Tuesday, 17 October 2017

#metoo

There isn't a woman alive who hasn't at some point felt sexually harassed. From comments about 'filling out in all the right places' from creepy relatives as a child, to having strangers grab your backside on a tube, to outright assault - the range of behaviour begins when we are barely more than children and lasts all our lives.

There are almost too many to list - but I remember some boys shoving their hands up my school skirt as I looked in a shop window aged 13. I had a man photograph me without my consent on the tube; a cab driver stroke my leg; a bar owner corner me in the freezer room; drunk men grope me as I passed them glass collecting aged 15; a man masturbate in front of me on a beach in Greece; a colleague called Dimitri press on my breasts to see if they were 'firm' the day I told my colleagues at Quiz TV (in front of my boss in fact) that I was pregnant with my son. He previously told me that he knew I was pregnant as 'your tits are huge.'

The strange thing is, I have been so conditioned to all of this - that I somehow made it my problem. I saw the fact I had a big chest as something to be ashamed of and so always wore polo necks, sweaters, baggy T shirts - anything to distract from my curves. I even bought a T shirt that had in tiny writing 'I'm up here' across the chest, so as all gawpers were shamed.

My first job in television made me see that the only way to survive in the industry was to accept the vile sexism masked under 'laddish jokes.' A channel famed for a dwarf man bouncing on a trampoline to stick the weather symbols on a map and 'Nudes at Ten' was perhaps not the best way to be taken seriously as a journalist - but I was thrilled to finally get a job. I loved reading the news in front of a man in a 6 foot rabbit costume, reporting from premieres and rushing all over London - working with a lot of decent enthusiastic and brilliant people. One of whom was not my boss - Kelvin MacKenzie. I made a joke about trying to take News Bunny to the Oscars - 'I had two hopes and Bob was the better one' which sadly Kelvin didn't get. So he asked Nick Ferarri to fire me - but in the confusion they almost fired another Irish girl. I was summoned to Ferarri's office where he suggested I wrote an apology letter to placate Kelvin as I wept...  Ferrari told me to start it: 'Kelvin you are not only my boss, but my hero.'

I will never forget my news editor Andy Beat helping me write it as I sobbed, terrified I would lose my job. Andy was livid - but what could he do? Meanwhile another boss never made eye contact - staring instead at my chest. Mark Murphy told me - despite securing the first interview with Stella McCartney after her debut Chloe show in Paris 1997 - that "you don't have the right look to present the fashion show." I asked what he was looking for and he replied, "you know someone with personality." I pressed further - aghast at this. He then answered: "We are looking for a model. Not you." I was humiliated, axed from the Fashion Show and made to produce a series of 'Topless Darts at the Circus' or I would be fired. I sobbed over my computer. Again. I had no choice. So I hired great costumes from Angels in Shaftesbury Avenue and tried to make the women feel like showgirls - instead of merely pawns in the channel's pathetic remit.

Women who worked at the channel were expected to enjoy the male banter - be one of the lads, in order to gain acceptance - something I never did. I respected and liked many people there - usually folk who like me, were just so grateful to get their first job in telly - but the atmosphere was toxic. The boss men had their favourites - women in push up bras who played the dumb blonde role - simply for an easier life.

I remember blagging my way into a Bond Premiere and securing (through blatantly lying) interviews with Pierce Brosnan and Judy Dench etc. Live made a special TV show out of it - but instead of congratulating me Ferarri only asked why I hadn't asked Brosnan about his recently deceased wife... The men were congratulated - the women never so. I couldn't wait to escape. I often wondered - would all TV be like this?

I learnt later on that the culture of fear that pervades TV insures that women put up with so much - simply because of the freelance nature of the job. If they speak up against a sexist presenter or overly handsy producer - what hope do they have of ever working for that independent production company again? I remember other friends being livid that in the office at another company, the male staff had a 'wall of punani' filled with photos of scantily clad women. I heard stories all the time of various lechy comments from bosses, filled with promises of what they would do for the woman in question's career.... I have had men bosses tell me that with my 'assets' I would 'go far' as they stare directly at my chest. I always felt I had to prove I had a brain - because by simply having curves, somehow that diminished me.

In later years I worked with a director who told me off for admitting I got the T shirt I was wearing free with a magazine; but allowed the male presenter to simulate sex with the producer as a 'joke' or make any kind of innuendo laden joke he chose to - because clearly he had one rule for men and one for how women should behave. I can honestly say I never suffered sexism or harassment when I moved into TV drama - perhaps because by then I was 35 and a mother of one...

This is all small scale in light of what the women of Hollywood have gone through at the hands of Harvey Weinstein - but the revelations at last mean we having a dialogue that should have been opened a long time ago. The culture of TV has forced women to be silent. To accept that our bodies will be the butt of male humour, that if we don't laugh along with sexist jokes then we are not one of the gang. It is time we were able to stand up for ourselves without recourse. Without fear. Only then, do we have the faintest hope that something may, finally change.

Then the dinosaurs, or rather predators, like Harvey can happily become extinct.






Monday, 16 October 2017

Winter wish list...

A good friend just got back from a weekend in Edinburgh with her girlfriends. She'd had a ball, but also got a bit of a wake-up call. Dressed to the nines, standing in a queue to a deeply fashionable club in the heart of the city, she'd got chatting to the girls next to her. They too sported cool trainers, a splash of lipstick and a smokey eye. My mate Jess got round to asking how old these new buddies were, only to be stunned when they said they were 24. To add insult, one girl squealed out that Jess and her mates looked surprisingly young, as 'My Mum is your age.' Eek. In one moment Jess realised that her clubbing days were over - she was less club kid, more bar fly these days... To compound this realisation, when they entered the club, the singer on the stage was none other than the lead singer from late 80s early 90s band Black Box and she belted out their big hit : Ride on Time. Yup, the only folk who knew or indeed cared about this face were Jess and her gang...

There comes a moment in every woman's life - when you realise certain things have to stop: metallic mini skirts (maybe not the best idea at any given time), showing cleavage and towering heels. When Christmas wish lists are no longer filled with things like 'Agent Provocateur' underwear and glam accessories -  instead you want Ugg slippers or a decent pair of gloves. Sure, I still look at fetching heels in Selfridges shoe section - but then I remind myself - I don't have the life to go with these beauties any more...

Shivering on the side of the football pitch last weekend, watching through sleeted rain as my six year old daughter got covered in mud while her team thrashed the other side, I made my own mental wish list for things that my life now required. Clue: none were bits of stringy lace disguised as 'underwear.' I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon avoiding laundry by simply having to find the perfect winter coat. Not too wide and bulky - I don't want to look like the Michelin woman. Waterproof and with a hood, so I can bear to be beside a football pitch cheering on as the heavens pour onto me... Something with a flattering cut, that will cut out the piercing windchill in ice cold February... But finding something like this proved to be the holy grail.

Until I came across Tresspass. Now, I will confess, I hadn't come across this site before - but low and behold - there was my perfect coat. A down coat to keep me cosy - padded to lock in heat - but still flattering (rare in the case of a down coat) - long enough to keep my legs warm too. A hem drawcord to lock out that bitter winter wind and water resistant to boot! Now, we all know that buying online is a bit of a gamble - things sometimes don't turn out to be anywhere near as good, once postie has delivered them (Hello anything you have mistakenly bought because some size zero model blogger aged 25 looked ace in it - of course she does, she is TWENTY FIVE) - but on this occasion my hopes of finding THE perfect school run winter coat have been surpassed. I put in on and didn't feel like I had been zipped into a stiff sleeping bag. It was comfy, roomy and beyond warm. I'm almost - but not quite - excited about the winter weather approaching, just to try this baby out and see what extremes it can handle. The other great thing is Tresspass appear to have clearance sales so there are bargains to be had. Get ye along there pronto!

Whilst I am still coveting a fetching cashmere camel coat for a life that I led about 15 years ago (certainly pre kids) I am convinced that between the two, I know which coat is going to see more action this winter. Here is a fetching photo of the coat, on a lady who is not me, but wears my 'can't think of any place I would rather be on a Sunday morning at 8:30am than freezing my butt off by the side of this scabby pitch' face. And she has better hair...





Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Walking like a Walker




It was raining, cold, grey with summer not even a hint on the horizon and my gut told me to stay at home. But the muscles covering said gut aren't exactly a rippling six pack, so I got my arse off the sofa and headed to my usual Monday HIIT class. My back had been giving me a bit of gyp - ever since I had painted my garden trellis a fetching shade of grey the week before, (Is there ever a more middle class statement uttered than the above?) but I thought I was in good enough shape to go.

We were almost through the class, when I was turning mid jump, to perfect the stance once assumes before they do a burpee, when I felt something judder in my back. Dear god the pain. I hobbled out of the class and attempted to stretch my back out on a machine by hanging over it - but then discovered I couldn't quite get up. Or stand. Almost crying, I asked a trainer I know for help and the next thing I know I'm lying sprawled out in the middle of the gym as a handsome carved from marble, physio is manipulating me into all kinds of positions. Not quite what I had expected to happen by ten am on a Monday... It would have been all kinds of good except I couldn't move without searing pain in my lower back. Physio explained it was all due to tight muscles in other areas but all I could think was, how the feck am I getting home? He was pressing my back, hard on my buttocks (oh yes, there was no shame from me - I've had two kids, and frankly I would have sold them if he had promised he could make my back pain go away in that instant) and up my thighs. 

I managed to stand but couldn't walk further than a few metres, so husband had to collect me and drop me at the chiropractor. After more manipulation he told me to walk home. I tried. But ended up clinging to a lamppost and howling in pain. An old man of about 90 offered to help me, but bless him I think if I had lent on him I would have taken us both down.

Husband picked me up and I haven't really moved from two rooms since. I am in agony. I can't sit, stand or lie without being in pain. When I attempt to walk I am bent over to one side, not unlike a Walker on the Walking Dead. Which is the only form of comfort of having such an injury. It means I have to take it easy and tear through as many seasons as is humanly possible.

It almost makes me wish for a Zombie apocalypse - but only if handsome Rick would be on hand to save me. Who knew Andrew Lincoln was so HOT? I'm so deeply invested in the group that if Maggie or Glen or Daryl (swoon) die I may never recover. It is unbelievably tense from the get-go. 

Rick wakes up in hospital to discover the world is not as he knew it. He heads for his house - finds it empty and eventually turns towards the city, looking for his wife and son. I can barely stand to look at the screen because I am so scared a Walker will sink their jaws around Rick's neck and turn him into one of them... The action is nail biting, the script sharp and the acting first class. WHY have I never got into it before?

It almost makes having agonising back ache worth it. Must run - season 4 about to start.... WHOOP. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

Vulnerable isn't a dirty word.

Recently a friend recommended this Ted talk on Vulnerability. I've been having a bit of a rocky time of late and she wanted to find some words of inspiration for me, some comfort. In essence the idea is those who are able to be vulnerable, to be seen, not matter how afraid, ashamed and fearful - experience the most joy in life. Those who show their vulnerability tend to be those who feel they are worthy of love, who feel they are 'enough.'

It's an interesting concept, one I have been pondering on, because lately I've felt about as far from good 'enough' as possible. I've felt like the last kid to be picked for the team, the girl who sits on the bench at the dance, the woman who stands alone in the middle of a huge party, as the clock chimes midnight on NYE. Deep down, I don't think I'm good enough to be a writer as a profession and my waking moments are spent waiting to be 'found out.' Each set of notes sent back to me break me out in a sweat, a fear that I won't know how to fix anything, that my well of ideas and solutions will run dry, that I'll be taken off the script and finally, at last the truth will be confirmed - that I am NOT good 'enough.'

What should be a joyful and fun experience, instead becomes one of absolute misery. I turn myself inside out with stress, fretful of failing, not earning, surviving, fashioning another career out of rubble. I send myself loopy. 

When I left my full-time job back in 2014 I didn't feel that afraid. I felt relief. Finally, I was able to parent my kids and even though I had precious little time to write while my daughter was at nursery, I felt sure everything would be ok. I threw myself into writing trials for shows and writing a spec script and just loved it all. I felt the fear and did it the heck anyway. Maybe I felt I had nothing to lose, I can't remember. All I know is that I had a sense of everything working out - a true gut feeling...

And it did. 

Until it didn't. The company that had been using me regularly decided out of the blue not to any more - no word of warning, no chance at redemption, no hint of this previously - just BOOM - you are gone. Like a rug pulled from under your feet. Yes, yes... this is the life of a writer people say.... but that doesn't make it easier. Not one jot. 

All of a sudden, it feels like starting again. The sheer terror of attempting to drag my confidence off the floor again is crippling. I look at my kids' faces, as they innocently ask for things and I feel enormous pressure to provide - this overwhelms me - which ironically is about as far away from feeling creative as you can get. I've really struggled with my sense of worth, whether or not I'm capable and all the shame that accompanies such feelings. 

This all feeds the monster that is anxiety, until he grows so tall, you can't see anything - least of all any light. It's made me want to hide away, to not see friends, to not face the world - because I worry my inadequacy is written across my face. It has honestly been mentally exhausting. Every time this year I have had one tiny piece of good news, within the space of a few days, something has happened to knock that back - or to throw another huge curveball my way. I tell myself I'm robust, I can cope, I'm an Aries for gawds sake. But it's like the car is trying run on no gas... The fire in my belly has gone out. A friend told me to write my way out of it... this haze, this grey time. It reminded me I used to write here all the time... and in doing so I never felt alone. I always felt supported... It was ok to be vulnerable, to not know the answers, to fuck up. Because you lot were doing it too.... Being vulnerable here on my blog, felt safe. 

Watching the programme last week on 'Mind over Marathon' - where 10 people with mental health issues ran the London marathon - reduced me to tears. The courage these folk had, running for 'Heads Together' charity humbled me. But it also made me realise that it is so good to talk about feeling down, feeling as if we have failed, about not feeling 'good enough.' There is no shame in it. Trying to hide it, wearing a mask pretending all is just hunky dory when inside we are a mess, is what makes everything a million times worse. 

So I'm trying to work through this time - the one where I wake at 5am every day in a panic that I am doomed - the one where my heart races all the time and I can't eat. The one where I am reduced to tears in a heartbeat, where I doubt myself to my core and where I have lost all faith. Part of me tells myself in a thick Irish accent to 'dry yer eyes and get on with it...' - that there is no problem a cup of tea and hug from a buddy won't solve. I take wisdom from my children's films and as Dory says, I just keep swimming. I'll let you know when I get to the other side.... 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Turn off tune out

Last night I spent the guts of an hour searching for 70s/80s tennis/skater socks - a la Eleven in Stranger Things. I oohed and ached over the stripes - yellow and blue? Green and Purple?

I had a fantasy of wearing said socks all summer. My hair in plaits. No make-up. Old Baseball Ts with hot rock holes in them. Scuffed Converse. People in my Daily Mail entrenched town pointing at the crazy lady who looks like she's stepped off the film Carrie. These days I feel like the Crazy lady. I've always had a plan - plans are what get me up, keep me motivated and stepping one foot in front of the other. Now, with no plan, there is a huge gaping void. One I can't fill. Even with the brightest whitest skater socks.

When I was a kid I used to dream of stepping off the planet. Lifting up up into space - staring down at the whole melee below and just feeling removed from it all. A sense of floating, weightless. Still. Now I feel the same about all the social media white noise that invades my life. That I willingly open myself to - all the peacocking and humble brags, the fawning, the unmovable opinions, the bandwagons, the self aggrandising the shallowness of it all.

A few weeks back, standing waiting for a gym class to start, I noticed that everyone in the queue was staring at their phones. No one was chatting. No one asking if the class was good, was the class before running late, what they were up to on this cold Sunday... No words at all. Everyone glued to their glowing little screens, avoiding eye contact with everyone else.  I watched and felt an innate sadness at who we have all become. No one talks any more. No one calls. It's all quick fired texts or snippy Whats App messages where everyone reads the tone incorrectly and you come across as angry when in fact you are far from it. There's an app called Moment that tracks how long you spend on your phone. Try it, you'll be surprised. Black Mirror doesn't seem all that bizarre any more, it feels like the norm.

What did we do before we whiled away the hours on social media? Ironically there being absolutely nothing social about it at all. I used to read more books. Phone people on their landline and catch up on their lives. Go out more. Be in the moment.

So, I'm going to stop using my mobile phone for a bit. My mate Wills was the last of my buddies to get one and I always wondered why he abstained for so long. Now I realise exactly why. It's time for me to go back to the days of landlines and ten p coins for emergency phone calls. I'm going to step away from all the white noise. If that makes me harder to contact, so be it. At least I will hear a voice, see those I love in the flesh, rather than a political 'like' on Facebook or a courtesy text which has always been the poor relation to an actual full chat. Remember one of those? Filed under things we no longer have time for.

In keeping with my retro plans, I am opting for the green and yellow socks. Plaits optional.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Lower than low

By nature I am an optimist. Someone who looks for the best in everyone, in every situation. On my best days, the ones where the sun shines and my breakfast avocado is perfectly ripe and the email in box is full of joy - I believe anything can happen. I have complete faith that things work out as they are meant to - that every bump along the road is simply there to help us slow down on the journey, take in the surroundings, appreciate free-wheeling down the big hills.

Then there are the days when I wake, feeling like I am pinned down to the bed - a ten tonne weight on my chest, making it almost impossible to breathe. The panic sets in. My heart races and I think - how do I find my way out of here? Again. It feels like a maze, one I am destined to re-enter and spend my days forever ricocheting off the sides, never negotiating a way out.

More than anything, I wish I wasn't attracted to industries that reject you. I wish I loved numbers, banking, business - something tangible and real, something with career progression and promotions and health care and pensions. Something to guide me. To always have an answer, a solution.

Maybe there is a lesson I never learnt. Isn't that why cycles repeat themselves? For us to realise our wrong turn and make amends, change course. I've changed course so many times, to accommodate having a family, to pay bills, to survive. Of course I am beyond blessed, with a husband, children, a home. With these things comes responsibilities. I'm no silver spoon kid - I can't turn to family to bail me out, to fund me while I'm between jobs, to pay for my children's sports lessons or even a food shop. There has never been anywhere to turn, except to myself. To find the will to get back on the horse again. I always do.

Until I don't.

Until I wake one day and say - enough. Enough with the forever trying. Like the moment on X factor when some cast off from a boy band of yester-year crawls back into the audition room having lost his youthful zest, his strong jawline, his floppy hair. He's a melted bloated version of his former self, but still he holds the mic like his life depends on it and belts out a tune that once captivated his local pub. It still brings the sloppy barmaids running to him. But it fails to move anyone, least of all him. Yet he hopes. He really hopes that this time, it will be the one. That the judges will see what was seen once - all too briefly - and they will usher him a fast pass to fame and fortune. Heck, maybe at first they do. They let him through out of some nostalgic pity more than anything else, and he surprises himself by making it through another round or two. Until he hits a crossroads, the big make or break at Judges' houses... The pressure gets to him, he vomits beside the luxury pool but he manages at last to pull off the performance of a lifetime - his last ever one it turns out - because he was never the right look, the right age, the right person. So he goes back to the karaoke nights where he can be king for a moment, while the large glitter ball above endlessly spins, sending fragments of light cascading across his face. He quits while he's ahead, marries the barmaid. Gets a job at the local Pizza restaurant as a manager. But when he belts out the 'Happy Birthdays' to transfixed tables every night, lingering on the final notes, bathing the room in his voice, inside a little piece of him dies at what could have, should have, would have been....

Realising one's own limitations is a tough and sobering moment. It is a moment when you know that your good, isn't good enough, no matter how much you want it to be. No matter how many well meaning mates cheered you on, no matter how much you maybe convinced yourself. I watch around me as so many people I know glide through life. Steady jobs, 2 holidays a year (if you count a break at a rustic holiday home at Easter) never ever sweating anything. I used to content myself by thinking that under the surface they were paddling furiously to keep afloat - until I realised, no, that was just me.

I had a dream the other night that I was a skater. One of those flesh coloured tights, hairsprayed, neon pink lipsticked goddesses whizzing across the rink and whirling myself up, up, into the air. My skirt flip-flapping in the breeze, the bodice covered in tiny pearls as white as my teeth. I awoke to think that perhaps I'd missed my calling - that I was a secret Torville in the making, but now I'd never know. Maybe there is a whole plethora of skills I have that I've never uncovered. A vocation that could have propelled me to financial security and pensions and all manner of luxury. I just never found it before.

Perhaps I never looked hard enough. Maybe it's time to start now....



Saturday, 11 February 2017

Raya...

I'll confess - part of me has always felt like I missed out by never tipping my toe into the fun pool that is online dating. I met my now Husband in 2001, when I was 28 and he didn't even have a phone, or even a proper home. He was travelling through London living in a room with 6 other guys - ON THE BOTTOM BUNK. I wonder what attracted him to the single gal with her own 2 bed Victorian conversion flat in West Hampstead?

Anyway, we met because I nearly knocked him out. He was tying his shoelace when I threw open the kitchen door of the bar he worked in - causing him to go flying. Prior to that I tended to meet potential dates in a sweaty dive bar called Lateleys in my hood, where there was zero shame in asking the DJ to play Britney and your feet stuck to the floor. The bar was littered with mannequins and bizarre tat and had some old school space invader tables out the back. I would scrawl my number on boys' arms in lipstick or eyeliner and dance up a storm with my girlfriends.

Other than that I tended to meet potential suitors through friends, at packed vodka-fuelled house parties or once passing a (now A lister) actor in China town where we both did a double take and then traded numbers.

I never had to upload a profile, or write humorous paragraphs highlighting my wit, or spend days taking the perfect selfie - 70 filters later. I have on occasion lived vicariously through friends - helping them do all the above on various sites -such as one a friend calls, 'Guardian Soul destroyer.' It seemed like a whole heap of fun - until you realise that most men are either looking for sex or are serial killers. One good looking young buck uploaded pics of penguins shagging - which in retrospect, didn't make him suitable marriage material no matter how chiselled his cheekbones.

But a recent discovery has thrown the whole dating ritual into a new and startling focus. It is called 'Raya' and is a dating site for 'those in the creative industries.' Apparently it is where famous folk can swipe left or right and meet without having to deal with a load of star struck dirty little civilians. Members are apparently selected by a super secret anonymous committee (sounds like trying to get a soho house membership in 1997 before it became an ad agency mecca and lost all credibility) - but get this - it is based on their Instagram presence.

At this point I almost want to grab a sandwich board and run into the street shouting 'the end of the world is nigh!!' I mean WTF? Are we seriously saying people are now valued - in romantic relationships (I'm not talking as a brand here as that I get) because of their followers? Applicants are evaluated by an algorithm with considers 'overall Instagram influence, who recommended the applicant and how many active Raya members follow the applicant on Instagram.' 

Now I ask you - sincerely - if you are only deemed a worthwhile person because of your Instagram following - how fucking tragic does that make you?? I mean, am I alone here in thinking that this type of categorisation is the death knell of civilisation as we know it? Sure, politically the world is in a mess at the moment - but this kind of value placed on a person makes me wonder what the hell has happened to us all? Any idiot can drum up desperate followers (a recent article by a Times journalist showed him ditching his real life family pics and curating a made-up life filled with arty shots and a fake glam lifestyle and he watched followers rocket) - but what does that make you as a person? Kind? Funny? Engaging? Reliable? Honest? Intelligent? Being socially media savvy often doesn't mean anything more than being overly narcissistic....

Surely the whole endeavour is a paradox in itself - those who are so uber famous they can't meet anyone,  wish for anonymity to find love, yet have to go on dating site that will only allow them onboard if they are famous enough? What cardboard cut out souls will they meet on it? Apparently (I have never been on this site) the pics are all tracked to music which is about as basic as you can possibly get... 

Meanwhile I saw a magazine journalist recently uploaded her new agent's details to Twitter, hoping for work in TV as a scriptwriter. Her agency turned out to be Curtis Brown - and on her CV, an update of how many Twitter followers she had. Perhaps there is a correlation between being a skilled dramatic script writer and being popular on social media, but I have yet to find it. 

More depressingly, actors are now getting jobs because studios use their Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram followings to sell their movie. Emma Thompson lamented this saying that actors are becoming attached in 'the sort of business way' to their social media profiles - which she thought was a disaster. Exactly. Shouldn't they be practicing their craft rather than uploading selfies? Can you imagine Cate Blanchett, Brando or Streep thinking of how to gain more followers? 

I find it all wildly depressing. We have lost the ability to judge people on merit alone - to interact in the flesh and appreciate talent and hard work - instead following the herd and relying on insignificant numbers to establish a person's worth. We all know deep down that Facebook and Instagram are the edited highlight reels of a person's life - they don't show their true colours: everything has been filtered and airbrushed to establish perfection - all of life's flaws and warts are wiped away. What we are left with is an image, polished and preened and utterly devoid of soul. If that isn't the Emperor's new clothes, frankly, I don't know what is. So those celebs hoping to meet someone real on the site? How likely is that?

So for those who aren't worthy enough to make it onto Raya's books, I wouldn't despair. I'd grab a beer at your local dive bar, chat to the person next to you and throw some strange shapes on the dance floor.  Least whoever you meet will appreciate you for you - no filters required.