St Tropez, Kelly Osbourne, self-esteem & the Prince’s Trust

I was sitting in the dentist’s this morning with a wide range of ‘women’s’ reading material in front of me and a quick flick through the latest copy of Heat magazine revealed to me that Kelly Osbourne is the new ‘Self-esteem ambassador’ for St Tropez tanning products. What is that sound that happens when a needle scratches across a record? Well imagine it please, as that’s what I felt!

This is wrong on so many levels. Let me spell them out in case it’s not blindingly obvious: that this is a marketing con of the highest and most damaging order.

Firstly, Kelly Osbourne is almost unrecognisable. Apart from being clearly airbrushed to within an inch of her life, in the accompanying promotional photo, with the word ‘self-esteem’ ironically written across her top half, she has also lost about half her body weight.

Secondly, St Tropez makes products which feed on our insecurities and low self-esteem, in order to a) get us buying them in the first place, and b) to become addicted to buying them. This then goes on to secure their giant profits that they make every year.

Thirdly, if you spend £45 on tanning products they will generously give 10 quid to The Prince’s Trust, with whom they are partnering on this self-esteem building mission! I don’t even know where to begin on this, but clearly partnering with a respected organisation, somehow gives them credibility, and takes our attention away from the fact that it’s low self-esteem that makes them profit. Big organisations such as The Prince’s Trust who do such amazing work really need to choose their sponsors more carefully.

Kelly is quoted on the St Tropez website:

“‘Dancing with the Stars’ and having my first ever St Tropez spray tan was a huge confidence booster for me – it helped me to get fit and allowed me to look and feel beautiful from the outside, in. Moreover it also helped me to see that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it, which was a huge accomplishment for me – I’ve never really been able to finish something I’ve started, and to do so feels amazing.” Finish the reality show or finish the tanning I wonder?

Is it me, or does this statement take us all for fools? It seems to me that the big message here is to get yourself on a reality show, and then get a fake tan, and Bob’s your uncle, everything will be just fine. It’s so misleading, it’s so unrealistic, it is so loaded with messaging and suggestion and it’s targeting young people, in particular women: the very young people that it alleges to be helping.

Please, let us know what you think of it and let’s stop this nonsense in its tracks and challenge it. Self-esteem doesn’t come from tanning, it comes from what is inside. Our confidence to be exactly who we are, no matter how thin or fat or black or white or old or young. It does not come from modelling ourselves on, and striving for, a fantasy femininity which is sold to us through mass marketing and tabloid news stories which reach us unimaginable numbers and in a totally ubiquitous way. But when tackling issues of low self-esteem is sponsored by those that profit from its very existence, then we need to stand up and say that we are not fooled, that we do object to it and that we will fight it.


16 responses to “St Tropez, Kelly Osbourne, self-esteem & the Prince’s Trust

  1. I’m sure many people might argue that nice clothes, a load of make-up and a fake tan _do_ make people feel good about themselves. I’m not one of those people, but I think it is true that , for some, this superficial plaster does give them a boost. But it’s temporary – or if not, it costs an awful lot to maintain! I’ve seen girls at school who get up at 6am every morning, so they can spend two hours (yes TWO HOURS) grooming their appearance before they get there… Oh how I wish they’d spend the same amount of time on grooming their minds…
    It’s so important that the young women of today learn that self-esteem and self-confidence and self-belief, come from somewhere deep within – because it’s that which lasts. And that’s why Kelly & St Tropaz and all the similar stories in the press are so damaging – because they convince people that the only way to feel good about themselves is to conform to some stereotyped ideal of what is beautiful.
    And, to be honest, having found the photos of the “new and improved” Kelly Osbourne, I must say I preferred the old model – much more my sytle!

  2. Well, that’s what marketing is all about, isn’t it? What matters is that we ourselves stay alert and make our own choices, reflect, check, and then decide.
    It would be wise for every parent to teach to their children the importance of self-awareness, instead of plunging headlong into shopping sprees for products they do not really need…

  3. Tanning was a status symbol for Brits and Americans during the 1970s and 1980s when travelling abroad meant you had money, and the tourist industry was in its infancy. So if you really want a tan, actually go to St Tropez in the South Of France 🙂 In Elizabethan times, it was the rich that stayed indoors whilst the working class were out in the sun, hence Queen Elizabeth coating her face with deadly lead. Many Indian women try to whiten their skin. It’s all wrong! Why kill yourself to conform to some ideal of beauty?
    A-ha’s video for Velvet explores a connotation between beauty and death:

    Just be confident in your own skin, as Jacko said, if you want to be my brother it don’t matter if you’re black or white. Beauty, my dear friends, is in the eye of the beholder. That is you yourself, not any cosmetic company. Behold yourself and you will see you are beautiful. And men never have to put up with this kind of shit!!
    What was that film? Death Becomes Her…… This has to be a joke though surely. A bit like something Morticia Addams would come up with to entertain Gomez….. I don’t ever read ‘Heat’ magazine, so it can’t be real.

  4. Ugh, I will *never* buy St Tropez products, the creepy f*cks. Thanks for pointing this out.

    I’ve been thinking about this more and more recently. How much time we women waste worrying about our appearance, while men get on with their hobbies and interests. It makes me so angry at these industries who exploit our insecurities so cunningly.

    Jeanette Winterson made the killer point in the Grauniad recently.

    “We pay to feel better instead of asking why we are made to feel defective in the first place.”

    Along with a much better articulation of my first point:

    ‘”What really bothers me,” she says, “is that women used to be made to believe that their minds were inadequate, but we were allowed our bodies. Now that we can’t be told our minds aren’t up to it, our bodies are paraded as defective. It is the same old control. It is not just an assault on women – it is a war on feminism.”‘

    Word, Jeanette.

  5. Kelly Osbourne should be ashamed of herself. It’s one thing to use fake tan but another to endorse it as a route to personal fulfillment (to fill her coffer, of course).

    However, I think it does open an interesting debate within feminism. On the ‘Women’ documentary the other night, the documentary maker asked a feminist activist – who awkwardly squirmed – whether she could be a feminist and still wear nail varnish. It made be a bit cross because I’m not a fan of policing the boundaries of feminism, and think you can certainly be feminist and wear make up. Of course, the reasons we want to ‘self-improve’ are to live up to ideals – of womanhood but also of personhood, which in our society is being slim, attractive and so on.

    The real crime is suggesting there’s a link between looking better and being better. If we can reduce make up and tans and tones etc to the minimal place they should inhabit, we’ll be in a much better place.

  6. You are right, this is wrong on so many level.
    One of the things I had previously admired about Kelly Osbourne was that she did not conform to the perma-tanned Barbie doll image. What sort of message is this sending to young girls? You have to give in to so-called beauty norms in the end? Sorry Kelly, really disappointed.

  7. It is absolutely absurd to imagine that changing your skin tone is the key to self esteem — self esteem comes from feeling good about yourself, not trying to paint yourself over.

    After reading about your group, and the anti-pink crusade (which I awesome) – I included you in Life: Forward’s recent post –

    Life: Forward is about women, body image, and the wage gender gap — and you’re absolutely right – fixing all of those things starts by not creating horrible insecurities in little girls.

  8. Interesting how Kelly Osbourne’s ‘self esteem’ alters depending on which magazine she is in. In the Times Magazine last week she is quoted as saying “I wouldn’t last a day without my assistant David – my brain doesn’t work without him…I wind myself up over things and end up so flustered that without him to tell me to calm down I wouldn’t get anything done”. Wow that’s a role model for you isn’t it.
    Those of us who have worked all our lives, brought up kids and achieved something in our careers managed to have our brains working without a ‘David’ and yet the Prince’s Trust think she is a role model for young girls – they should be ashamed of themselves!

  9. I just wonder why people think orange is sexy – it’s really not, you know. *chuckles*

  10. The only thing that might conceivably be said in favour of spray-on tan is that it’s presumably healthier than roasting yourself in a tanning booth (although I wonder about parabens, nanoparticles and the rest). The Prince’s Trust should be ashamed of itself. Can it really not find a better, more ethical partner?

  11. I think the only thing that is clear, is that Kelly Osbourne wanted to partner up with a helpful organization like The Prince’s Trust and that St. Tropez gave her the platform in which to do that… The rest of what you wrote is a HUGE stretch and I feel like I never would have come to those conclusions if you weren’t there to so cleverly point them out to us… Can we not make every endorsement deal a crime against humanity? I agree that the quote was stupid, but it’s for a fake tan product…it is so beyond caring about…I don’t personally use fake tan… I personally don’t think fake tan would boost my self confidence…but you know, different strokes for different folks. Fake tan helps some people feel better about themselves… and it seems to me that using your blog to ridicule someones desire to help an organization with their celebrity, is the way that you build your self confidence. I can’t think of anything less feminist than a bunch of women bitching and moaning about how the once “average girl” is now a”pretty” girl and well now isn’t that just such a disappointment…blah blah blah. Yes I agree that Kelly Osbourne is not the first person I think of when I think self esteem,and Yes I agree that a self esteem ambassador for a fake tanning product is dumb… but I really don’t feel that Kelly Osbourne, The Prince’s Trust and or even St Tropez deserve to be demonized for it.

  12. Pingback: Prince’s Trust Pulls Ad and Logo from Self-Esteem Campaign | The Self-Tanning Queen

  13. Surely she is free to say that she feels better wearing a fake tan. Maybe your campaign should be about teaching young people to hear both sides of the story then making up thier own minds! i agree that kids should be free to be kids and the sexulaisation of young shildren is wrong but your campaign seems to have an over tone that anyone who likes feminine or pretty things must be lacking something. Does my Masters degree and senior role in the medical field mean nothing becasue I wear a fake tan and like to wear make up? Feminism takes a bashing because of arguments like yours. Being a feminist shouldn’t mean being anti femininity. Celebrate being female and all it entails! Maybe this promotion of fake tan will reduce melanomas! We can only hope.

    • Of course our campaign isn’t about be anti-feminine! That’s nonsense. I have two daughters and I am a woman myself. And shock horror I like being feminine too! But selling girls the lie that getting an expensive spray on tan will improve their self esteem is dangerous and also … who do you think profits from this lie? Ah yes. That would be the companies who sell it at vast profit. So, our campaign is absolutely about telling girls you can be who you want to be – including having a senior role in the medical field and doing a masters degree. It’s that which gives you self-esteem, fulfilment and happiness. Not fake tan.

  14. I do not think that campaigning against fake tan being promoted in this way is problematic/saying feminists cannot take pleasure in “feminine” activities.

    I believe there’s a slight difference between having fun with makeup and clothes and the whole fake tan thing. The former (whilst potentially opressive) can be used as a form of self expression. Fake tan on the other hand is part of the uniform idea of female perfection, especially when sold as a way of boosting your self esteem.

    Additionally it is stupidly time consuming and bloody hard to break out of it once you’ve started! A couple of years ago I experimented and discovered that if I didn’t exfoliate and top up regularly it would come off in patches and go on streaky….stopping completley meant quite a few weeks of patchy skin. Think of all the things women could be doing instead of the hours spent on tanning “maintenence”! Not to mention the money saved

  15. every morning I get up, have a wash, put on a t-shirt and trousers and my doc martens (my favourite t-shirts are long sleve and plain black from sainsburys fairtrade mens range) and then I go to college. no makeup, no tanning products or moisturiser, no jewlery and low cut tops, just me and my back pack. my hair grows wild and I only have it cut twice a year.

    I feel like the luckiest 17 year old girl ever when I see all the others in college trying to look there best, plastering there faces and revealing more flesh. they are trying SO hard to please the “lads” and it seems to be the most important thing in there lifes. I enjoy being who I am and being comfortable with wat I wear. I did once get a “makeover” on a residential trip (against my will) and I HATED it.

    how girls are treated nowadays makes me so angry.

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