Every once in a while, I enjoy a night on the town with a very dear friend and fabulous girl-about-town who we’ll call…damn, I can’t think of a non-stripperish pseudonym. OK, for the sake of convenience let’s call her Shelley because that’s her favorite poet. Shelley and I have been going out together since I first arrived in London, and we have had many weird and wonderful (and occasionally quite bizarre) nights. Saturday was no exception, and I think we both agreed it was one of our best experiences.
The time went by quickly as we caught up on each others’ work and domestic lives, and eventually the conversation turned to our new guilty pleasure, Made In Chelsea. For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a “reality” show based around the lives of a fortunate group of upper-class English people in their early 20s. It’s a bit like The Hills except rainier and with, dare I say it, a bit more personality. Initially I was repulsed by the whole concept (again, with the rich white kids shopping, moaning about each other and pretending to eat. They even have an ugly evil one called Spencer) but one character in particular stood out and endeared himself to me, and, I suspect, many other fans. His name is Ollie and he is fucking fabulous.
It’s not the great smile, the unintentionally hilarious observations, the camp wardrobe, the long hair, the bronzer, or the fact that he carries an eyelash curler at all times that made me love him. It’s the fact that he is the first person ever on a reality-based television program that I have ever wanted to be friends with.
Anyway, back to real reality. Shelley and I were discussing the latest installment of Made in Chelsea on our way to The Box, a new-ish club in Soho which has been proclaimed by some to be “the new Stuido 54″. Shell and I did our bit, shivering in the cold for about half an hour before we were invited in. It was well worth the wait.
The club was gorgeous; think lavish Victorian townhouse with a fabulous parlour room with a bar on one end and stage on the other (I would add a photo but I can’t seem to find anything online apart from the hilarious Daily Fail article in which it is proclaimed “The Seediest VIP club” in London). The staff were friendly, efficient and highly-skilled without being pretentious, and the other club-goers were, well, gorgeous. The overall atmosphere was fun and decadent with a touch of playful hedonism. “This is what heaven must be like,” Shelley mused as the music swelled.
Just moments later, Shelley leaned toward me and whispered, “Look”. Lo and behold, nearly half the cast of Made in Chelsea arrived, making a bee-line for the VIP seats. Since I’m me, and I don’t really have shame, I went straight up to Ollie and gushed about how much I enjoyed him on the show. He was very sweet and enthusiastic, which I kind of expected, but I didn’t want to overstay my welcome, so I congratulated him on the success of the show and turned to go back to where we were.
On the other side of me was a female cast member (who I won’t identify) who I had spent many a night making fun of for appearing so frigid on camera. I introduced myself and told her how much I enjoyed the show. I couldn’t think of anything in particular to say, so I told her I thought her hair was pretty (I know, I’m cringing, too) and that she photographed well. We had a chat about the show, and then, looking slightly upset, she said “I feel like I look awful; I’ve got a double-chin” (for the record, she doesn’t).
It was then that I felt really ashamed. Something about that comment made her infinitely more human than how she is portrayed on the show. When I stepped back and saw her and her friends, it gave me pause. I know a handful of the cast members (none of whom were there that night) had been to stage school and therefore understood what they were getting themselves into, but whether or not they share their private lives for the entertainment of others, they are still human.
Let me make myself abundantly clear before I go any further, I am NOT suggesting that anyone take pity on soulless, spoiled brats who flaunt their wealth and fame for the sake of making themselves feel superior. There are a fair few characters across this genre in television who are deliberately vulgar, cruel, elitist, and insensitive and they should not be rewarded for setting such an example to others.
However, I am suggesting that maybe it’s worth considering that some of these kids are KIDS who have all the unjustified hubris and swagger that we ALL had in our early 20′s. I, for one, am overjoyed not to have had cameras following me around at that age (though in fairness I don’t know how interesting working at a diner, going to community college, and chain-smoking is compared to polo matches and fashion shows)
For the sake of the kind, polite, and gracious young men and women I met Saturday night, I hope that this experience doesn’t turn them into their glassy-eyed, heartless peers and predecessors, and that if it does, they can chalk it up to “youthful indiscretion”…
…which is the umbrella term I use for my early twenties.