SHE seems to have it all -- picture-perfect looks, TV's top gig, a legion of fans and millions in the bank. But what Tulisa Contostavlos doesn't have, alas, is a significant other to share it with.
However, she's noted that she is casting the net wide for a potential plus-one, and would even date a contestant on X Factor -- on which she is a judge -- if the chemistry was right.
"If I find someone who's a good guy that I get along with, I don't really care what he does, and that goes for anything," she declared. "I don't care if he works in McDonald's. The One is the One."
Were she to find her big love among the Big Macs, Tulisa wouldn't be the first star to date outside her celebrity caste. Lily Allen is loved-up and expecting her second child with builder husband Sam Cooper, while Liz Taylor and Pamela Anderson have also found happiness with construction workers. Madonna flies her 24-year-old toyboy Brahim Zaibat around the world in his own private jet.
And, more recently, Jennifer Lopez is thought to have given her dancer boyfriend Caspar Smart a $10,000 weekly allowance. According to Hollywood Life magazine, J-Lo hated having to whip out her credit card every time they went to dinner, figuring that it would be easier to give Caspar a weekly stipend so that he could contribute. Oh-kay then.
Though I have nowhere near J-Lo's earning power, I too found myself constantly whipping out the credit card in one former relationship.
Given the difference in our payslips, I had one of three choices; ditch him, start liking 'cosy nights in' a lot more, or show him a good time... on my dime. I chose the latter, figuring that I'd earned a certain standard of living, why shouldn't I enjoy it and, as a modern woman, bring a man along for the ride? Initially, he would feign embarrassment when the bill would arrive, patting his pockets as though fishing around for a banknote. Months in, and such gestures were a quaint memory.
Far from feeling emasculated, he was delighted with himself.
In your 30s, it's a given that you become more financially comfortable than in your 20s: the ATM becomes more friend than foe, not to mention fewer 'Russian Roulette' moments when handing over your Laser Card at Brown Thomas. Yet other changes are afoot; we are gaining ground, if not overtaking, men's earning power. In the US, 40pc of women earn as much or more than their partners (compared to 16pc in 1981). The younger a woman is, the more likely she is to outearn men her age. And research predicts that by the year 2030, the average woman will outearn the average man.
So, why the apparent discomfort about women being the breadwinners, or 'dating down'?
"Most women made that leap towards a different social standing or class in the past and very little was said," observes relationship expert Christine May. "It goes against our expected norms. Some women feel hard done by if they are 'dragging' their partner along financially".
Though one could feasibly blame evolutionary theory -- men, after all have been the hunter/gatherer for aeons -- other variables are at play.
We are living in a material world, and whether we earn it ourselves or not, most of us are material girls. In an age replete with WAG fairytale weddings and tales of high-class seduction, it's not unusual to equate romance with material goods. Women, in short, like to be treated well ... but for some women, this can be equated with financial means.
"There is this romantic idea of a princess fairy story, but that often doesn't stack up in real life," notes Christine. "And, when women pay, it can often throw up challenges."
Chief among these challenges is confusion over the power balance in the relationship. And the results can be manifold: some women begin to compensate when they start earning more, putting financial control in her man's hands, or paying all the household expenses with her money. And, in most cases, the man will start to feel and act emasculated.
"On top of that, there is the added issue of who takes responsibility for childcare and housework," explains Christine. "These norms that have been set for years no longer exist. It's hard for couples to set rules as things are so different."
And often, a difference in earning stems back to differences in work ethic, motivation and background.
However, it is possible to have a relationship of equals despite a difference in earning power.
"If women do everything without his input, you emasculate your partner and make him question his role in the relationship," notes Lisa O'Hara of Relationships Ireland.
"If a man is appreciated and adored in his partnership, he will be quite happy. However, a man is instinctively hardwired to provide. Men like taking action and being called to do things. Populist British author Tony Parsons offers a male perspective on the modern dilemma faced by men who find themselves unemployed or made redundant, and who must rely on their partner for financial support.
He believes a 'real' man wants to protect and provide for his loved ones.
"There is no law that says a high- flying female trust-fund manager can't be the breadwinner while her man stays home writing slim volumes of poetry.
"No law against it -- only the law of nature," Parsons has commented.
He goes on: "We prefer it when the woman has money of her own, and contributes to the family coffers, and takes some of the heavy load from our weary, broken backs.
"But ultimately that changes nothing. It's still our job. And the man who denies this, to himself and the world, can never be at peace. Does it rock the family boat if the woman earns more? No, it just drives the boat into a Titanic-sized iceberg. Because that man will feel as if some deep part of him is empty."