Hey little rich girl - a pop wannabe's birthday bash

Freya Dawson is a pop wannabe who sang with Mark Ronson at her lavish birthday bash. But the stunt may have backfired
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Freya Dawson's MySpace page features the dream-like musings you might expect from a 21-year-old woman hoping to obtain that most modern of holy grails: celebrity status.

Instead of the obligatory grainy profile picture taken on a mobile phone, the image Freya chooses is a professional-looking mock- up of an album cover; a sultry pose with clubland lighting and funky silver lettering that – in the manner of female solo artists – simply spells out her first name.

Like thousands of girls across the country, she longs for a successful career in the pop industry: "Just left uni in order to pursue my music career, which to be honest is what I've always wanted," she writes. "One day I hope to live here six months and the other in Argentina, which is the most amazing place ever!"

But Freya has something that most young women, Paris Hilton excepted, don't – a multimillionaire father.

Her album is a full demo, produced by the sound engineer used by Sir Paul McCartney and paid for by her father. But until this week no one had heard of Freya Dawson. The one thing she was missing was publicity.

Then last weekend her father, the haulage tycoon Peter Dawson, threw a lavish party in joint celebration of his 70th and his daughter's 21st birthdays. The extravagant Moulin Rouge-themed bash at the family's country estate in the Cotswolds featured exclusive sets by DJs from Hed Kandi and a performance by the Grammy Award-winning artist Mark Ronson.

The tabloids had a field day, claiming the bash cost £4m – with £1m alone going to Ronson for his 45-minute set. Freya soon found herself portrayed as the next overindulged It girl, a spoilt rich kid living a life of pampered luxury at the expense of a father who made millions by turning a small family trucking business into one of the nation's largest rental firms.

Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Peter Dawson, who is 428th on the Sunday Times Rich List with assets estimated at £198m, admitted the party was an extravagant affair but said it was a one-off to celebrate two very important birthdays. "As a family we actually seek not to show off, but you are only 70 once and you are only 21 once," he said. "I don't deny that it cost a bob, but the estimates are wildly inaccurate – several hundred per cent out."

The party took 12 months to plan and contained the type of profligacies that only the super rich can afford. The 500 guests invited to the family's estate near Stow-on-the-Wold in Gloucestershire were ushered into the largest marquee available for hire in Europe, which was transformed into the famous Paris nightclub, complete with separate casino.

While her father chose to socialise quietly, Freya took advantage of the limelight by staging a three-song show for her guests with 20 professional dancers. Precariously perched on a trapeze and lowered on to the stage by dancers dressed in boudoir finery, the young singer launched into Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever".

Three songs later, Ronson appeared singing "Happy Birthday" before inviting the birthday heiress back on to the stage to stand in for Amy Winehouse in the producer's famous cover of the Zutons' hit "Valerie".

And just in case an elaborate firework display wasn't enough to remind the guests whose birthday they were really celebrating, those who slept over were woken by an aeroplane that circled the mansion and trailed a banner proclaiming "Happy Birthday Freya".

Some of Freya's friends have been quick to portray her as an overindulged princess who revels in the upper-class world of polo tournaments and Gucci dresses, while others have leapt to the her defence.

"Freya trained for about two months to do her birthday performance and she literally blew the roof off," said Charlotte Stevens, a choreographer from the agency Rude Eye, which provided the dancers and is also training Freya to gyrate in anticipation of the release of her album.

"People have these perceptions of what she's like but in fact she is extremely hard-working and talented."

Freya's father, meanwhile, insists that although he paid the initial start-up costs to record the demo album, his daughter is now on her own, financially speaking. "I did pay for the album, but the deal was that she goes it alone now," he said. "She's got talent and she's gifted."

Mr Dawson angrily denounced the way his daughter was portrayed in the media. "My daughter is definitely not a spoilt brat," he said. "It is certainly true that my kids are lucky, but they recognise that we are fortunate enough to be in a different situation to most people."

Local opinion appears divided over whether or not the party was a good idea. One employee of Mr Dawson's haulage company, writing anonymously on a local newspaper's website, was less than impressed with the party. "Well no wonder we at branch level didn't get any pay rises this year," the employee wrote. "We are earning all that money for him to waste on a birthday party."

But Brian Jones, who works for the Gear homeless charity in Gloucester, was touched by a gesture from the Dawsons. He was given all the spare duvets and pillows that were used by guests who stayed over.

"I received a phonecall from the promoter, who asked me to come up to the house and collect them," he said.

"Talk about the other end of the spectrum. The house is absolutely beautiful. It's the kind of place that the people I deal with on a day-to-day basis could only dream about."

He added: "It was a lovely gesture – a great example of care by the community in action. Mr Dawson has never been involved in our project before, but I shall certainly be writing him a letter to thank him."

Freya, who is currently in St Tropez relaxing after the party, is fast learning the adage that any publicity is good publicity. She has already received calls from two people interested in her album. You can almost hear daddy breathe a sigh of relief.