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  • Writer's pictureAlex Sim-Wise

The Brain Edit - D



I’ve felt the urge to blog for a while now, and I’ve had this mist of a feeling of an idea percolating just out of reach for months. It lives maybe somewhere between my shoulders in that place where when you’re old and you sleep funny you get a deep pain that you can’t itch or touch. That’s where this blog has been hiding... and try as hard as I might, I couldn’t figure out how to get it out or how to fit it into my alphabetical system as D is a shit letter.

I mean, DICKS we’ve already covered, DAIRY just makes me shit myself, and we could get into DISNEY but that’s not a current hyper focus and I can’t be arsed.

So I’m just going to type and see what comes out, which in itself is hard to do because I can’t write unless I am sat in bed, on my laptop, at night, with no noise. Typing on my phone is not the same, it’s a poor man’s substitute. I can’t get into the right headspace on my phone... and as I have a husband that goes to bed at 10pm, and both of us work a bajillion hours and have a million things to do, finding the time to do this feels like a selfish luxury. So I’ll try and blast out as much as I can and none of it will make sense because good writing takes time and a hundred rewrites. So that, my friends, is why I don't write anymore. That, and because no-one fucking reads any of it, it’s like whispering into a void.

Maybe this feeling is just DOOM. Or Discomfort.


Yeah, that’s it…

DISCOMFORT


I get this uncomfortable feeling sometimes when lying in bed, a feeling that things aren’t quite right in the world. Which given the times that we live in is probably quite a normal feeling. And I tell myself I most likely feel uncomfortable because I have a massive lump growing on my back (which is a cyst, apparently, but I want a second opinion). I keep myself up at night worrying about whether it really IS a cyst (given my track record with cysts I’d say I'm 99% sure it is one, yeah) and whether I will ever get around to getting it removed. It’s about 100 times the size of the one I had on my face, as if the last one got it’s monster cousin to come back and bully me.


But yeah this cyst causes me great discomfort, despite it not actually hurting or being that noticeable to anyone but me and maybe the more astute members of my OnlyFans.

DEATH


I never thought I would be disturbed by the death of Paul Cattermole, but here we are.

With random celebrity deaths, the ones that hit the hardest are the ones that seem to happen in slow motion and feel somewhat preventable. With Cattermole (and in the past Lil’ Chris) there is this extra feeling of failure and lost opportunity that is such a heartbreaking one, and one that I know from experience can be hard to handle if you don’t have much stability or support in your life.

While they were inescapably the soundtrack to my university days I was never a massive S Club 7 fan in that I wouldn’t have gone to see them or bought their album or anything. I didn’t DISlike them, they were just… there. But for at least a week I have been sat haunted by their cheery tunes on an endless loop, thinking what an absolute ghoulish taunt this music must be for everyone involved.

Because lets face it, all of S Club have fallen on hard times since their heyday and the fake saccharine optimism in Reach must have felt like a particularly tough cookie to chew on in recent years, once they realised how utterly ripped off they had been by the record industry at large.

Imagine singing such a hopeful upbeat song, one that resonated with millions and made people lots of money while only making 30 grand a year for yourself. Then imagine having to go on Loose Women twenty years later, broken and completely skint, only to be bullied and humiliated by those humourless harpies for not being able to afford the shirt on your back? It’s like something off of Black Mirror. Just so needlessly cruel.

But that is our media, our entertainment. A whole industry that celebrates the shining few, propped up on the backs of the broken. Everyone fighting for their 15 minutes, everyone looking for someone lower in the pecking order to break to elongate their bank balance or their time in the spotlight. Because while everyone loves a success story, they love a failure story more. And we the public are massively to blame here: the higher a star climbs, the more we like to give them a good kicking when they fall.

And I count myself here, because I remember in my more popular days meeting Bradley from S Club and being a bit of a cunt. I was headlining one of the FRONT magazine university tours with Kitty Lea and a northern model whose name I forget (who had a skin condition that I now realise was ringworm) and we spent the whole tour date running away from Bradley backstage, at one point hiding in the toilet so we could get away from him.

For context, it was 2009, and we could sense he was on the decline, that he was someone who’d had his day and was clinging on to the residual fame as hard as he could. We couldn’t articulate why but we just wanted to get as far away from him as possible, as if the failure we could smell on him was catching.

A few years later, when my career stalled, I got to experience myself what happens when the stench of failure starts to stick and had a lot more sympathy. In hindsight I can see that he was probably just trying hard to be cool and impress us, us being supposedly sexy models and all, but at the time we just found his behaviour really off-putting and entitled.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about the concept of celebrity a lot recently, and how it is that in my old life as a model I had such a ringside seat to spectate on it from within.

Models had (and still have) a special proximity to celebrity in that while we may not have been massive stars ourselves, we were seen as the prize - the reward for being a good celebrity. As the prize, celebrities chased us, which gave us a lot of the same access that they had - mostly to parties and free stuff, but also opportunities. This kind of access was unique in that it let you see how it all worked from the inside as a kind of invisible person as no-one was really paying that much attention to you, despite it being REALLY important that you be there.

So here is what I learned:


  1. Fame and celebrity is a kind of alchemy, of hard work, luck, and magic. People will claim that they know how to manufacture it, but they don’t. You can put all the pieces together but nobody 100% knows what will stick, or what the general public will take a shine to (the magic part). That’s why we have all these godawful audition shows nowadays. The production line of fame.

  2. Being a celebrity is like being the genie in the lamp: Huge, magical power on stage, teeny weeny box outside of it. Especially backstage, which is always so unsatisfying, full of bored people sitting round stinking in decrepit rooms and portocabins that look like old classrooms. I’ve never seen any shagging backstage, which in itself is really disappointing for anyone who has ever watched Almost Famous and imagined otherwise. Everyone is just tired and/or waiting for shit to happen, and official afterparties are always dull, without fail. ESPECIALLY The Brit Awards.

  3. The REAL afterparties happen impromptu at people’s studios, houses, and hotel rooms. To which I was usually invited, but wouldn’t always go unless I was in a group as this was the 00’s and everyone was rapey as fuck.

  4. ALL celebrities - even ones you fancied or looked up to as a kid - are just normal people, which sounds obvious and trite when I type it out but it’s the truth. Some are more affected than others and some may believe they are better than others but that’s just drugs or untreated mental illness.

  5. I found that mostly, everyone just wanted to be liked, and that people become celebrities usually because they have a history of NOT being liked and seek adoration to fill a hole.

  6. When a star is on the ascendant they think that they are invincible and that it will last forever. Most don’t realise that whether you are a FRONT model or a film star your time being relevant is limited to three years or less, unless you become beloved (like Paul McCartney) or manage to repeatedly reinvent yourself.

I managed 3 reinventions: from cheesy Playboy model, to trendy alt model, to TV host.

I liked being a TV host the most because it gave me the legitimacy I lacked as a model and even more access to the weird world of celebrity, which I continued to find morbidly fascinating. Despite not having a lot of experience in the field I was well suited to interviewing people because I was interested in what they had to say and I didn’t get starstruck. Well, not often anyway.


However, the most difficult people to interview were new and unsigned bands, who were usually drunk and/or nervous and felt like being a dick was what was expected of them, or older acts who were sick of being asked the same questions, day in, day out, for twenty years. The interview process as a whole is pretty tedious. While working for MTV at European festivals I would sit in the queue at press junkets listening to bands and celebrities getting asked the most basic questions over and over, watching them get progressively more bored and pissed off as the day went on. It gave me a lot of time to think up how I could approach the interview in a different way to make it more interesting for everyone involved. I realised that all you had to do to break the drudgery was ask something different, something new and exciting, something that showed you knew a bit about them. You know, something that showed you cared.

I wanted to be good at interviewing so finding that thing became my thing, my quest. I would stay up for hours researching my subjects, finding details about the drummer or the keyboard player so that they wouldn’t feel left out. Because no-one usually interviews the drummer or the keyboard player by choice. Get them on side and you’re onto a winner. Defeat the singer’s first catty or pious remark meant to catch you out with a funnier pun and you have the interview in the bag.

Interviewing people was fun but when I think back on that time, all I remember is travelling a lot and being very lonely. I’d go away for a few weeks, interview a bunch of people that would impress my friends back home and then just sit at home afterwards doing nothing. Decompressing I guess.


Occasionally I would go out to mad parties and make precarious friendships formed in venue toilets where you’re all trying to get something out of each other, whether it’s fame, backstage access, or drugs. Everyone wants something in that world and while the friendships feel real at the time, they are the first people who will disappear once you stop getting them access to stuff.

And you know, I’m not one of those people who is bitter about it because I feel like I lived it and it was an experience that makes me appreciate my current life more. Because none of that life was real… and I suppose that is what I am getting at with this ramble.

I feel sorry for people who get caught up that world and for whatever reason can’t escape, even when that industry is done with them. For me, that was my biggest fear in being famous in any way and why I left when I had the chance. I didn’t want to be clinging on like Bradley. I couldn’t bear the thought of being publicly humiliated, or of not being able to go to a supermarket on a Saturday or get a normal job without being harassed. I wanted a normal life and a family and I didn't see the two worlds as being compatible.

In fact, I remember the exact moment when I realised the celeb life wasn’t for me and it was at a Call Of Duty event in London in 2011. I had been hired to interview the red carpet and after my duties were done (lol) I was bored so I decided to head home early. Walking around the back of the venue I saw a big crowd of men shouting, and the only thing I can compare it to is it was like the pack of kids that appear whenever there is a fight at school. They were shouting and hollering, and lights were flashing and going off, and at the centre of it, cowering in his car, was Ashley Cole. And look, I can enjoy a good mobile phone up the jacksie joke like anyone, but there was something about the look on his face that made me feel so indescribably sorry for him. Like, this was his life and he looked so fucking scared.

Looking at him right then something clicked in my head and I thought: Fuck that. I don’t want that. So I walked away from it all and did something else.

And that’s probably what happened to Paul Cattermole on a scale of about ten billion. One day he decided he'd had enough and walked away thinking that he could start again, do something else… not realising that at that level you can’t. You can’t walk away and do something else. You are stuck in the nostalgia olfactory of people’s brains and that is where you’ll stay until you die and do you think he knew that when he signed his life away to Simon Fuller as a teenager? Did he fuck. Because the entertainment industry runs on lies and promises, they promise you the world and deliver maybe 0.1% of it if you’re lucky, and keep the rest of it for themselves, because it is FUCKED, made purely to profit higher up cunts like Fuller and Cowell and aid them in their quests to look like walking autopsies.

And part of that illusion is this idea that being a celebrity is GREAT. It’s the best. It’s the one thing we should all aspire to because who doesn’t want to be on Britain’s Got Talent or Love Island and be pumped up full of MONEY and ATTENTION and ACCESS. You’d have to be weird to not want that, right?

What they don’t tell you is that it’s not as much money as you think, certainly not enough to live off forever, and that the press attention and limited access to normal things is not worth the money that you are paid, because the downsides of fame are FAR greater than the upsides.

How much would you want to be paid to be shouted at in the street every day of your life?


How much would you want to be paid to subjected to constant online abuse?


How much would you want to be paid to be exposed to a press scrum of aggressive strange men who hack your phone and go through your bin every time you leave the house?


Probably quite a lot, right? Guaranteed whatever figure you have in your head wouldn’t be enough.

Thankfully, as a peripheral, I never personally experienced any of that. I saw it happen to other people though and it was rank.


In truth, the only thing I miss about those days was the feeling of possibility. Every day I woke up not knowing what the fuck was going to happen and every day my phone would ring with a new possibility. Did I want to be a naked fox in a Guy Ritchie movie? Yes please. Do you want £1000 and massive TV? As a matter of fact, I do. Can you come to Spain to investigate a cannabis festival? Why not.

I suspect it is this feeling of possibility that other people miss too.

Life’s not like that anymore and the possibility calls are few and far between, but that’s not to say that they don’t happen once in a blue moon. I love my life now and I am infinitely happier, but when I try to explain my old life to my 8-year-old daughter she can’t comprehend any of it. She’s just impressed that I used to go to the same parties as Charlie Simpson, who she only knows from the Masked Singer.

Sometimes I wonder what celebrity will look like in years to come and whether we, as the general public, will ever soften in our behaviour. Whether we will ever stop being so fucking mental, or whether our need to tear people apart is some base level desire that we’ve harboured since our bear baiting days. Can fans ever be normal? Can the general public ever be nice? Are we destined to always be Commodus?

And look, I’ll admit that I used to fancy Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus back in the day, but on a recent Gladiator rewatch he was creepy as fuck. Lets aspire to be more than weird snivelling jealous pedo bastards, hey. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Probably just that I’m a soft fuck who wants TV to be kinder (and less Simon Cowell centric).

My mate Von wanted me to write a blog on sexy arthouse films and reading this back I probably should have done that instead. Hahaha.

Oh well.


Devo’d.


Sim xx



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