No one wins when we demand perfection

Walking the red carpet
Walking the red carpet

By Sheona Small

Well, the awards season is well and truly upon us - the Baftas, the Brits and, still to come, the big daddy of them all, the Oscars.

The winners try their best to look surprised but not smug while the runners-up that no one will remember perfect a nonchalant smile that says they never really expected to be up there thanking their loved ones, God and their therapist in the first place.

But in the world of celebrity, the battle for victory for the female actors starts as soon as a Louboutin-clad foot steps from the stretch limo and on to the get-ready-to-peform red carpet. Every centimetre is scrutinised with such forensic intensity that it’s no surprise to hear that Demerol for anxiety is popped as freely as Tic-Tacs for minty fresh breath.

Which makes you wonder how burning must the desire be for fame and adulation that they are willing to expose themselves to a life lived in high definition where, having finally reached the galactic heights of their starry careers, they discover they can still be found wanting when compared to someone else who is thinner, even more beautiful and has a stylist able to bag a Triple A-list haute couture gown and a vintage Cartier statement piece.

And no, I’m not being sexist when I say that while male actors may make an equally huge effort to be groomed, suited and booted - though I doubt they’ll have been living on lime juice and cayenne pepper for the previous fortnight - they’ll all be declared handsome and whether their tux is Versace or Ralph Lauren is a throwaway footnote. For the women it is a whole different ball game, which is all very depressing.

Not only did they start life blessed with a great combination of genes but they developed a thick enough skin to survive rounds of rejections and honed their craft while they climbed the slippery ladder of success.

And yet the merest whisper of a breakout spot on what we demand to be an unblemished complexion, a errant drop of perspiration - really should have taken up the Botox-in-the-armpits option - or even the faintest impression of excess flesh peeping above a backless, sideless and almost frontless dress can be what we, the great adoring public, hone in on and dissect as if they’ve arrived drunk, punched Joan Rivers’ lights out and thrown-up over Clint Eastwood.

We’re quick to blame the media - the red tops, celebrity magazines and online gossip sites - but can we really hold our heads up high and take the moral high ground?

And by we, I mean mainly me and my sisters who really should know better.

I stand shamefaced before you to admit I have a grubby little secret.

There’s a certain daily paper that I would rather die than buy, with its scaremongering stories about the great tidal waves of unwashed benefit scroungers poised to swamp the hard-pressed hard-working middle class and ‘scientists say’ exclusives of how blueberries can both cause and cure cancer. But every day my mouse clicks on its website’s notorious sidebar of shame.

I could argue that as a journalist, just as I keep tabs on domestic politics, the world view on environmental issues and the arts, I also need to be au fait with contemporary culture. Not much good knowing that one of the hottest tickets at this year’s Edinburgh Festival will be for a debut series of plays on James I, II and III if I’m not also aware that Cara Delevingne took a selfie this week on the catwalk at London Fashion Week.

But do I really need a daily update on the state of Kim Kardashian’s backside or Simon Cowell’s baby, who is no doubt beautiful as all babies are but seeing a picture of him nuzzling into Cowell’s naked chest brought a tiny bit of sick into my mouth.

I bang the drum that in the 21st century we should have long moved on from judging a woman’s worth by her appearance but it seems I can’t quite yet cast the first stone.