Last year, a friend of mine received Lily Allen's album as a birthday present from her dad. This father hadn't been around much in his daughter's life, but he'd heard that Alright, Still was the sort of CD that a girl might like for her 21st birthday.
"Thanks, Dad," said my friend. "Lily bullied me at school actually... But, um, yeah, thanks."
Oh, the perils of popstardom, especially when you've been to 11 schools, as Lily has well, you're bound to have offended somebody, somewhere. But as Lily has grown, so have her insults, with fellow famous women now bearing the brunt of the insults previously reserved for her fellow schoolgirls.
All of which makes her a very peculiar judge for the Orange Broadband Prize for Literature, as was announced last week. Because the Orange is an award given by women to other women and if there's one thing Lily doesn't do, it's sisterhood.
Sure, she has helped other people with their careers Kate Nash got a record deal after a leg-up from Lil. And Lily is full of praise for how far her mother, Oscar-nominated film producer Alison Owens, has come in a man's world. But standing shoulder to shoulder with other women in a united front? I'd be surprised if she even makes it through the judging process without falling out with the rest of the panel.
It's not that the 22-year-old is lacking the intellectual credentials to be a judge, as some critics claimed last week. I've met Lily and she's clearly extremely intelligent. Her godmother, the novelist Susie Boyt, says that Lily is a keen reader and grew up in a house full of books great. The prize's founder, Kate Mosse, says they chose the pop star because "we always try to seek a broad selection of ages and experiences". Also great.
It's not that I don't like Lily's music I gave her album a five-star review when it came out and I stand by that, because it's a brilliant record that caused a sea change for women in pop. But, like Thatcher with her all-male cabinet, Lily would like to be the only one.
Go on YouTube to find the Channel 4 clips of Ms Allen judging a battle of the bands competition on mobileAct Unsigned. Watch the boy band come on, see how she flirts with the lead singer, takes his phone number, says the band are great. Watch the girl band come on, see how Lily's demeanour turns cold. "I want to say no, because you're good-looking girls, but yes you're through," she says grudgingly.
Sent backstage to mentor the girls, it gets worse. Lily picks on one individually, asking "Is that dress from Kate Moss at Topshop?" The girl blushes yes and looks ashamed. Lily sneers and turns her back on her. It's painful to watch such clichd, textbook bitchiness.
Allen is notorious for starting media battles with Girls Aloud, her gripes being largely that she thought Nicola was too ugly, Cheryl too pretty, and Sarah, whose looks might be classed as somewhere in between, simply "vile". Getting Lily to front the Orange prize is a bit like asking Jeremy Clarkson to run a petition for cyclists' rights, or seeing if that nice chap Herod can pop round to judge the Bonny Baby competition.
Of course, looked at from another angle, the Orange is all about pitting women against other women something she excels at. Not to mention that you only have to like one novelist out of 30 which leaves you with a good 29 others to slag off. Perhaps Lily will be in her element after all.Reuse content