First things first

If you want to get ahead, get a divorce. An ex-husband is the accessory no self-respecting celebrity can do without, says Ruth Picardie
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Not so many issues of Hello! ago, the most interesting It Girls had drug problems (Drew Barrymore), tattoos (Paula Yates), beautiful babies with weird names (Yasmin Le Bon) or felt very strongly about living in sin. "I don't go to church and I don't believe in the law [of marriage]," declared celebrity daughter Jade Jagger. "You can say you love somebody, and that's the most important thing."

Today, however, the lifestyle choice for celebrities from A to B has changed. Out go visits to Alcoholics Anonymous. Throw to the back of the cupboard that feeding bra. Never, ever talk about the bourgeois family. Instead, at the top of every glamour girl's existential CV is a failed first marriage. Why else has Julia Carling this week given yet another interview about the collapse of her relationship with Will? And why has Gillian Anderson, X-Files star and sexiest woman in the known universe, just left her husband, Clyde?

Of course, stars have always had trouble standing by their spouse. The travel, the temptation, the neurosis - all have conspired against the promise "till death us do part" since Elizabeth Taylor began her long trek up the aisle. Indeed, some modern first marriages clearly fall victim to the traditional celebrity traps: Madonna and Sean Penn, Tatum O'Neill and John McEnroe were probably a case of too many egos spoil the house.

But what was a hazard of the job has now become a compulsory rite of passage, preferably by the age of 30. Hope to build a fashion and jewellery empire? Ivana and Donald Trump. Make it big in TV? Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee. Cut it as a fashion photographer? Kelly and Calvin Klein. Join LA's actress/model/whatever set? Amanda de Cadanet and John Wotsit from Duran Duran.

In part, the rise and rise of the first marriage can be attributed to the spiralling divorce rate, from which celebrities are not immune. In part, it's our accelerated culture: teenagers used to argue with their mums about wearing platform shoes, now six-year-olds have to have the right trainers; men once had mid-life crises in their forties, then City whizz kids started burning out by 28. In the same way, couples traditionally divorced after the children left home; now they do it before potty training. And what social trend cannot be connected to the late 20th century's favourite icon: Diana, Princess of Wales, who did first marriage first?

Naturally, all It Girls want to believe their first marriage will be a case of Tru Luv 4 Ever. "I love him," declared the still-married Mrs Calvin Klein. "I love everything he does. He's just the best guy in the world."

And, naturally, all It Girls suffer deeply when things go wrong. "When it goes wrong your whole world falls apart," said Julia Carling this week. "Your best friend, the person closest to you, is suddenly taken away. You're left completely on your own, but you have to pick up the pieces. You carry on. It hits you later; you feel you've personally failed and you constantly question yourself as to what you did wrong. I'd love to know. God, maybe I didn't wash the pillowcases properly. I wish I knew what it was." However, not all It Girl first marriages are alike.

First, there is the career-building first marriage. These are easy to spot because the formerly unknown girl usually hangs onto her ex-husband's name: see Bianca Jagger, Ivana Trump, Kelly Klein, Julia Carling and the Princess of Wales. (There are exceptions to this rule: superdupermodel Linda Evangelista married the Paris boss of Models One, Gerald Marie, early on in her career.) Bianca Perez Mora Macias was a student when she met Mick; now she's a jet-setting saint. Ivana Zelnickova was a Soviet bloc ex-skiing champ when she met Donald; now she is a millionaire born- again Barbie. Diana Spencer was a nanny in a see-through skirt; now she's an angel.

Naturally, career-builders tend to deny the strategic usefulness of their relationships. Bianca Jagger once implored: "Do you know how difficult it has been for me to emerge from within this extraordinary, massive and overpowering reputation?" But it is an interesting coincidence that Julia Smith - as she was at the time - set up a music PR company (sample clients: Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney; Tina Turner) after dating guitarists Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

A more subtle variation on the above is the career-boosting first marriage, as practised by Cindy Crawford (Richard Gere) and Julia Roberts (Lyle Lovett). Style-watchers have been predicting the death of the supermodel for years, particularly the wholesome, cheesey, all-American variety. Instead of dyeing her hair (a strategy favoured by Linda Evangelista), or being photographed in her knickers for Vogue (see Kate Moss), what could make a cheerleader more interesting than marriage to a Buddhist sex god who is rumoured to be gay? Similarly, Julia Roberts, one-time superstar of Pretty Woman, has gradually been eclipsed by Demi Moore and Sharon Stone. Instead of getting pregnant for the cover of Vanity Fair, or taking your knickers off for Michael Douglas, why not raise your profile by marrying the ugliest man in the world? (Note: this kind of first marriage doesn't always pay off: when did Julia Roberts last have a hit?)

The other obvious category is the pre-fame first marriage, as in Ulrika Jonsson (who left her hubby for a gladiator) and the recently separated Gillian Anderson. The latter has yet to do a Julia Carling and speak at length about What Went Wrong, but tabloid reports suggest her ex is as unglamorous as his name, Clyde Klotz. In short, Gillian is now a star and can do better. "I've outgrown my husband," she apparently told The Sun. "He bores me." She is now stepping out with a "hunky toy boy".

Whether a first marriage improves an It Girl's career, or she simply gets to have a boyfriend with bigger muscles, she automatically becomes a more valuable commodity in the culture of confession. Julia Carling would be just another bland TV presenter if she hadn't Suffered Glamorously. Gillian will no doubt begin talking about the trauma of divorce, when she's flavour of last month, as all It Girls are destined to become.

So remember, wannabes: marry wisely. First marriages are so much easier to get over than babies or tattoosn