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It's time to bid farewell to the It girl and say hello to the Instagram girl

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Image: Paris Hilton (pictured), Mischa Barton, Selena Gomez all fell victim to the pressures of fame, while Emma Watson has triumphed

Image: Paris Hilton (pictured), Mischa Barton, Selena Gomez all fell victim to the pressures of fame, while Emma Watson has triumphed

Image: Paris Hilton (pictured), Mischa Barton, Selena Gomez all fell victim to the pressures of fame, while Emma Watson has triumphed

Every generation has its own It girl. Those venerable folk now known as Baby Boomers swooned over Jean Shrimpton and Jane Birkin. Brooke Shields and Molly Ringwald reigned supreme in the 1980s, and the 1990s were dominated by insouciant Brits like Sadie Frost and Kate Moss.

With the turn of the millennium came a whole new crop of It girls - this time hailing from the other side of the Atlantic, whose every move we were privy to thanks to the concurrent rise of reality television.

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Mischa Barton Photo: Getty Images

Mischa Barton Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

Mischa Barton Photo: Getty Images

Watching The Simple Life we were swept up in the heady Hollywood lives of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie. They defined the new-look It girl of the 2000s - jeans were low, hair ironed flat and Juicy Couture was the last word in loungewear.

Hilton and Richie were part of a Noughties brat pack that counted Kimberly Stewart, Tara Reid, Mischa Barton and Lindsay Lohan in its ranks. It girls on their own, a tour de force when together, they were the first poster girls of the new millennium. But as with so many gone before them, what went up came spectacularly crashing down.

Filming came to a grinding halt for Hilton and Richie as they were both charged with separate drink-driving offences in 2006. They both served time in prison.

Tara Reid's career was blossoming in the late 1990s with cult films like Cruel Intentions and The Big Lebowski. She hit the mainstream with American Pie in 1999. In 2005, after a slew of questionable film roles, she, too, embarked on a reality TV career with the short-lived travel show Taradise. By then, her girl-next-door looks were botched after several dodgy cosmetic surgeries. Come 2007 and she was best known (Down Under, at least) for her appearances in budget phone company Dodo's television adverts.

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Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

Lohan appeared to be transitioning from child star to successful actress with 2003's runaway hit Mean Girls. But her arrest in 2007 was the first of many publicly documented incidents that have punctuated her demise since.

Barton showed equal promise with the hit TV show The OC in which she starred, but has struggled to earn recognition for subsequent acting work.

Now in their 30s and 40s, these former It girls have either repackaged themselves (Hilton is a DJ, Richie a fashion designer), or else cling to the fringes of the D-list, mostly making headlines for erratic behaviour caught on camera.

In January, Barton was filmed visibly intoxicated, hanging over her back fence while screaming expletives, and Lindsay Lohan has just signed up to a prank reality television programme.

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Emma Watson

Emma Watson

Emma Watson

The It girls of the 2000s were the first generation to grapple with round-the-clock, no-holds-barred limelight. These mediums were new and exciting and made them so very famous. But no one had the foresight to consider the downside to all that attention. In stark contrast, the It girls of the digital age are more than aware of how to manage both this new media and their image.

Former Disney protege, now singer and actress Selena Gomez appears on the latest cover of Vogue. In the accompanying article, she talks mental health and her time spent in a rehabilitation clinic, all while advocating her preferred method of therapy.

Hers is a typical Millennial proclivity to exhibit 'realness' in a very unrealistic way, such as the timely Instagram post of herself collapsed on stage before disappearing from the social network to enter a Tennessee clinic.

Although Gomez does not talk about drugs or alcohol (you can take the girl out of Disney…), her descent into rehab and subsequent discourse on the topic can be compared to any number of It girls.

What is not comparable is the candour of, say, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, whose reflection on substance abuse was totally transparent.

It was refreshing to hear from somebody with so much privilege admit that, yes, their elevated position in society meant they had a pretty fabulous time but when things got ugly it was hideous.

When Paris Hilton's sex tape was leaked in 2004 she appeared powerless to stop its distribution. When nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and, most recently, Emma Watson, were leaked, they responded with eloquent, impassioned statements on women's rights - as well as hefty lawsuits. These young women are so used to curating their own image that they still manage to own it even when it's been stolen from them.

It's time to bid farewell to the It girl, and say hello to the Insta girl. They are right to take control of their own image but the filters, selfies and press releases have eradicated the devil-may-care, not-suitable-for-television attitude that made them so watchable in the first place.

Sunday Independent