26/06/2013 13:30 BST | Updated 26/08/2013 06:12 BST

Why RiRi Is Right and Liz Jones Is Wrong


"'Role Model' is not a position or title that I have ever campaigned for"

RiRi makes a fair point.

When Liz Jones unleashed her tirade on Rihanna in the Daily Mail on Tuesday she pulled no punches. "Pop's poisonous princess" was accused of glamourising drugs, guns and alcohol. Of being a bad example to the young women who follow her.

"I don't pretend that I'm like you, I just live"

It's not Rihanna's job to live up to our ideal of the perfect role model for young women. She expresses herself for a living. She's very good at it. Right now she's young and spends a lot of time going out. She's really no different from other girls her age in that respect. She just does it on a bigger scale - and we all get to come along for the ride.

I interviewed a young Nickelodeon starlet a little while back. She confessed to me that the biggest issue with being famous these days is camera phones. From the second you leave your front door in the morning everything you do and say can be instantly captured and uploaded to the world via social networking. That a person in the spotlight can never relax because essentially everyone is a papparazzi everyone has their own public platform to display you on.

"And I don't know why y'all still act so surprised by any of it"

Rihanna is under an incessant level of scrutiny most of us cannot even begin to imagine. To try and modify her behavior would be a waste of time. She's never alone. Far better for her as a person to be who she is and let her life unfold genuinely as it is happening. No one gets away with manipulation in the spotlight these days. We are all constantly watching.

"If you sincerely wanna help little girls more than their own parents do"

Protecting our little girls from their idols is not an effective way to regulate their behaviour. What our little girls need is an honest spectrum of women and their lifestyles in the media. More balance. Not just the same handful of women over and over. If Rihanna does decide she wants to change? That she isn't happy? Then she like every other young woman deserves to have access to their own role models. People who have been there. Who can stand up and be an example for them. It's not Rihanna's fault we aren't there yet. But the more women that speak up, that go about living their sober lives, in the spotlight and out. Openly. Confidently. Unapologetically. The more chance young women have of being able to make informed choices.

"I got my own f*cked up sh*t to work on"

When a wild lifestyle turns into substance abuse, when abuse turns into addiction, we also see that played out in the spotlight. Nobody could accuse Amy Winehouse of glamourising her addiction. Her lifestyle was never one envied by little girls. We saw it expressed in all its ugliness. Her bewildered parents pleading with her to get help. So desperate that they resorted to public radio phone-ins. The awful paparazzi shots of blood soaked shoes and hollow-eyed confusion.

Amy died never having access to that elusive sober girl role model either.

It's our fault that young women are not being offered this public access to sober girls. Because the ones who have been there are staying quiet. Refusing to be tarred with the brush of addiction. Refusing to stand up and admit they've overcome their drunk girl days, and now have happy fulfilled lives. Because we are afraid of what people will think that we will lose or jobs, our relationships. That no one will want us.

It's not good enough.

We owe it to young women to be what we never had. Strong, visible, vibrant examples of sober girls who have dealt with their own "f*cked up sh*t" and have come out the other side. And since everyone does have a platform and everyone is under constant scrutiny these days? It's not even a concerted effort to be that sober girl publicly.

That's not Rihanna's job.

It's ours.