Letter to a Past-It Girl

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The Independent Culture
One minute you're It, the next you're in rehab. And that can be tough on a girl's sense of wellbeing.

Tamarillo Shrubbe-Forster has been there and been done. Here's her step- by-step, easy-to-follow advice on

how to survive the ups and downs of celebrity's greasy pole. Go on, girl, have a free one on me!

I do think it's hard that the world seems to find it funny that poor Tara P-T is seeking treatment for exhaustion. Of course, I can understand it for, to ordinary people, she must seem a splendid, untouchable figure, spangled with stardust, just a little bit magical; it must be beyond their ability to imagine that such a paragon could also be vulnerable. And yes, to the outsider, the so-called "It" Girls - nothing to do with information technology, I can assure you - must seem almost immortal. But I can assure you it is not so.

The life of an It girl has its own pacific stresses. One has so much to live up to, not only as the inheritor of the mantle of previous generations - Clara Bow, Wallis Simpson, Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, Princess Margaret, Jane Asher, Paula Yates, Koo Stark, Liz Hurley - but because one has set such high standards for oneself. The hours spent in hairdressers', couture fittings, manicurists', colonic irrigationists', crystal healers' and personal trainers' take a lot out of a girl. You have to get up jolly early in the morning - sometimes as early as 11 - to keep up with it all. And the reading! Tatler, Harpers, OK!, TV Quick all have to be got through when they hit the newsstands so you are prepared to make conversation with anybody from a Duke right down to a footballer or pop star. Poor people who have only to think about where their next meal is coming from, they have no idea how hard it is.

How do I know all this? From personal experience. My maiden name was Tamarillo Blythe-Plunkington - one I'm sure you remember. After all, I was rarely out of Tatler myself! Of course, all that is behind me now, and I only go to three or four parties a week, but when I read about the familiar trials that little Tara, Zara, Tamara, Copybara, Caprice, Normandie, India, Africa, Gondola, Salmonella, Gabriella and Psittacosis go through, and remember that my own Mandarin isn't far off the Berkeley Dress Show, can't help but feel that they would all have benefited from advice from one who has been through it before. So I have put together a guide for the current generation. There will always be It girls, after all: the public needs people to look up to and, even though we're in the grip of a socialist government, noblesse still continues to obleedge.

It Girls: How To Become One

Self-Belief Is All We live, thank goodness, in a democratic society these days, so prackly anyone - even jews or people with parents in manufacturing - can become an It girl. But if you don't believe in yourself, no one will believe in you.

Ecudation, Ecudation And Ecudation Its abslutly essential that your father stumps up for a good school. After all, it's all very well having a bunch of GCSEs, but if you don't want to end up a hairy-armpitted bluestocking, you have to know how to use your cutlery! Besides, the right school will set you up with a whole host of nice friends for life.

Dye For Your Country No one wants to waste time with some dull little mouse, so you must be prepared to make the effort. Remember: no It girl worth her salt has ever been brunette. In time, you will find that your wardrobe costs less (see Promote The Local Tradespeople, below) but initially you will need to invest money as well as time and effort. Your father will know the importants of the right investments, having spoken to his stockbroker at least once a week and probly even had him to dinner, and so he will understand.

Get A Godparent Your parents should have got you at least one royal when you were young, but if they failed, be coy. Buy some diamonds and, if anyone comments on them, say: "My godfather gave them me for my Eighteenth." Then make it clear that you don't want to be indiscreet about your family connexions.

Love Those Country Sports Hunting goes without saying, but do keep up the skiing! Not only is it a marvlous opportunity to show off your fashion sense, but it's the only place to guarantee being seen with the Prince of Wales!

Remember Everybody (But Do Be Discreet) As I was saying to Marianne Faithful over lunch at Ciro's, we didn't get where we are by name-dropping!

Make Friends With Journalists Not some fryful grubby-mac from the tabloids. Lot of girls from school will be working for Conde Nast and the newspaper diaries. They will be thrilled to write about you whenever you call them.

Go To Everything The opening of a trap-door, the promotion of a sales director, the premiere of All Ireland. Remember: even the launch of a canoe involves free champagne.

It Girls: How To Know You Are One

Meg Mathews wants to meet you.

You find yourself sharing lavatory lids with people who've been in the News of the World.

Elton John invites you to parties.

You know at least three cast members of EastEnders, but none from Brookside.

You find yourself being fryfally discreet about Ryan Giggs.

You refer to Hugh Grant as "Hughie".

You know what's in Wills's lemonade that makes him so sociable.

Someone pays you to model underwear.

It Girls: How To Make The Most Of It

Promote Local Tradespeople. All the little dressmakers will be searasly grateful to give you clothes. And wearing the right clothes can do wonders for your career. Dear little Liz Hurley has never done anything, but everyone has heard of her.

A Girl Can Never Be Too Rich, Too Thin or Steal Too Many Aphorisms Get a weekly newspaper column. Don't worry about writing it, as someone will do that for you, but you will get lots of money for sharing the glamour of your life.

Have Fun on Aeroplanes As Tara herself once said: "Put it this way: I'd rather not have to turn right on entering the plane." But do make sure you always enter the aeroplane from the starboard side.

It Girls: How To Tell You May Be Past It

Elton John stops asking you to his parties.

Liz Emmanuel offers you clothes for free.

Instead of ads for face cream, you are offered ads for fried chicken.

You start reminding people about your Home Economics A-level.

You are so desperate for publicity you turn up to winter paparazzo photocalls in a fur-lined bikini.

Martine McCutcheon tells the world how lovely you are.

It Girls: How To Cope With The Crash

Check Into A Clinic Of course, it's easier these days, as the facilities are so much better. When I succumbed to exhaustion after a purfatly awful weekend in Klosters where we ran out of snow and had to go to Dodi Fayed's to find some, I was forced to check in to an ordinary health farm with just anybody! Of course, I abslutly revile snobbery - Mandarin and Jacaranda play with the tenant farmers' children at least twice on holidays - but Tara needs to be with people who understand the problems that we have to cope with. Ordinary therapists are well-meaning, but they do tend to be impressed and ask one about one's friends. Only someone who has been through it too can understand the exceptional demands of one's life.

Issue A Press Release saying that you wish to spend more time in the country with your totally unpretentious parents and your family Labrador, Sooty.

Discover Your Spiritual Side Church isn't just for weddings, you know! Try alternative religions - the shalawar kameez is very flattering but in the end the good old C of E is the only answer. Holy Trinity, Brompton, has a marvellous congregation, and the singing's super.

It Girls: So What Does The Future Hold?

Retraining After years of employing one, you are ideally suited for PR. Other options are interior design (friends' restaurants), flower arranging (there will always be weddings) or owning a little boutique with coffee, tea and chocolates for favourite customers. And if you're clever, you can combine re-training with:

Finding The Boy Next Door And Marrying Him He will by now have gone through his own London Hell, and be somewhere in Devon or Dorset learning to make furniture. These establishments have a variety of occupational therapies on offer, so there's bound to be one to suit you! Once you meet again, you will quickly discover the important things you have in common, and it will be no time at all before the fences come down between your parents' land.

Have A Country Wedding Hello! or OK! will foot the bill, though you will have to have the friends from your shallow past one last time. After that, apart from the odd colour spread on the birth of your children, you can live prackly like hermits. But remember to keep in touch with potential godparents. After all, you don't want to handicap your daughter's chances when it gets to be her turn!

Interview by Serena Mackesy