Friday 15 December 2017

Cheryl is better at playing the game better than anyone - and this time, she's playing us all for fools

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini attends Kering On The Red Carpet At The 69th Cannes Film Festival on May 13, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering)
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini attends Kering On The Red Carpet At The 69th Cannes Film Festival on May 13, 2016 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images for Kering)
Cheryl and Liam Payne
Cheryl Cole and Ashley Cole attend Sarah Harding's birthday at Kanaloa Nightclub on November 21, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Sylvia Linares/FilmMagic)
Cheryl and her boyfriend Liam Payne welcomed their first child in March
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and Liam Payne at Salmontini restarant on March 9, 2016 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Milan/GC Images)
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and husband Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini arrive at Nice Airport for The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2015 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/GC Images)
Ashley and Cheryl Cole attend the Universal Party following the Brit Awards 2009 at the Claridge's Hotel on February 18, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Dave M. Benett/Getty Images)
Cheryl posted this selfie on Instagram
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Where do start with Cheryl?

Undeniably beautiful. Moderately talented. Knows how to play the game better than anyone.

At 34, she is a first-time mother, basking in the bubble of new motherhood that everyone should be able to enjoy. But instead of taking a self-imposed hiatus on her maternity leave, she is dangling just enough of a carrot to keep her fans interested until she’s ready for her big reveal.

Much like Kim Kardashian, who went into virtual hiding for six weeks after giving birth to her first child North in 2013, Cheryl won’t be letting us see her until she’s decided we’re ready.

Cheryl and Liam Payne
Cheryl and Liam Payne

It’s very much Cheryl’s world and we’re all just living in it: take her pregnancy, for example.

She refused to acknowledge the pregnancy until it was over, which I must emphasise is a decision that every woman has the right to make, famous or not. However, when most female celebrities are expecting and want to keep it to themselves, they avoid the spotlight – they don’t visit high profile restaurants or appear on the BBC with a visible baby bump that’s very clearly not being addressed. They don’t confirm the news by cradling their baby bump for a charity campaign while their PR still gives the same, “no comment” for six months.

Look at Eva Mendes, she’s a successful actress married to equally famous actor Ryan Gosling, but when she was expecting both of their children, we didn’t know until months after the fact. Sandra Bullock quietly adopted her son Louis in 2010. People working backstage at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion didn’t even know Irina Shayk was pregnant last December and it was only when she and boyfriend Bradley Cooper were pictured pushing a stroller that the world knew they had a baby.

Cheryl is undeniably very famous and her boyfriend is a global superstar, but she finds herself in the precarious position of being a popstar who failed to make it outside the UK & Ireland, which means she needs to work the media in the same way a former American soap star with an upcoming turn on Dancing With The Stars contestant might do in the US.

Cheryl cradles her baby bump
Cheryl cradles her baby bump

We all know celebrities manipulate spotlight to suit their agenda, but few do it as blatantly obvious as Cheryl. She has no qualms about shutting down questions she doesn’t like and feigning offence at non-offensive commentary, but has no problem cashing in her cheques for beauty campaigns and appearing on magazine covers, built off the back of her public persona.

Reinvention is difficult, but not impossible. Cheryl is clearly entering the next chapter of her life and basking in the new glow of motherhood that everyone should be able to enjoy and I genuinely believed that this was the new Cheryl, one half of a celebrity couple who valued privacy above all else. And they had me - until they had something to sell.

Once Liam had to promote his new album, we knew more than we cared to about what really goes on at Chez Chiam.

We know what Cheryl weighs ("She’s lost all the baby weight and she’s like 'Oh, I’m so big'," he says);  their love is unbreakable ("You know our love for each other can't be more serious so it is what it is, I guess"); and the fact he wasn’t sold on his other half’s choice of name ("To be honest at first I wasn’t having it, I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t sure.")

Cheryl and her boyfriend Liam Payne welcomed their first child in March
Cheryl and her boyfriend Liam Payne welcomed their first child in March

At every opportunity, in interview after interview, Liam brought up Bear and Cheryl; giving fans just enough to whet their appetite of what like is really like for one of pop’s most famous couples behind closed doors.

It was in direct contradiction to their pleas for privacy and through his incessant oversharing, it became clear that we know we all play a role in their grand plan of maintaining public interest when there’s something to promote. 

Cheryl is what we call "selectively private". Like most of her modern celebrity counterparts, they complain about the paparazzi following them, yet have no problem posing in front of landmarks on social media. They aren’t happy with negative feedback, but rarely speak of the millions of genuine fans it took to put them in the position they’re in.

In short, they’re precious.

Cheryl Cole and Ashley Cole attend Sarah Harding's birthday at Kanaloa Nightclub on November 21, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Sylvia Linares/FilmMagic)
Cheryl Cole and Ashley Cole attend Sarah Harding's birthday at Kanaloa Nightclub on November 21, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Sylvia Linares/FilmMagic)

We’ve all done jobs we regret early in our careers, doing the grunt work is part of climbing the ladder. But as Cheryl became independently successful of Girls Aloud in 2008, she didn’t pull back and claim the privacy she so desperately wanted. She was married to footballer Ashley Cole and two years earlier, sold the pictures to OK! Magazine.

Cheryl held on to the Cole surname, not because of some bizarre sentimentality (he reportedly cheated on her several times and humiliated her in the press with his behaviour) but Cheryl Cole was a hell of a lot more valuable than Cheryl Tweedy. Cheryl Tweedy had a conviction for assault, which was accused of being racially motivated, on a bathroom attendant (she was found guilty of assault, but cleared of the racism allegation).

Cheryl Cole is Britain’s Sweetheart.

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and husband Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini arrive at Nice Airport for The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2015 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/GC Images)
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini and husband Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini arrive at Nice Airport for The 68th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2015 in Nice, France. (Photo by Alex B. Huckle/GC Images)

But she soon found love again, albeit for a brief while, with French restaurateur Jean Bernard Fernandez-Versini, whom she met in 2014 and wed just three months later. She learned after being burned by Ashley that she wanted it to be a bit more private this time around. Only four guests were in attendance, but a number of celebrities were invited to her wedding party at celebrity haunt The Library Club in St Martin's Lane in London.

Weeks later, she was said to be unhappy that no one was referring to her by her new, second married name and expressed her disappointment she was still being called Cole, despite the fact that she had been known by that surname for years.

Their relationship wasn’t to last and just 18 months later, she was in the middle of a very public, acrimonious divorce number two.

During this period, due to the stress of her marriage breakdown, she had lost an uncomfortable amount of weight and most were quick to sympathise with her as there was clearly something deeper happening. What did Cheryl do?

Wear a crop top and tell everyone to stop body shaming her.

When their divorce was finalised, Cheryl pushed for a divorce due to her husband’s "unreasonable behaviour". All of that is bound to take its toll on anybody, no matter how much money is resting in your bank account.

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini arrives for the X Factor Live Auditions, Event City, Manchester. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
Cheryl Fernandez-Versini arrives for the X Factor Live Auditions, Event City, Manchester. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

So, it’s understandable if she wanted to lay low and focus on what’s next.

But why do that when you can show the world your new toyboy? And so enters Liam Payne, the former One Direction singer, whom she first met when he was just 14 years old auditioning for the X Factor. Much like Katie Holmes’ ill-fated marriage to Tom Cruise, he confessed he always had a crush on her and in essence, he was living his teenage fantasy.

Because Cheryl doesn’t move at the same speed as the rest of us, within five months, there were rumours they were expecting. And those rumours went on for what seemed like an eternity, while she displayed her visible baby bump at various appearances, while her spokesperson confirmed she would not be commenting.

It’s her body and it’s her choice if she wants to share that news, if ever, but if anyone outside the showbiz world was to walk around eight months pregnant and refuse to say they were pregnant, you’d think it’s a bit weird, no?

It was only when the couple’s first child was born in March, they both announced the new arrival with equally sweet posts on Instagram. And ever since, her taste for posts have been tough to sawllow.

Yes, Cheryl, your boyfriend and baby daddy is 24 years old, but you’re 10 years older and a fully-fledged grown woman. You have no business adding a bunny filter to your selfie, which not only makes you look creepily young, but shows your lack of awareness about the power you hold among young women.

What does it say to your millions of young fans that someone who enjoys a successful career as one of the most beautiful women in the world can’t even share a selfie of themselves without a filter?

How much more of an empowering message could you send if you showed that even though you’re not feeling like your best, you shouldn’t hide away until you’re 'picture perfect'?

We’re already filtered within an inch of our lives and it doesn’t do anything for anyone’s confidence if even someone as beautiful as Cheryl refuses to let the mask slip for even a second.

Cheryl posted this selfie on Instagram
Cheryl posted this selfie on Instagram

And the bunny? That just looks stupid.

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