So I would ask you what you’ve all been up to, but I already know as so many of you have written to me with your dramas to Dear Dolly.. well I can tell you one thing, I feel a lot better about my love life, fashion malfunctions and drinking habits now I’ve heard about yours! Not to mention the jokes. You filthy bunch!
Speaking of drinking… I attended the fabulous LGBT awards at the Marriott hotel, Mayfair in London and rubbed shoulder pads (yes they are making a come back) with Mel B, she gave us all what we really-really wanted! All the gossip on everything but couldn’t remember who she was wearing! She looked spicy as hell, but after having a root around in her dress where a tag should be! (That’s right I had my paws inside a spice girl) We were non the wiser! Phoenix her daughter is a super babe and her Mum wouldn’t take her eyes off – can’t blame her she was gorgeous in a fully transparent mini body-con dress with lace and beads to cover her best bits!
There were so many familiar faces at the event and is always one I go to as the red carpet is as long as my list of ex’s and the champagne flows, just like Cardi B’s lyrics.
All the love was flowing from google boxes Scarlett Moffat, not only was she the ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ jungle winner she was the winner of love on the night. Wearing Vivienne Westwood and opted for a smart/casual look, teamed an over sized Westwood print shirt with skinnies and heels. With a red lip and loads of hugs her look was perfect for the event.
The much-awaited Sinitta arrived and to my disappointment not a leaf in sight to cover her modesty, but a muted silver chain top with satin black pants. She enjoyed the night with the likes of the only way is Essex Bobby Noris, Beverly knight and Rachel Shelly.
I drank my body weight in Champagne and spoke to everyone about how fabulous I was and asked the questions no one dared too.
This week I got an email asking a very common question.
This one came in anonymously and how can I blame them. It’s a difficult one and can only sympathise with the feels.
I don’t know if you can help me and I am sure you will get hundreds of questions but I am getting married in a few months and don’t think I can go through with it. I have been planning this wedding for over a year. I have had minimal to no help with the choice making and now feel exhausted and not sure I even want to be married? Please help. Was I just in love with the idea of the big day? Or is this normal pre wedding nerves?
Anonymous, Philadelphia US
This is a bloody hard one! I would off the cuff say RUN for the Hollywood hills, BUT pre wedding nerves are the most common feels and questions arise like “Do I even like them!?” Let alone love them. Saying “I do” for a lifetime is like me committing to pizza every night of the week. I mean, I love pizza but every night? I like to mix it up bit on a Thursday. I know we are not talking food but seriously this is the norm for pre wedding questions. I think the question should be could you see yourself without this person? Would you like to wake up without this person? If the answer is no it’s simply nerves. Wedding planning can take its toll don’t lose sight of your relationship and the love you have.
If the answer is “Hell no I can’t stand this person, Dolly, how could I be so wrong? I don’t see this person in my future” Then I will meet you at the top of the hill with tissues and a large bottle of something strong!
Either way, do what you feel in your heart and trust your gut. You can’t go wrong with that!!
Don’t forget, you too can ask Dolly a question.
Nothing is off limits so consider me your Dollylama (spiritual guru) here for all the real talk. Write in at email@example.com
One older mum offers her advice to Brigitte Nielsen who is having a baby aged 54.
So, Brigitte Nielsen’s having a baby at 54. Congratulations, Brigitte! And welcome to the club for ancient mums. I’ve been a member for a while. I had my first child, Lucia, at the extremely average age of 34. Divorce and remarriage ensued, however, so it turned out that I had my second, Daisy, at 42. That already seemed pretty past it but wait for it, there’s more… Because I went on to have my third daughter, Matilda, at the grand old age of 45.
The chances of conceiving naturally – which Matilda was, in case you were wondering, which I know you were – were miniscule at that age. Using your own egg, even with assisted fertilisation, the odds are only 1 per cent (yes, you read that right. One. Per. Cent). The chances of staying pregnant were also slim – 60% of pregnancies at 45, I read fearfully, ends in miscarriage.
But we made it and now, aged 50, I am the oldest mum in the classroom. There are more of us than ever, though – numbers of mums over 40 have doubled in the last 20 years. So Brigitte, here’s what you need to know:
1. While your friends are having grandchildren and/or affairs, you will be pushing a buggy around Co-Op (or Hollywood in your case, but you get the picture). The upside of this is that everyone will think you are younger than you are. The downside is that pushing a buggy demotes you to second-class citizen no matter what your age – although at least you do have somewhere to hang your shopping.
2. At a time when you might be expecting to focus on yourself – retrain as a landscape gardener, launch a start-up yoga app or write your long-awaited first novel – you will be learning a new skill. That of being very, very silly. This morning I had to pretend Matilda is a puppy called Fluffy who barks once for yes, twice for no, while Daisy imagined she was a cat called Mittens; I also had to talk to Matilda’s pet worm, called, um, Wormy. I know. It’s insane.
3. Exercise takes on a new meaning. Walking becomes meaningless at best, torture at worst, as you have to slow down to tortoise pace to accommodate the ladybird your child just coaxed onto her finger. You will make up for the lost calories chasing your child around with their knickers/tights/coat/shoes/hairbrush/toothbrush/flannel, however.
4. You will lose some of your old friends who are discovering a second youth and partying too hard to be seen dead with you – quite reasonably, they will think you are too boring to hang about with any more as you have to go to bed at 9.30pm and believe that everything your child says is amazing and bears endless repetition (‘She was singing Frozen and she said “Let the strawberry jam” instead of “Let the storm rage on” – can you believe it???!!!’)
5. You will be tired. Yes, even more tired than if you were younger.
6. You will become obsessed with your own mortality – the thought that you will die before you’ve seen them all right in their lives is unbearable. This does mean you will be healthier – I now swim, run and cycle, don’t smoke and attempt to drink sensibly (although all the above does slightly drive me into the arms of Mr P. Grigio most nights, I do admit) in a bid to keep the Grim Reaper at bay.
7. There’s always an excuse to watch puppy, kitten and piglet Youtube videos, however, which is good.
Oh, and one last thing Brigitte. I don’t know if you get nits in Hollywood but if you do, Hedrin is your best bet.
Five years ago Katie Gee was travelling in Zanzibar when a stranger threw acid on her, changing her life forever. Here, she tells Kate Graham about that fateful day and how she overcame the trauma to travel again
The acid attack
Imagine a thousand wasp stings on your body, a pain so sharp, so unbearable, that your legs buckle beneath you. I had been walking down a dusty street in Zanzibar laughing with my friend, when out of the blue we were subjected to an acid attack.
The memory of it still makes me shake: the splash of cold liquid on my skin, the paralysis in my body as it froze with shock, the panic as I heard Kirstie’s piercing screams. It’s strange to reflect on how, in a split second, your life can change irreversibly. Five years on, I’m still having surgery to help my body recover from what happened that day. Deep down, though, the mental scars will take much longer to heal.
Kirstie and I arrived in Stone Town, Zanzibar, an island off the mainland of Tanzania, four weeks earlier, in August 2013, searching for adventure. It was an opportunity I’d looked forward to for months – the chance to volunteer, see something of the world, and relax before the intensity of A-level results and university. We began teaching at a local primary school, getting to know the locals and immersing ourselves in the culture, while at weekends we explored the beautiful local beaches near our hotel.
We witnessed extreme poverty and were conscious of our positions as outsiders, but we never felt threatened. The people we met were incredibly friendly and we saw women and girls treated equally in mixed schools, so we never had a sense of misogyny, either.
Much of the population in Zanzibar is Muslim, so we were sensitive to the local customs, dressing respectfully and even offering to take off our Star of David jewellery (we are both Jewish). But we were told it wasn’t necessary, and were welcomed warmly by the children and their families who invited us into their lives.
On the evening of the acid attack, people had been gathering to eat after prayers. It was our last day volunteering, so we headed out for a celebratory dinner. Although we were sad to leave the children we’d become fond of, we were excited about our plans to travel in Tanzania before flying home.
As Ramadan prayers were coming to a close, the streets began to fill and I remember laughing as I flapped my oversized jumper over my body to generate a breeze in the intense heat. I had no idea that this single piece of clothing would save me from even more of the excruciating pain that was about to come.
As we turned left down a side street, a motorbike appeared and slowed right down next to us. In the split second it took me to look up and see two men, the liquid was already flying through the air towards me.
I instantly knew something terrible had happened when the searing pain began as it splashed across the right-hand side of my face and body. The smell was horrific and the pain immediate and consuming. In a flash, I reached for a dry part of my jumper to wipe my eyes and in a blind panic just ran.
It’s strange, but I instinctively knew Kirstie was OK and it was fight or flight. Within 60 seconds I was inside a beachside restaurant, managing to make my way to the customer showers where I turned on all the taps, and allowed the cold water to pour over my body. Looking at my blistering skin, I realised it must have been acid as the smell was acrid, like boiling coffee. My thin trousers and T-shirt disintegrated before my eyes.
I have never felt so utterly powerless and vulnerable as I stood nearly naked screaming for help, desperately trying to wash the acid away. My eyelids were totally burned and it felt like my face was falling off. I only remember snapshots from the next few hours. Two tourists, Nadine and Sam, stopped to help us and somehow they got us into a car and we sped to the local hospital. Kirstie kept repeating, ‘What is going on?’ but I was in such profound shock that I couldn’t even speak.
The local hospital was total chaos – it ran out of saline solution to treat us and we had to head to a nearby hotel, where we stood under showers for over two hours, both shivering uncontrollably in terrible agony, with no idea what would come next. As reality dawned on me and I realised what had happened, my mind started to shut down and I became numb.
Over the next 24 hours, we boarded a medical plane to the mainland and then to London. It was during a stop to refuel in Nairobi that we went to the toilet and glanced in the mirror to see our faces for the first time.
We broke down and sobbed as we stared at our horrific injuries. My face was swollen to four times its normal size, my right eye completely shut from the swelling. My mouth was so swollen, I couldn’t eat or drink. My face, neck, stomach, arm, leg, where the acid had hit, were discoloured and grey.
Kirstie had fared better, having been a greater distance from the attacker, but she still had some burns to her face, arm and shoulder. As a doctor pushed my wheelchair through the airport, with Kirstie walking beside me, people stood and stared.
I’ll never forget seeing Mum’s face when she greeted us on the runway at Heathrow. I knew she was trying to be strong for me, but I could see her agony, the tears in her eyes.
‘My thin trousers and T-shirt disintegrated before my eyes.’
I have so much admiration for the people who cared for us at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital burns unit. Kirstie was allowed to go home, but I had to stay. It transpired I had 30 per cent burns and a nine-hour operation followed. I had skin grafts on my face, back, arms, stomach and legs, which left my body like a patchwork quilt.
My right ear was so badly damaged, it needed to be removed. I spent two months recovering in hospital before seeing psychologists and physiotherapists. I’ve had more than 50 operations in total and there are still days when I can’t process that I will never go back to the person I was before.
The emotional and mental recovery has been the most challenging, especially when things went back to normal after the incredible outpouring of support I had. During my first weeks in hospital, I never had one evening alone – there were always friends or family there to keep my spirits up. But people had to get back to their lives – my friends went off to university and I was left behind, in limbo.
I felt lonely and isolated. My life had stopped; the dreams and ambitions I’d had for myself were over. I had happy moments, of course, but generally I felt anxious, and negative thoughts plagued me: ‘Your face is still bright red. There are endless surgeries to come. This is your life now.’
The nights were hardest. I dreamed of people throwing acid on me from all angles, of being attacked or chased. They were so vivid and frightening that I’d wake up in a sweat.
I began staying up until 2am watching TV because I didn’t want to shut my eyes. I regularly felt dizzy and disorientated, and had panic attacks. I also had to deal with the reality of my appearance. People stared when I went out. I lived in scarves, sunglasses and a beanie hat; I couldn’t look someone new in the eye because I was so ashamed of my face.
Slowly, though, I have begun to take small steps towards rebuilding my life. Despite being gripped by fear, I went to the theatre with my mum, then on a short break to Amsterdam with a friend. I’m not as relaxed as I used to be, but I recently graduated with a 2.1 degree in sociology and feel incredibly proud of how far I’ve come.
University wasn’t the experience I’d once hoped for – no parties or drinking, plus a constant struggle with pain, anxiety and endless operations. But I’ve just been travelling across the US and Australia, and have some work lined up in the property business.
They never caught the men who did this to me and, sadly, I can’t forgive them. I don’t think I ever will. But I’ve been able to move on from the anger by compartmentalising it. I’m more focused on getting on with my life now. I still struggle with anxiety, and the rise in recent acid attacks in the UK terrifies me – the number of people needing specialist treatment has doubled over the past three years, which is shocking.
But you can’t live in fear. Today, the face I see in the mirror is one I’m proud of. When people stare at me, I stare right back. I’m proud of my scars. People tell me I’m brave but, honestly, you have no choice. When you’re forced to be strong, you are.
She said at the time, ‘YOUR SILENCE is THE problem. You’ll accept a fake award breathlessly & affect no real change. I despise your hypocrisy. Maybe you should all wear Marchesa.’
While she later took the remark down, it was monumental in tying Weinstein’ history of abuse to his ex-wife Georgina Chapman’s brand for many in the public eye. Wearing Marchesa to an event became tacitly associated with Weinstein, tainting the brand’s image as it quickly nosedived. Marchesa later lost out on a lucrative jewellery collaboration and quietly cancelled their New York Fashion Week show to release their collection digitally instead.
As the #MeToo reckoning and Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment allegations raged on, Georgina Chapman was one of the first to condemn her former husband’s behaviour in the wake of the New York Times investigation. Calling them ‘unforgivable actions’, she said in a statement, ‘My heart breaks for all the women who have suffered tremendous pain because of these unforgivable actions. I have chosen to leave my husband.’
The damage was done however. Marchesa had faded away from the red carpets and celebrity stylists’ closets that year. Her social media was flooded with comments from people screaming at her that she had been complicit in her husband’s actions.
Weinstein’s long shadow has always hung over Marchesa. The producer, who has been accused of multiple counts of sexual assault and intimidation, was instrumental in securing funding for the brand and garnering publicity for it. He once admitted that he had played a part in getting Renee Zellweger to wear Marchesa in 2004 – the first star to do so and raising the brand’s profile in the public eye. Other actresses such as Sienna Miller and Felicity Huffman took a stronger stance, saying that they had been pressured into wearing Marchesa by Weinstein otherwise risking throwing their careers into jeopardy.
However, Georgina Chapman is not responsible for the actions of her ex-husband. As it emerges that Weinstein is a man who allegedly spent a great deal of time taking power away from other women and abusing his influence, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if he did this without his wife’s consent.
Shackling Georgina Chapman and her business to her husband is utterly anti-feminist, in my opinion. If we define her and Marchesa by her ex-husband, we erase her and her work from the picture. We make her, her female co-founder Keren Craig and everyone else at Marchesa pay for his actions. She is not Harvey Weinstein. She should not pay for his sins. Marchesa should not be seen as Harvey Weinstein’s brand.
Finding the mogul’s fingers in the seam and taffeta of her dresses allows the man to have power over yet another woman, another actress who wears her dresses – especially when Marchesa finally has a chance to step out of his toxic gravitational pull.
Scarlett Johansson stepped out at the Met Gala on Monday night in a gown by the brand, a deep red and pink ombre dress detailed with florals. She was the first major star to do so since the allegations. Unsurprisingly, the fury flooded in as people criticised her for wearing a dress even tangentially connected to Weinstein – despite the fact that the brand has severed ties and expressed a desire to support the #MeToo movement, according to a Refinery29 interview with Keren Craig.
Scarlett, who has previously worked with Weinstein on Vicky Cristina Barcelona, said, ‘I wore Marchesa because their clothes make women feel confident and beautiful, and it is my pleasure to support a brand created by two incredibly talented and important female designers.’
And whether Scarlett was just trying to avoid talking about Weinstein as a tactical PR move, the most important thing to note in her response is that she removes Weinstein from the equation. She returns the focus to the ‘two incredibly talented and important female designers’, who have worked tirelessly to build a fashion brand over more than a decade and are now tasked with the monumental mission of shaking off a monster’s shadow.
So, wear Marchesa. Support a woman whose livelihood is being punished for the actions of an abuser and trying to rebuild her life, in spite of naysayers rubberbanding her every move to her ex-husband.
To be honest, if I was going to criticise Marchesa for anything it would be on their work: more specifically, Scarlett Johansson’s Met Gala dress was utterly boring. They completely curveballed the Met Gala’s controversial theme, chose to go with a very safe and conventional silhouette and missed out on a chance to make a real comeback statement. When Rihanna literally shows up as Margiela Maison’s Pope, Katy Perry as Versace’s archangel and Scarlett’s safe homecoming queen pales in comparison. We’re rooting for you ladies, step your game up.
‘Hello? 1958 called, they want their opinion back’
You’ll find one in every group of friends or extended family. An outwardly reasonable person who calmly asserts that the gender pay gap is a myth.
Similar to the ‘when’s international men’s day?’ folk, a pay gap denier (PGD) is most likely to show their true colours at key junctures in the debate. Like last week’s deadline for all companies with over 250 employees to reveal their gender pay gaps, which felt like a broad step in the right direction, but also prompted a lot of huffing from the PGDs that ‘women work fewer hours’, ‘women take maternity leave’ and ‘women simply aren’t as good – so sue me, PC brigade!’
Because it’s difficult to keep a cool head when you encounter a PGD in real life, perhaps while sitting in the pub with friends on an otherwise pleasant Saturday afternoon, or during brunch with a cousin you haven’t seen in a while, here’s a clear set of responses to have in your back pocket…
They say: ‘Men earn more because they work longer hours’
You say: ‘No, men earn more than women for working the same hours. As this summary shows, women in full time work are paid 9.1% less than men.’
They say: ‘Women take time off for maternity leave’
You say: ‘Do you think women should be financially penalised for the (fairly essential) process of continuing the human race, or should women of childbearing age simply not work at all? Either way, it’s not a good look – and ultimately terrible for the economy when you write off half the workforce because of their ovaries. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that the babies being born who you object to so strongly will one day work and pay taxes that will help fund your retirement, or even care for you in old age. And please stop calling maternity leave time off, it’s not a 6 month jolly around South America.’
They say: ‘Women don’t ask for a pay rise’
You say: ‘The idea that women don’t get pay rises because they don’t ask for them has been disproved. Women do ask, they’re just more likely to have their request refused. A study by the University of Warwick showed men are 25% more likely to get a pay rise when they ask for one.‘
They say: ‘There aren’t as many female executives so the figures will always be lopsided’
You say: ‘It’s not that simple because the picture gets worse for women who do make it to the top. In the UK, female managers earn 27% less than their male counterparts – on average that amounts to £12 000 a year – and male CEO bonuses are six times larger than those earned by female CEOs. Depressingly, even in a 50:50 boardroom the male execs would be likely to get a bigger slice of the pie.’
They say: ‘Women just aren’t as committed to work once they have a family’
So more often than not a woman’s supposed ‘lack of commitment’ to her job is decided by her employer. Add a lack of flexible working conditions and some of the highest childcare costs in Europe into the mix and you’ve got a pretty hostile environment.’
They say: ‘The pay gap figures revealed by companies are too simplistic to really prove anything’
You say: ‘But requiring companies to reveal their total gender pay gap is surely a step in the right direction, isn’t it? You might argue, for example, that Easyjet’s 52% pay gap is swung by the number of male pilots rather than a breakdown of like-for-like pay. But don’t you think we should be asking why women feel discouraged from becoming pilots in the first place? Or we could just do what you’re doing: shoot down any attempts at actual progress and carry on as we are, which happens to suit half the population rather well…’