Comment: Frozen hamster face is far preferable to 'haggard' for Carol Vorderman in the jungle
Cattiness over cosmetic surgery might hurt TV stars, but anything is better than looking old
Published 20/11/2016 | 02:30
Comments made last week about Carol Vorderman's appearance weren't the very worst that could have been made about her.
As the latest series of I'm a Celebrity… began, Carol was the one causing consternation. Never mind Kim Kardashian's bottom breaking the internet, there was a whirlwind, mostly of horror, on Twitter last week in reaction to Carol's face.
Some people were worried that it was going to explode; some people compared it to the face of a hamster; most people were amazed by how "frozen" it appeared. Not very many thought she looked good.
But no one said she looked old. Because to say that the 55-year-old TV presenter looked old would be the very worst thing you could say about her, or any woman, particularly on the television.
Now, we do not know if Carol Vorderman's face is, as was speculated, frozen, as if from Botox. Nor do we know if her face looks puffy and her cheeks look prominent because she has had other work done. We don't know if she has had any cosmetic work done, though she has said in the past that while she wouldn't fancy a face lift, she'd consider having "little things done".
You have to wonder why people felt so exercised about her new look. Why is it taken as such an affront? It's her face - surely she can do with it what she wants? But the reaction is that of people betrayed. If Carol, such a smart and clever woman, is going down that route, then what hope is there for humanity?
Funnily, when Carol won Rear of the Year a really properly silly award, not once, but twice, in 2011 and 2014 (when she was 51 and 54) there was no great indignation. Instead, that was met with more of a "good on her at her age" reaction. Potentially getting a few pricks of a needle is met with greater disapproval, though.
Funnily, too, no one has ever gone mad about Carol's face when it has been photographed on the red carpet or in magazines. And that's possibly because she has always been glammed up to the nines in these situations, as she usually also is in almost all of the candid paparazzi shots we see of her. Because unlike bluestocking Countdown Carol of old, or young, the mid-life Carol is always photo-ready.
You can't be photo-ready in the I'm a Celebrity... jungle, though.
That is part of the popularity of the show - the very fact that there's no make-up, no polish. That is hard, though, if you are a woman of Carol's age, who knows that the likes of Myleene Klass got her second stab at celebrity by standing under a waterfall in a white bikini.
The men who have been popular on I'm a Celebrity... have done it with charm or wit, but that card is more difficult for women to play, because the truth is that their looks are taken into account, too. And no matter how fit a 55-year-old woman is, no one is going to say she looks good in her white bikini. They're going to say that she looks good in her white bikini for her age. Which is a comment on age instead of appearance. Which is a way of saying "you're an auld one".
You can't expect Carol Vorderman to take the risk of people saying that. That is the TV kiss of death. Frozen hamster face is far preferable to that. Before we go mad on how unsisterly it is to accuse Carol of being unsisterly for seeming to have had some work done, however, spare a thought for Ryan Giggs. Last week, while on TV commentating on the England v Spain soccer match, the former Manchester United player was the focus of another Twitter storm. "How much Botox has Ryan Giggs had?" asked one commentator, as many, many more commented on how improbably smooth, tight and shiny the 42-year-old's forehead was.
Admittedly, old photos of his face show that he was a bit furrowed before, but not so as you'd notice. But maybe he did - and if he did, then if he feels better now, all shiny and new, good for him.
Of course, the argument stands that cosmetic work might make the recipient feel better and believe they look better, but to everyone else, they may not look better at all. Just different. Just tweaked. Just a bit "off".
In Carol's case, if she did have work done, the fact is that in a full-make-up situation, the "few little things" can be improving. Which is to say smoothing, sharpening.
Men, of course, don't have the fallback of make-up, nor are they excused vanity in the same way that women are. So, in a funny way, if Ryan Giggs is going to have a bit of Botox, it's both harder for him to hide and harder for him to justify. He's not just letting down the sisterhood, as some would say in the case of Carol, he's being less of a man.
The fact that we regularly think less of people who get a bit of cosmetic work done is curious. In some way, those of us who don't do it seem to feel betrayed by those who do; or maybe just resentful of the fact that they're showing us up by looking so unlined. Even if that's improbably or unappealingly unlined. And those who don't do it can tend to be terribly pious and smug, which is sometimes even less appealing.
When asked once about her beauty habits, Michelle Obama said that she doesn't do much because she's just so busy. She manages to squeeze in some dermabrasion and the odd facial, but that's it. How utterly honourable.
Last week, as she did her final Vogue shoot as first lady, Michelle confessed that smooth skin was down to an organic cream that functions, temporarily, as a natural Botox.
All very noble of Michelle, but more bothersome was that it was Kate Middleton, who is a mere 34, who recommended it to her. You're never too young to worry about being called old.