Peaches Geldof: Girl about town

The daughter of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates is cutting a swathe through the London social scene. But is her hectic lifestyle taking its toll?
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The Independent Online

If the birth of the celebrity age can be traced back to the launch of Hello! magazine 20 years ago, then no one has grown up with it quite like 19-year-old Peaches Geldof, the second daughter of Bob Geldof and the late Paula Yates. Peaches, it seems, has lived every day of her life in the glare of the celebrity circus that Hello! both celebrates and magnifies.

The lot of the son or daughter of a famous person cannot be easy. London's social scene is littered with the names of the famous – Best, Stewart, Jagger – who struggle with a fame that they did not invite into their lives.

For Peaches – the latest "original wild child" now trying to forge a career in the media – the predicament is perhaps even worse. At the time of Peaches' s birth, her mother was a trail-blazing television presenter and journalist. Yates subsequently left Geldof and her young children for the rock singer Michael Hutchence. Five years later, when Peaches was just 11, Yates died of a heroin overdose.

Speculation that such a background would take a similar toll on Peaches was inevitable, and this week a worrying incident occurred. A regular on the London party scene, Peaches was the focus of urgent concern last Sunday when, just before 5pm, an ambulance was called to the flat in King's Cross that she shares with friends.

She was reported to have collapsed and it was said that she had briefly stopped breathing. After treatment, she recovered. She did not need to be hospitalised and was well enough to attend the London premiere of the new Batman film the following night.

Nobody is quite sure exactly what happened; reports are conflicting. There was speculation that her illness could have been caused by inhaling hair dye fumes, an overdose, or was the result of a crash diet.

She was born Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof in London in 1989. She first became publicly visible at the age of 15 she started writing a column in The Daily Telegraph. She was the voice of youth, writing precocious pieces on such varied topics as young girls wearing make-up (they don't do it to be seductive, they just, like magpies, enjoy glittery stuff) and Harry Potter (it's great).

Unlike her lower-profile elder sister Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches was never one for avoiding parties or dodging photographers. By 2006, when Peaches was 17 and still at school, a fellow pupil at Queen's College, Harley Street commented to a newspaper that she did not always turn up to classes – "Especially if she has been out partying the night before." She had become, like Amy Winehouse or Pete Doherty, followed everywhere by a frantic paparazzi, keen to catch her doing something naughty.

Peaches has rewarded their efforts by seeming to be something of a brat. Since she entered the celebrity merry-go-round, Peaches has been part of ongoing feuds with Kelly Osbourne and the indie punk band the Enemy. She is also not backwards in coming forwards with opinions about other celebrities. Victoria Beckham, for example, "ruins clothes" and "dresses terribly". All modern female TV presenters are "beyond lame" and Trinny and Susannah are "upper-class bitches with no fashion sense". The singer and fellow celebrity offspring Lily Allen reportedly spat on Peaches's shoes at the V Festival in Chelmsford in 2006, after hearing that Peaches called her a "cokehead".

The tabloids gleefully reported how, in 2006, Peaches was stopped at a branch of Urban Outfitters after she walked through security gates wearing a coat which still had the security tag on. She claimed that she had paid for the coat but that the shop assistant hadn't removed the tag, but when asked she couldn't produce a receipt. In April this year, Peaches was involved in another mix-up in a shop. Staff at Victim, a boutique near Carnaby Street, rang Peaches's management after they noticed that a cream dress disappeared just after Peaches had left the store. Peaches returned with the dress, explaining that it was the same colour as her scarf and she had wandered out still holding it by mistake.

Her hair changes colour frequently: auburn, black and peroxide blond have all provided her with her look. She has 11 tattoos. Despite all this perhaps typical teenage behaviour, Peaches seemed to be ploughing steadily on and making a good living with her broadcasting and writing career, although she no longer writes her Telegraph column.

At the age of 16 she produced and wrote a documentary for Sky One about teenage sex and angst called Inside the Teenage Mind; she has presented Big Brother's Little Brother, reported for ITV1's Tonight with Trevor McDonald and in 2006 made a documentary for Channel 4 called A Beginner's Guide to Islam. For the documentary she lived in Morocco with a Muslim teenager and her family. She is also self-employed, as one half of DJ act Trash Pussies with her friend Fifi Brown; they occasionally play in Ibiza and are, from time to time, booed offstage.

Both broadsheet and tabloid gossip columns have been endlessly entertained by Peaches's on/off boyfriends and they have constructed for her a reputation as something of a man-eater. Pete Doherty claimed that she had distracted him moments before he went on stage at Live8 in 2005. He claimed to the Daily Mirror that he was "rubbish" on stage because "Geldof squeezed my bum hard and whispered something rather suggestive to me" – something Peaches denies.

Her boyfriends have included a wannabe rock star Fred Les and another fledgling musician Fred Blood-Royale (real name Fred McPherson). "He [Blood-Royale] was disgusted by what I was as a person," Peaches said last year. "He was so cynical and that is what I like – boys who are really horrible and cynical and angry at the world and really intelligent."

It was in 2006 she was pictured in newspapers towards the end of the year at a party, holding what looked like a tube of paper, of the sort used to snort cocaine, up to her nose. Peaches denied that she had taken drugs. "That's a picture of someone lighting a roll-up cigarette," she said. "But the perspective is that it looks like something else. I've never done coke. My friends do drugs but I never use them. This is really upsetting for me." Her father berated the press, saying, "I get extraordinarily annoyed at the accusations that have been levelled at her recently."

But then, in May this year, Peaches was caught on video apparently handing over £190 in cash to an alleged drug dealer called Jonny Blagrove, who is also rumoured to supply singer Amy Winehouse with drugs. She is supposed to have said, "I'm going to need Valium after this." And then there was last Sunday's incident.

Since the first sign that Peaches might be keen to live life to the full, she has been compared with her mother. Yates was 41 when she died; she was found in her London flat by a friend. The coroner ruled that the heroin overdose had not been on purpose but the result of "foolish and incautious behaviour". Three years earlier Hutchence had been found hanged in a hotel room in Sydney.

Peaches no longer lives in the self-contained flat that she used to share with Fifi Trixibelle, which is attached to the house that her father Bob lives in with his girlfriend Jeanne Marine. Peaches's other sisters, 18-year-old Pixie and Yates' s daughter with Michael Hutchence (whom Bob Geldof adopted), Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, 11, still live in their father's house. In Peaches's earlier partying days, when she was still at home, her father would impose the occasional curfew on her and, at one point, attempted to reduce her freedom by shrinking her allowance. Peaches ought to inspire sympathy but it's striking how she is remarkably unpopular with her pitiless peers and, occasionally, her superiors. Facebook lists 11 groups devoted to a mutual dislike of her.

In one sense the media loves her, since she provides them with story after story. Tatler bestowed upon her the honour of placing her in seventh in their 2006 Best Dressed Women's List and she made her catwalk debut last year for an Australian clothing company called Dotti, before modelling at London Fashion Week for the label PPQ, whose dresses are also worn by Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Kelly Osbourne.

Such fashionable accolades make her a firm favourite with public relations companies that bombard her with free clothes, bags, make-up and accessories in the hope that she will be photographed wearing their product. "It freaks me out how they all get my home address to send me the stuff," she has said. She estimates that she wears only five items out of every 500 she is sent and allows the rest to pile up in her room. "You can stand on my clothes, there are so many of them."

What nobody seems to be able to agree on is what's really behind the way Peaches behaves. Is she just the victim of fame, and too immature to cope with it? A former fellow pupil at Queen's College has this to say: "She had a reputation as being a bit unapproachable and likely to be a bit of a meanie. She did have a lot of friends, though. I could never understand whether she meant to be unkind to some people or was just really unhappy." Like anyone her age, the real Peaches Geldof has yet to emerge.

A Life in Brief

Born Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof, 16 March 1989.

Early life The second of three daughters to Paula Yates and Bob Geldof, who split up in 1995, when she was six. Four years later, Yates died of an accidental heroin overdose, after her new love Michael Hutchence committed suicide. Geldof had already won custody of the children, in 1998.

Career Had her first article published aged 14. Since then has dabbled in journalism, modelling, TV presenting, and DJing – at the same time as going to school. Has become a regular fixture in gossip columns. Says that her long-term plan is to study English at university and make a career as a journalist.

She says "I wish that being in this situation would let me have a good view of the media, but it hasn't. I feel lucky knowing what a lie everything is."

They Say "This is a 19-year-old girl so precocious that, even in a medical emergency, her first thought is about the effect the incident might have on her public image." – Amanda Platell