Katie Price vs. Britney Spears: Who’s Ruining The Kids?

Katie Price

Katie Price

Y’know when your friends give up smoking and suddenly they can’t even stand near a bonfire without coughing in a really obvious and pointed way? That appears to be what’s happening with the British former glamour model Katie Price at the moment.

Katie (a kind of British Kim Kardashian) threw her tuppence-worth into the debate about the over-sexualization of children, specifically pre-teen girls in fake tan, full make-up, wearing clothes which would be fairly revealing and provocative on a grown woman, or worse, contain padding which suggest curves no child should have.

As a mother of young children herself, Katie is very much against that, and she knows who to blame.

“When you look at young girls at senior school today, they’re wearing the shortest skirts and all trying to look like Britney. So I suppose maybe that’s where it all started — with Britney’s ‘Hit Me Baby’ video, with her running around in that school uniform.”

“Kids see these girls dressed in this provocative manner and want to copy them. It makes me angry, but it sells.” (via the Mirror)

A fair point, and one that’s been made many times in the last 13 years (yes, it really has been that long since “Baby, One More Time”). It’s all Britney’s fault. And the parents, well, Katie’s got a special place in hell reserved for them: “It is disgusting. I don’t agree with it at all. I think surgeons and mums who encourage these young girls to have cosmetic work done, or have fake false boobs, should be shot.”

“It’s horrible when you see these pictures of young children wearing make-up, having fake tans and so on. It’s sad.”

A fairly robust line to be taken, you’d have thought, from someone who has publicly been under the surgeon’s knife a few times, who has made a brand for herself built upon sexually-charged photographs, in newspapers which any child could easily open and digest. Oh, and someone whose own daughter, like all little girls, loves to experiment with mummy’s make-up and false eyelashes. A picture recently appeared which was taken from Facebook that showed little Princess (oh, didn’t we mention she called her daughter Princess? She did that) in full slap.

Katie appears to be more bothered about the unauthorised image than what it portrays: “That photo of Princess wearing make-up was from my sister’s Facebook page and was never meant to be made public. It was a one-off and I didn’t approve it. But Princess loves all that girlie stuff. She and her friends are always raiding my make-up bag, trying on my heels, trying to find new things. I think all little girls are like this. I don’t encourage her — it’s quite the opposite. I tell her, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.”

And to anyone who’d accuse Katie of being a hypocrite for speaking out in this way, she has a firm line of defense: “I say, ‘What have I done sexually, or otherwise?’ I don’t sleep around and I love being in relationships — I’m not interested in dating loads of guys or having one-night stands. And what have I done with Princess that’s so wrong? What have I done generally?”

Apart from the glamour modelling?

Now, no one is seeking to define Katie Price as just a former glamour model. She may have started her career in that industry, it may have been the thing which made her name in Britain, and allowed her to launch her own underwear and perfume brands, and she may have turned her enormously high profile in the tabloid press (the people who ran her topless shots in the first place) into a never ending run of autobiographies and reality TV shows about her fabulous life, but she’s not typical of what happens to former glamour models. She managed a feat of celebrity alchemy, to turn base instincts into commercial gold.

Not that she’s entirely left that world behind. Katie even launched her new reality TV series dressed in nothing but a cropped shirt and her underwear. She does still rely heavily on using sexualised imagery in order to sell her product. And guess who’s paying attention? Young girls.

In fact, her successes have proven to be inspirational for a whole generation of teenagers, for whom she’s the ultimate role model, a self-made career businesswoman for whom the product is also the CEO of the company.

So, even if we accept the idea that it’s still fame-raddled, confused, head-shaving mother-of-two Britney Spears that these young girls are seeking to emulate (Rihanna didn’t dance in a school uniform, y’see, can’t be her), they’re only doing it so that one day they can be more like Katie.

It might make you angry, but it sells.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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