Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prince William & Kate: Ringing In A New Era of Glamour

The news of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton has come along at a time when we are seriously in need of some real glamour and romance. As someone who has covered celebrities for over 15 years, I've watched as our collective tastes have sunk lower than I ever dreamed possible.

Let's face it, the world of celebrity just isn't what it used to be when 'Real Housewives' merit magazine covers and a certain 'teen activist' hijacks the country's highest rated television show.

We've become accustomed to our recession-era celebrities who are anything but larger than life. Forget about the aspirational idols of the past, Kate Gosselin, the Kardashian clan and the cast of The Jersey Shore are the pop cultural leaders in the race to the bottom of the barrel.

Then, along comes Prince William and his glowing bride to be.

I felt as if I were in a time warp when I watched the coverage of them standing together for their photo call at St. James palace awash in a sea of flashbulbs. Was it really almost 30 years ago that William's parents, Prince Charles and a then unknown Lady Diana Spencer, faced the press to announce their own engagement?

At time, Princess Diana captured my imagination like no one celebrity had ever done before so much so that when she died in 1997, I wrote my first book, Diana The Secrets of Her Style as a tribute to her. In it, I chronicled her rise from 'Shy Di' to the role of international icon who brilliantly used her fame to draw attention to the humanitarian causes she cared about. Diana innately understood the power of style -- it was a gift she used wisely.

I had long since given up the idea that Diana's unique brand of modern glamour steeped in history would ever come again but today, I see a glimmer of hope.

It was the ring that did it.

Prince William's touching decision to give Kate Diana's sapphire and diamond engagement ring spoke volumes to me. He told an interviewer that the gesture was "my way of keeping (Diana) close." It did a lot more than that. One look at the sparkler on Kate's left hand, and Diana's presence was almost as strong as if she'd been there alongside the couple.

The message wasn't lost on anyone as the morning papers in the UK and here in the states jumped on the opportunity to anoint Kate "The Next Diana" as The New York Daily News did.

Stories that showed side by side comparisons between Kate and Diana's style appeared instantaneously online.

In some ways, its a surprising choice that William, whose contempt for the press is widely known, would invite such direct comparisons between Kate and Diana. Perhaps understanding the inevitability of it all, he decided to do it in the most meaningful way possible. William, indeed all of the British royal family, learned indelible lessons about dealing with the media from Diana's life and death. It's unlikely that Kate will ever be left to fend for herself when dealing with the press. In fact, it's been reported that while she found it "creepy," Kate was actually given some media coaching which involved watching old video of Diana navigating her way through the crush of photographers that followed her every move. From the looks of how she's handled herself thus far, she's a quick study.

At 28, Kate is undoubtedly far better equipped to take on life as part of 'The Firm' than Diana was at 19. And it's a good thing because the voracious appetite of the 24/7 Internet age she will face will hunger for every bit of 'news' that can be wrung out of every photo of her at a polo match or a hospital opening. Is the prince with her? Why does she look tired -- is she pregnant? And most importantly of all, what is she wearing?

The sad truth is that Diana's fate as a tabloid martyr created this new template for Kate (who now wants to be called by her more suitably royal name, Catherine) and William. They will not repeat the mistakes she and Charles made. I predict the couple will foster that same sense of accessibility that Diana did when they are 'working' but remain private about their personal lives. Important images and information (about their first child, for example) will be doled out in a way that satisfies but keeps the scrum at a respectful distance. Imagine that, celebrities that won't tell all. What a concept.

It may sound strange coming from a celebrity reporter, but I welcome the change. I'm tired of today's over sharing, over exposed stars whose 'honesty' is just part of their PR game. If Prince William and Kate manage to bring back even a little bit of glamour, I'm all for it.

I know Diana would be proud.