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Wendy Wason

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Poison Chalice

Posted: 03/10/2012 16:18

The first time we met Chantelle Houghton, it was 2004. She entered the Celebrity Big Brother House as a non-celebrity. By 2004 Big Brother was in full swing. Initially no-one knew how the public was going to react to Big Brother. It was a warped popularity contest and as the show grew, it attracted all kinds of knowing, ambitious people, all desperate to be famous. Just famous. Not as actors or singers but just famous. Big Brother made huge stars out of it's winners.

Chantelle Houghton had applied to be on the regular Big Brother but the producers, Endemol decided it would be more entertaining to keep her for the celebrity version of the show. She went into the house as the only non-celebrity but given that most celebs are concerned where they themselves sit on the celeb-o-sphere, no-one knew she wasn't famous. Her task was to convince them that she was. She was in the house with Michael Barrymore, George Galloway, Rula Lenska, Dennis Rodman - an American basketball player who had published intimate details of his sexual experiences with Madonna - Jodie Marsh, Pete Burns, Traci Bingham from Baywatch, a popstar called Maggot, Faria Alam who had an affair with Sven Goran-Eriksson and a guy called Preston from a band called The Ordinary Boys.

Unsurprisingly they didn't suss out that she wasn't famous. She then fell in love with Preston - who had a girlfriend at the time - and went on to win the show. She was very sweet. Her idol was Jordan and she worked occasionally as a Paris Hilton look-a-like. She felt bad about falling in love with Preston. I'd never heard of The Ordinary Boys and I thought it was a dull name for a band.

I vividly remember the interview that Michael Barrymore had with Davina McCall when he left the house. He said: "Chantelle is everything a celebrity should be." No Michael. She is a nice girl. Preston promptly dumped his long-time French girlfriend and married Chantelle.

After Big Brother, she was famous. Not for doing anything but she was famous for not being famous. Is this the most post-modern level of fame yet? Chantelle had no real job. She wrote columns, did photo-shoots and attended premieres. Not only that, she got her boobs done and went blonder. Why she felt the need to do that is unclear. It may have been a self-confidence thing. A job where you have to look like someone else can't do a lot for your self-esteem. Other stars who like Jordan or Jodie Marsh may have job-titles that seem pretty flimsy but they have had a gradual introduction to fame and more importantly, they've worked to get there. Chantelle just appeared and was famous.

The marriage broke down, she dyed her hair brown and she's just had a baby with her idol's ex-husband. Confused? Alex Reid was a cage-fighter who became famous when he married Jordan. He also went on Celebrity Big Brother and won. Both him and Chantelle spoke to the newspapers throughout their relationship about their relationship. When everything is out for public consumption, there is nothing left inside for you.

I'm a comic and I talk a lot about my personal life but I don't share everything. There needs to be something left for friends and family otherwise you become brittle and empty. Whenever I see Jordan interviewed I feel for her. Her life is completely available for everyone to discuss, dissect and judge. I have certain respect for Jordan. She saw that big boobs and blonde hair were what was required for her chosen career and she went bigger and blonder than anyone else.

I worry about our society. Chantelle Houghton has been made famous as a little sub-plot, another way if maintaining interest in a TV show. She's financially secure but her life is in tatters. She has a new baby, a difficult relationship and both parties seem to talk to each other through newspapers, magazines and Twitter. They feel like a brother and sister squabbling to parents. The difference is that a parent would care and want to help rather than sell a few more copies.

People want to be famous because life looks easy. Life is not easy for anyone. There is always a struggle. Actors are at the mercy of a production schedule if they are filming. If they are in a play there are matinees twice a week and a performance in the evening six days a week. Often big runs can last a year. Acting can be brutal. I was filming the day I found out my father died and they didn't stop the production. They couldn't. Actors may appear at glamorous parties occasionally but you have to work to get there. Comedians gig for years for very little money before they make it on TV shows and even the biggest rock star occasionally closes the door on his hotel room after a huge concert and feels utterly alone.

These people struggle and they do a job. There is a talent there to keep them afloat when the negativity sets in.

What keeps reality stars afloat? We make people famous. We are amused by the ups and downs of their lives but it's their real lives. It's not funny. It's cruel.

Chantelle Houghton now has a baby girl to look after. It's hard enough having a new baby without the stress she's going through right now. She won't let her cross-dressing ex see the baby. You couldn't make this up. It sounds like the plot of a bad soap-opera. Chantelle is still famous but I wonder if the fame she was after just feels like a poison chalice now.

I really hope life improves for her. She may well be wealthy but emotional contentment is so hard to find. I hope she stops sharing every detail with the world and focuses on her baby. That's where true happiness lies.

 

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