Stepping out for the UN
Thursday 05 March 1998
It might once have been the province of Hollywood, but bureaucracies such as the UN have taken to the cult of fame with a vengeance. Danny Kaye started it all in 1954 when he was appointed as a roving "goodwill ambassador" by Unicef. Today, all manner of celebs have been appointed. Special ambassadors chosen in recent years include Roger Moore, Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Olivia Newton-John, Imran Khan, Bianca Jagger, footballer John Fashanu and Dallas actress Linda Gray.
But what can they achieve? Wirie, now a Pirelli calendar girl, was appointed in October to publicise a campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation. As someone who suffered because her parents believed she had "bad things between her legs", she was an obvious choice. "I see myself as an ambassador on behalf of my sisters in Africa," she says. "I was strong enough to survive and I want to make a difference."
The choice of Devine, however, seems less obvious. She became a special ambassador two weeks ago, her name having been put forward by Population Concern, which is a partner in the Face To Face campaign in this country. According to Russell Dickson, the organisation's fund-raising manager, they contacted her a couple of years ago as "a shot in the dark" and since then she has written to showbiz celebrities on the organisation's behalf.
"She's just the frontperson, if you like," says Dickson. He is unsure what she will be doing in the months to come. "I expect the UN will be asking her to go out and visit projects," he says.
Devine herself is also somewhat mystified as to what her future duties will involve. She says she will be signing a contract in the near future, although she hasn't seen it yet. "You have to work," she says. "You've got to be proactive ... It's not just a case of using your name."
Devine says her appointment came as an "incredible surprise", although she describes herself as "passionate" about women's issues and says her travels for BBC2's Rough Guide shows have brought her face to face with the problems facing women in the Third World. Possibly the main reason for her surprise was her comparative lack of celebrity status compared to other special ambassadors. As Dickson puts it: "Most of them are quite high-powered, very well-known people throughout the world, so in some ways it's quite a feather in her cap."
Life & Style blogs
How Stephen Hawking is still alive, defying ALS and the worst expectations
The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
Mother's Day 2015: When is it – and how did it first come about?
Children warned to not listen to music for more than one hour a day
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
- 1 Forget 'The Dress': Here are five of the biggest news stories you might have missed
- 2 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 5 MH370: 'Putin ordered plane to be flown to Kazakhstan space port,' conspiracy theory claims
£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...
salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...