Wednesday, June 29, 2011

THE ROYAL WATCH Diana at 50: What Might Have Been

When I wrote my book, Diana The Secrets of Her Style one of the things I speculated about was how Diana might have handled getting older. Undoubtedly, she would have remained the embodiment of glamour for a generation of women as she (and they) reached the milestone of a fiftieth birthday. No doubt, she would have looked fabulous helped along by rigorous sessions with a personal trainer and some Botox. Her style would have continued to evolve into one that mixed high-low better than Michelle Obama could ever dream of doing. She would have graced the cover of American Vogue at least twice and Tina Brown would have tried her best to land her for the first cover of Newsweek. I have no doubt Diana would have shown us how to age gracefully and with style.

Just as the newly minted Duchess of Cambridge is destined to become an icon to this generation of twenty something women, Diana was a cultural touchstone and yes, heroine, to the women who are now on the brink -- or just this side of fifty. I know this to be true because I am one of them. I felt a kinship to Diana from the moment I first saw her on the pages of People magazine. When she married her prince, we were the same age and even shared the same nickname. When I began emulating her early look of pearl chokers, ruffled collared blouses, red shoes and cut my hair just like hers, my mother and her friends took to calling me 'Lady Di.' Then, when researching my book, I was stunned to learn that we shared another title. Her family called her 'The Duchess' in private as did mine. While on the surface her life bore absolutely no resemblance to mine, over time I came to relate to her on far deeper level than one based on her flawless sense of style.

Many of us saw our own reflection in Diana. When she exchanged ballgowns and tiaras for sleek suits and straighter hair, we recognized ourselves -- the idealized version of ourselves -- in Diana. We wanted to be like her and, it seemed she wanted to be like us. She was an old friend who survived her husband's infidelity and a painful divorce, the death of a beloved parent, the ups and downs of a fractured familial relationships and had struggles with self-esteem. She used (and abused) food to self-medicate, shopped out of boredom and cut her hair when her relationship soured. What women hasn't done at least one of those things? Diana made us believe in transformation and reinvention. Diana showed us that not every sadness or disappointment has to leave a visible, indelible mark. Ironically, she also taught us that the scars we can not see were inevitably the deepest.

So what would Diana be doing today?

I believe, having had her fill of showy, revenge relationships, she would have settled down (but perhaps not remarried) with a powerful, older man who would have undoubtedly not fit the mold set by her in-laws. If her passionate love affair with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan was any indication (and I think it was) for the long haul, she would have settled down with a deeply serious man with a spiritual side. Having never lost her desire to shock 'the establishment' he could have been a Muslim (But she would have left Dodi after their ill-fated summer romance by Christmas of that year). But before she found her rock at last, she would have likely had a few high profile romances with some stateside moguls (Teddy Forstmann?) and undoubtedly lived at least some of the time in New York. Sorry Kevin Costner, but I don't for a minute believe she would have played herself in The Bodyguard 2.

Just as she was doing in the final year of her life, Diana would have continued to champion the causes closest to her and become even more involved in international politics. Surely she would have gotten on with David Cameron but likely have cut ties with Tony Blair having seen him fail in his peacemaking initiatives. She would have adored the Obamas. I'm fairly sure she would be running her own foundation (a la Bill Clinton) and jetting around the world to lend her star power and financial resources (funded by all those well-heeled gentleman and their friends that inhabited her orbit) to causes like cancer and AIDS research. Its not too far fetched to imagine Diana would have been one of the first to enlist in helping out with the telethons that raised money for the victims of 9/11 and the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and Haiti.

I don't think she'd follow her former BFF Sarah Ferguson into the realm of reality television (she would have found Sarah's downfall terribly sad but not that unexpected) although she would undoubtedly have embraced social media and had her own website and Twitter feed (with just as many followers -- more, I'd like to think -- than Lady Gaga). She may have given one big interview in conjunction with the announcement of an important humanitarian initiative. Oprah would have likely scored the get of the century leaving Barbara Walters bitterly disappointed. Or, perhaps, she might have met Ann Curry while the new Today show co-host was covering one of the many disasters over the past decade and chosen to talk to her. They would have gotten on famously.

Her relationship with the royals would have largely recovered and, thanks to their bond over their sons, Diana and Charles would have built a strong friendship over the years. There would have been plenty of behind the scenes drama between Diana and Camilla once she became Charles' wife, but Diana would have made it work if she had finally found happiness in her personal life.

Diana would have remained William and Harry's closest confidant and would have been thrilled to see how they turned out. If Diana had lived, I'm guessing Harry would not have had nearly as many missteps with the press.

The big question -- How would Diana like Kate? -- is an interesting one because I believe if Diana hadn't died there might not have been a romance between William and Kate. The lessons the royals learned from her death, taught them they needed to allow William to break outside the confines of his royal lineage and marry a 'commoner' for love. Without the gaping wound of Diana's death that has defined much of his life since then, William would not have needed the solace he found in Kate and would possibly still be a bachelor. When he did settle down, he may have been encouraged to find a more 'suitable' wife who, if not a royal, was at least a woman with an aristocratic pedigree.

But if Diana were to become Kate's mother in law, surely she would have seen both the irony and the poignancy in watching a version of her younger self captivate the family and the public. She would have undoubtedly taken to the Middletons as William has and seen to it that she made a fast friend in both Michael and Carole. Most significantly, Kate would not be wearing Diana's engagement ring, she would not have walked up the aisle to the hymn that was played at Diana's funeral. Both women would have been allowed to be themselves rather than ghost and spiritual protege.

Diana and Kate would have laughed together at Ascot, been photographed in the royal box at Wimbledon and shopped at high street boutiques in matching skinny jeans and boots.

Just think of the pictures. They would have been gorgeous.

Photo credit: Kim Knott/Retna

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

THE ROYAL WATCH: Kate's a sell-out, Pippa isn't single & Michael Middleton for Father of the Year!

In this week's royal watch, we continue tracking the Duchess of Cambridge's steady rise as a fashion star. While most often we're commending her for making relatively inexpensive high-street choices look chic, this week she earned top marks for her choice of Jenny Packham's $5,600 nude colored sequin gown that she wore at an ARK Charity dinner. The designer is a current favorite of Kate's (once rumored to be in the running for designing the wedding dress) and is a perfect choice for her penchant for understated elegance. We're told the dress sold out all over London once the images of the duchess appeared the next day. In what's been dubbed "The Kate Effect" Packham is just the latest in a series of fashion brands that have gotten a serious boost in sales thanks to the Duchess. The $175 taupe Reiss dress she wore to meet the Obamas sold out in 24 hours crashing the company's website. One can only imagine the fashion PR pitches that Clarence House must have to deal with on a daily basis. The mind reels ...

Now, on to the latest about Pippa Middleton who is proving to be more than a worthy stand-in for the tabloids hungry for royal dish. Despite all the reports that Pippa had broken up with Alex Loudon, reliable sources in London are telling us that the couple is, in fact, still together and word of an engagement is "imminent." If you ask me, Pippa was taking a page out of sister Kate's book when she went on vacation with former beau George Percy. According to insiders, Pippa and Alex were going through a "rough patch" but all is fine now. If you recall, when Prince William broke up with Kate, despite her feeling devastated she made sure she was out and about being spotted -- and photographed -- having a wonderful time. It worked for Kate and, it seems, it might have worked for Pippa. When it comes to keeping their men in line, these girls know what they're doing. Perhaps they should pen their own British version of 'The Rules.'

I have to admit I didn't have high hopes for Finding Sarah, the six-part documentary on Sarah Ferguson's quest for personal redemption that premiered on OWN last Sunday, but boy, was I wrong. The first installment was absolutely riveting television as the Duchess of York laid bare of all her heartbreaking insecurities for the audience to see. Our fascination with all things royals made this a must-see if only to hear what little tidbits she might divulge about 'The Firm.' And, in fact, she did deliver when she talked (however briefly) about how she isn't in touch with Prince Charles and has been banished from the family's Christmas celebrations since the divorce. Sitting in the back of a chauffeured car eating "her sweets," she offered an insider-turned-outsider's tour around London, pointing to Buckingham Palace ("my old house") and sadly reminiscing about living there.

Having thought what could possibly be left to learn about her struggles with her weight and self-esteem, her revelations about the emotional abuse she suffered at the hands of both parents was both sad and shocking. Even the requisite stunt casting which brought in Suze Orman and Dr. Phil to advise her felt raw and was riveting. The show left me rooting for the disgraced former duchess (who still won't admit to selling access to Prince Andrew despite being caught on film doing it -- but my money is on Dr. Phil for making her see the light). I, for one, am rooting for her. If you want to tune in the show airs on Sunday nights at 9 pm on OWN.

And finally, since it's Father's Day, I'd like to nominate Michael Middleton for sweetest father of the year. There were a lot of iconic images from the royal wedding but the ones that made me weep were those where he gallantly held Kate's hand for the long walk up the aisle and lovingly glanced over to her when they arrived at the altar. He is my all-time favorite 'Father of the Bride.' Those closest to the family have nothing but glowing things to say about the head of the Middleton clan citing his calm demeanor (which Kate apparently inherited), down to earth manner and quiet kindness as the qualities that make him who he is. Carole Middleton -- and the kids -- are lucky to have him. Happy Father's Day!

Photo credits: Getty Images, Press Association

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Monday, June 6, 2011

BREAKING NEWS! Kate's Wedding Dress to be Displayed at Buckingham Palace

Proving they are willing to keep their savvy PR campaign that began with William and Kate's engagement going, this morning Buckingham Palace announced Princess Catherine's wedding dress by Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton will go on display at Buckingham Palace this summer. The dress, veil, shoes, earrings given to the bride by her parents (inspired by their new family crest)and diamond tiara owned by Queen Victoria and loaned to Catherine by Queen Elizabeth will be displayed for public viewing from July 23 until October 3. Ticket costs will be 17.50 pounds ($29). The exhibition is part of the tour of the public rooms in the palace that receives thousands of visitors each year.

It was also announced that the newlyweds would be taking a apartment in Kensington Palace (Princess Diana's former home where William lived for much of his boyhood) as their temporary London home for the next year while the palace undergoes renovations.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

THE ROYAL WATCH: A Day at the Races, Will & Kate's Canada-U.S. Trip Schedule Announced & Pippa: The Next TV Star?

Don't you just love this picture?

Forget about Mr. and Mrs. Wales wanting to be just like the couple next store. I love them at their regal best when they are sleek and chic (Love the top hat and the Stephen Jones fascinator!) and infusing formerly fusty old royal family outings with their own particular brand of modern glamour. Judging from this shot, I'd say Kate is a pretty quick study, wouldn't you?

Prince William and Princess Catherine (that Duchess title just doesn't suit her, does it?) pulled out all the sartorial stops when they were on hand this weekend to cheer on Queen Elizabeth's horse, Carlton House, at the Epsom Derby in Surrey, England. The newlyweds certainly lent a touch of glamour to the event, but didn't bring the Queen any luck -- her horse came in third. The afternoon was truly a family affair. Carole and Michael Middleton (who were not invited to sit in the royal box and watched the races from the stands) were also on hand. Turns out Kate's parents had a stake in another horse, Sohraab, who came in fourth in another race.

In the newlyweds first appearance in the U.K. since returning from their honeymoon in the Seychelles, they completely dazzled. Kate chose a pretty ivory jacket and chiffon skirt to show off her mile long legs that looked even better thanks her nude patent leather platforms. (Diana would be so proud of her daughter-in-law's elegant style)

I don't know about you but I can't wait to see what Kate will be wearing for Trooping the Color next Saturday. William and Harry will, of course, be wearing, full ceremonial dress and join the military parades at the all-important occasion. I'm betting the newly minted princess will wear something beautifully tailored and elegant. Diana always wore Catherine Walker for the occasion. It still remains to be seen who will become Catherine's go-to designer for official royal occasions. But as the Brits like to say, style-wise she's "hasn't put a foot wrong" so far -- and seems to get better with every appearance.

Speaking of appearances, details have just been announced about Williams and Catherine's first overseas trip to Canada and southern California scheduled for June 30 through July 10. Here's what I know:

  • They will be visiting Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City in addition to other parts of the region. Their stop in Calgary, Alberta will coincide with the city's celebrated rodeo, the Calgary Stampede. Yeehaw!

  • The newlyweds will also be visiting the Canadian airfield where Catherine's late grandfather, Peter Middleton, was based as an RAF pilot during the second World War. One insider told me Catherine was very close to her grandfather who passed away last year at age 90. "It's going to be emotional for her."

  • The final leg of their trip will be a two-day stop in Los Angeles beginning July 8 which is rumored to include an event with the British Academy of Film and Television or a charity polo match with the proceeds going to one of the many charities patronized by the royal couple. No official confirmations on any of this have been made by Clarence House, but one thing is for sure -- don't look for them to try to catch up with the Kardashians. "This is a working visit," one royal insider told me. "They do not want to be perceived as spending time sipping champagne with celebrities. They are being very, very careful with their public image and they know this trip will be closely watched." Sorry Kim, but you won't get a chance to pump the princess for wedding tips after all.

And finally, from the Pippa pipeline comes reports courtesy of The National Enquirer that television divas Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey are dueling it out for the chance to sign Pippa Middleton to a television deal. While she is proving to be more than a worthy stand-in for her otherwise engaged sister, I'm fairly certain this will never, ever happen. The Middletons are proving to be very savvy with their public relations strategy which doesn't include doing anything to annoy or overshadow the in-laws. I'm sure the royal family is happy to let Sarah Ferguson (who has a documentary on her attempts at personal redemption permiering on OWN) have the sole spotlight in the states as she continues to humiliate herself at every turn.

Stay tuned for more dish on the royals in next week's ROYAL WATCH. Cheerio!

Photo credits: Getty

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