Crampton of The Times to hail the spawn of Sir Bob and Paula ‘the voice of a generation’: ‘She may not want to be… but she’s probably the closest thing there is to one at the moment. And it’s a loud voice, and a clear one, and set, I think, to become more influential as the years pass.’

(Examples of Peaches’ voice, pace Crampton: On Sir Bob: ‘He’s, like, hassling me? To work? All the time?’ On Africa: ‘No, wait, have I been to Africa? Yeah, I’ve been to South Africa on holiday, I went with my family to do a shoot for Hello!, which is quite cheesy but an all-expenses paid holiday, why pass on that?’)

Uncannily, Peaches’ voice has become more influential as the years have passed. She has manned an arsenal of TV documentaries, penned columns for the Guardian, edited her own magazine, and is now agony aunt for the London Evening Standard. Currently the young celebutante is, according to the Daily Mail, ‘ambassador for the five-star Mayfair Hotel, saving her almost £50,000 in bills over the past 14 weeks’.

Why do the media foist these young women on the public? And most especially, why does it foist these young women on the public while simultaneously berating the public for taking an interest in, say, Jordan? Peaches has done absolutely nothing to appeal to the actual teen on the tube. She was handed fame at 16 because she wore a burka in a Channel 4 documentary, and has ever since been held up as someone whose opinions we should take note of, on the basis that she is the daughter of a woman who died in tragic circumstances and a man who posed as the saviour of Africa. While Sir Bob uses Africa for self-aggrandisment, Peaches uses nightclub exits – and both, somehow, continue to get away with it.

Suggest Jordan as a ‘role model’ and watch respectable society shove its fist in its mouth and bite hard. Yet if we had a version of the American Dream over here, Katie Price would be it. She is a bazooka-sized self-made success, who is now a bestselling author – and she does not pose as an ambassador for anybody. The peculiar thing about Peaches is that she is entirely media-propelled on the basis of the hereditary principle. X-Factor winners and Big Brother contestants have all earned their place in the public eye, however much you might disagree with it. Another celebutante, Paris Hilton, had to become the unwitting star of a porn flick before she got any attention. Lily Allen has, at least, cut a record.

The fact that long queues form for reality TV auditions is often used as a truncheon with which to beat Britain’s yoof, but with an education system that is failing to get ordinary working-class children to the best universities and with nepotism rife within the professions, does Jordan – who picked herself up by the bra straps – not prove more inspiring column fodder?

Is there any celebrity more inexplicable than Peaches Geldof – or less likely to be the voice of her generation? And how long do you give it before she gets invited to join Gordon’s government of all the talents?

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

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