Kate's New Job: Shilling for the Royals
The official royal website, unveiled last week, is full of all things Kate. From the "official" bio of the duchess (some are betting princess) in waiting which lists her numerous hobbies including "hill walking" (who knew?) and offers a look at numerous Middleton family photos (sans Kate's troublesome, drug addled uncle as well as rare photos of Babykins and Big Willy (the couple's endearing nicknames for one another) during the early years of their romance at St. Andrews. There are even videos of the couple shot by St. James Palace's own RoyalChannel. Who needs CNN?
When I saw that every second of the couple's first walkabout last week when they returned to St. Andrews was covered in photos and on video I couldn't help but think back to the Diana era where the young princess was simply thrust out into the voracious crowds who were dazzled by her nascent stardom. At the time, royal watchers had to content themselves with their weekly doses of Diana in People and OK! When I was researching my book, Diana The Secrets of Her Style, I was completely amazed to discover a whole series of photographs documenting the first time Diana had done her first walkabout in Wales after becoming engaged to Prince Charles. Prior to my unearthing them in a photo agency archive, I had never seen them before.
On one hand, the sight of Kate in her bright red structured suit and black tights striding around St. Andrews last week seemed like a flashback to the Diana era. But it's unlikely lightening is going to twice. In the packaging of Kate as the People's Princess 2.0 -- and make no mistake about it, that's exactly what the royals are doing -- I think the royal decision makers are making a gross miscalculation.
By launching their own public relations campaign for Kate (and William, who must hate this because of his well-documented distain for the press), she's become, as the saying goes, 'Just like Us' and in my estimation, that's not necessarily a good thing.
In this era of instanteous and disposable celebrity, Kate has far more people to compete with for attention -- let alone adulation. With her every move being documented on the royals own site as well as those which lump the royals into the same mash-up that covers the Real Housewives and Charlie Sheen, she hardly seems like the aspirational figure Diana was. It's a simple mathematical equation that I've discovered. In the Internet age, say, for instance, your star power is of the 100 watt variety. We're talking strictly A-list here. If you launch your own website and hold forth on everything from fashion to parenting, your 'wow' factor is diminished by half. As proof of my theory I give you Gwyneth Paltrow. But if, you are strictly a B-lister and do the same, it's a near certainty you increase your star power in equal measure. Exhibit A: Kim Kardashian. Makes sense, doesn't it?
The great irony here is that just when the royals have decided to opt for mass over class, they should be doing precisely the opposite. The world is over-populated with 'celebrities' that are 'Just Like us!' What's next, a 'Who Wore it Better: Kate or Snooki?' The real fascination with the royals has always been rooted in their so-far-removed- from-anything-remotely-normal existence. I, for one, don't want to see photos of Kate and Wills grocery shopping.
What is lacking in our celebrity obsessed culture is glamour -- real glamour. Intellectual glamour, if you will. Diana offered it to us in an intriguing packaging with a sense of purpose that made her even more fascinating. It was the power of her style that enabled her to accomplish her humanitarian goals. When she was photographed during that last summer of her life with Dodi Fayed she was veering perilously close to tabloid territory. And then just like that, her shocking death catapulted her into the celebrity stratosphere.
Kate is more lucky (at least to some) than fascinating. She hit the social status jackpot and because of that, we're interested in seeing what comes next. She's broken into the royal family by perseverance (dubbed 'Waity Katy' for putting up with William's fear of commitment for so long) and is now living a very interesting life that sounds like the basis for a Lifetime movie. (I guess that's why the network is making one) She isn't giving up a career to become a royal. She worked only for a short time at Jigsaw, a kind of Ann Taylor-like High Street retailer before quitting and helping out in the family business, Party Pieces, that made the family millionaires. It's the same narrative that belongs to plenty of young women here in Greenwich, Connecticut. Hardly fascinating.
Here's hoping Kate shows some backbone and doesn't become the royals show pony. A little mystery would go a long, long way.