Eurovision 2024

Katie Price was the Eurovision winner that got away

The glamour model was seven months pregnant and dressed in a pink rubber catsuit when she placed second in a public vote to represent the UK in 2005. She’s since said she was left ‘humiliated’ by the experience, but her performance is secretly sort of brilliant, writes Adam White

Saturday 11 May 2024 06:00 BST
'Camp! Fun! Send her to the main show!’: Katie Price performing on ‘Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up’ in 2005
'Camp! Fun! Send her to the main show!’: Katie Price performing on ‘Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up’ in 2005 (PA)

For Brits at Eurovision, there is a right way and a wrong way to do camp. A member of the 2007 pop calamity Scooch, dressed in a flight attendant’s ensemble and seductively asking the crowd if they’d like some “salted nuts”? Not camp. A cruise ship performer with Anthea Turner’s haircut warbling through a track called “Don’t Sing That Song Again”, as in 2000? Camp!

Teetering somewhere in the middle, though, is Katie Price, model, businesswoman and British pop culture fixture, who came very close to representing the UK at Eurovision in 2005. She is, for my money, the winner that got away. Dressed in a hot-pink rubber catsuit while seven months pregnant, Price competed in Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up, a live TV showdown in which the British public voted for the performer they wanted to send to compete in the main contest in Kyiv. She went up against a surreal trio of pop sort-ofs: the brother of Steps member Lisa Scott-Lee; Javine Hylton, who’d three years earlier just missed out on a slot in Girls Aloud; and the comeback-hungry “Ooh Aah… Just a Little Bit” singer Gina G. Oh, and there was also an operatic boy band named Tricolore, who vanished in a puff of smoke within seconds of the whole thing wrapping up.

Price, somewhat inevitably, drew the lion’s share of attention. Her short-lived transition into music came months after she placed fifth on I’m a Celebrity, where she had met and fallen in love with the abs-centric pop singer Peter Andre. Their subsequent engagement (they’d be married and divorced by 2009) seemed to cement her professional rebrand, as Price ditched her “Jordan” moniker and the glamour modelling that had made her famous. Music was the next step.

“Never underestimate the Pricey,” she boasted in early 2005, upon confirmation that she was vying for our votes to represent the country. “I hope people can give me a chance to show them what I can do. I would love to fly the flag for the UK – but if I can’t fly it, then I’ll wear it.”

Price occupies a strange position in British pop cultural lore – a woman who came from little and has sustained an incredibly lucrative career for more than two decades, but who’s often been jeered at because a lot of it involved sex and silliness. She’s never really striven for respect, either. To this day she is more than happy to occupy a world of saucy podcasts, nightclub appearances and aggressive plastic surgery. It means the typical narratives we like to place on women in the public eye don’t really apply here. Price very much stands alone in a universe of her own making.

Bit of a car crash: Price’s chaise lounge is surrounded by gyrating dancers
Bit of a car crash: Price’s chaise lounge is surrounded by gyrating dancers (PA)

It’s this that makes her stab at Eurovision glory so fascinating. She can hold a note – and is far better than some of the professional singers we’ve sent to the contest. Her song, by writers previously responsible for tracks including Darius’s “Colourblind” and a handful of Bros and PJ & Duncan numbers, is also reasonably catchy. “Not Just Anybody” is set against a vaguely Bhangra beat, Price insisting to a paramour that few can love them like she can.

But the Making Your Mind Up performance itself – Price had done a single practice run on GMTV the day before – is a bit of a car crash, the aspiring pop icon cringing beneath a stiff peroxide wig and trying to keep up with a quartet of dancers who strip out of business suits before gyrating next to her on a chaise lounge. She looks mortified. It’s amazing. Camp! Fun! Send her to the main show!

If Price seemed to want to crawl into a hole, it’s because she didn’t really want to be there in the first place. In 2005’s Jordan: A Whole New World, her second of six memoirs – think of them as Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle for huns – Price claims that she participated in Making Your Mind Up because a record deal with Sony was on the table, but only if she took part in Eurovision. Her manager at the time seemed convinced that Price would storm the competition and make it at least to the main show, which would have been great publicity for her eventual pop career.

Price, though, was unconvinced. She writes that she had misgivings from day one, and was saddened that she was barred from singing a ballad as “ballads never did well at Eurovision”. She despised the first song presented to her – “A shocker [that] sounded like something the Cheeky Girls would perform” – and only hesitantly said yes to “Not Just Anybody”. She’d also been nervous about her pregnancy, which had yet to be made public, and the choreography. “I can’t dance to save my life,” she writes. “There’s a bit of rhythm there and obviously when I’ve had a few drinks I think I’m the best dancer going, but the reality is I’m crap.”

Katie Price performs at Eurovision 2005

In the run-up to her big Making Your Mind Up performance, things worsened. She was hurt by a “snide comment” allegedly made about her by Javine, and had heard a rumour that Gina G slagged her off while performing at London’s GAY nightclub (Camp!). The day before her performance, her pregnancy is unexpectedly confirmed on breakfast TV. On the night itself, she is winched into her rubber catsuit and is relatively content with her singing – only for her to place second in the viewer’s votes, with Javine selected to represent the UK. (She’d eventually place 22nd with 18 points.)

“I was burning with anger and humiliation,” Price writes. “I felt as if I was in a worse position than before regarding my music. I felt that my credibility had been damaged.” Price’s Sony deal didn’t materialise in the aftermath, though she has released one-off singles since. In 2022, she called Eurovision “the only thing I’ve done in my career that I’ve regretted and hated”.

But whatever Price’s misgivings about the contest, her performance is worth a second look today. It sits in that nice centre-ground between contrived sincerity and pandering idiocy, a sweet spot that we’ve only rarely managed to hit with our acts at Eurovision. I even think she might have won the thing if she’d had the chance. Nineteen years on, and with this weekend’s contest mired in controversy over Israel’s participation, clips of Price nervously thrusting about in front of Terry Wogan seem almost quaint, and certainly more fun. Perhaps she’d be smart to give it another shot next year.

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