Gemma Collins: the perils of living in a glass house
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
Gemma Collins left the I’m a Celebrity jungle this week after struggling with conditions in the camp. Most notably her claims of being starved and having malaria; that prisoners would be treated better than she was and her erratic mood swings all contributed to a wave of criticism from Twitter users, as well as other TV personalities from the ITV stable.
Aside from her brief stint in I’m a Celebrity, and a turn on the second series of Splash! Collins has always been presented on or off the camera immaculately, and she’s an attractive woman who’s clearly seen the benefits of using her figure to her advantage with a successful design label to her name, built on her personality and style. Most of the abuse aimed at her while she was in the jungle concentrated on her weight, something she’s battled with publicly since being in the spotlight. Even before taking part in the jungle she attracted negative attention simply for being a plus-size woman which she’s tried to address by attempting to slim down, but later seemingly reconciled with her appearance.
Whilst she’s invited the cameras in, and with them came the sneers and snipes of detractors, it’s quite important to remember that regardless of fame and fortune, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in the course of a year, and the average dress size in the UK is a 16. Obesity-related illness and heart disease is killing people at a faster rate than some cancers. Both are things which concern us all. Of course there are clear physical health implications for carrying too much weight; there are also mental health considerations to be taken into account when someone is subject to abuse and bullying. Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight and people can’t be expected to hide out until some magical before and after reveal session, life simply doesn’t work like that. It’s all too easy to say that she brought it on herself and that deserves criticism, but she’s where she is because of simple economics – supply and demand.
Reality TV has become a highly lucrative industry and what it purports to reflect is a side of life people can relate to and find entertaining. Ironically the expectations of reality, confused by the stereotypes and behaviour generated by an increasingly hyped consumer culture are more and more demanding. Judging other people’s appearance or demeanour is not a new phenomenon, it’s one of the darker parts of our human nature. As the saying above says, stones shouldn’t be thrown, but it seems that the panes of glass are being removed or replaced as soon as they break.
Gemma’s TV career began in the glass house of reality TV and could possibly end there as the Mirror has discussed, but will she become one of those figures we love to hate? Certainly there’s always going to be a Marmite-type response to anyone in the public eye, the careers of Katie Hopkins, Rylan Clark and Alison Hammond among others are testament to the fact that diversification from their primary sources of fame can prove worthwhile. She’s talked of leaving TV altogether, but who knows; it’s unlikely this will be the last we hear of Gemma, let’s hope she’s well-armed if she chooses to stay.