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Friday 15 December 2017

The Female Mavericks

THE drugs scandal earned Kate Moss more than the unfortunate (and rather uninspired) nametag ‘Cocaine Kate' back in 2005. A lot more. According to her agent, Sarah Doukas, her earnings have doubled.

Not only did she revive the contracts she lost in the wake of the scandal, she landed new contracts, too. It's testament to the old adage, "there's no such thing as bad press".

But Moss didn't win contracts because she was pictured apparently taking drugs, which is, of course, not big or clever. It was the way she negotiated the aftermath of the scandal that increased her demand. She was unapologetic, unshaken and, significantly, back on the dancefloor a few months later.

Granted, in an attempt to hold onto her contracts, she performed all the required steps in the public relations crisis management textbook -- public apology via press release: check; rehab visit: check -- but these perfunctory actions were enacted with all the remorse of an unruly schoolgirl stomping into detention.

There were no tears on Oprah; no "My Drugs Hell" stories in the tabloids. She didn't extol the benefits of an organic diet or trek off to India to find herself. Fundamentally, Moss stayed true to herself. Like all mavericks, she always has. She has a casual disregard for convention and complete and utter conviction in her lifestyle choices. It's her devil-may-care attitude to life that has brands vying to sign her up. Fashion editors consistently laud her fashion choices and worship her as a style icon, but Moss has blazed a trail outside of fashion. She rarely gives interviews to the press. She has had a number of high-profile dalliances but rarely talks about them.

Piers Morgan, who has a fractious relationship with Moss (she considers him partly responsible for the expose on her drug-taking), recently revealed a conversation he had with the model. "Apologise," she demanded when he walked over to her at a party. "For what?" he asked.

"Being an ***hole all your life."

Women like Kate Moss break the rules . . . and make up their own. That's why we like them.

Of course, a rock'n'roll lifestyle does not a maverick make. On the contrary. Often, the most inspiring women are those who've been there, done that and lived to tell the tale.

Much-loved Irish novelist Marian Keyes has always talked candidly about her battle with alcoholism and related suicide attempt. It doesn't make her weak, the courage it takes to admit it makes her strong.

More recently, Keyes was struck with a "crippling" bout of depression. Instead of hiding, she took to her blog to inform her readers.

"Regular readers know that I've been prone to depression on and off for years but this is in a totally different league," she wrote. "This is much worse."

The newsletter provoked an outpouring of support from fans -- old and new -- who were touched by her honesty and her refusal to be silenced by the stigma of depression.

"I want us to embrace the totality of womanhood, to say that we can wear make-up and high heels and pink, and still have very complex understandings of issues that impact on our lives," Keyes once said, responding to why her books are often unfairly branded as "chick-lit".

I hasten to add that Zadie Smith, an author whose work is definitely not branded as chick-lit, described Keyes as "one of the most important feminists" in modern writing. "Whether or not you fancy the label 'feminist', I think you're one of the more important ones, because you have a massive audience -- much bigger than mine."

Mavericks are the women who succeed in male-dominated professions without sacrificing their femininity. Incisive TV presenter Miriam O'Callaghan blazed a trail by eschewing the glamorous roles in favour of hard-nosed reportage. "I went in as a journalist to Newsnight, and that involved hard graft with serious interviews. Women are attracted to glamorous roles -- but they come and go. My advice is 'go for something solid and serious and then do the glamour'."

Sister of Leinster star, Marcus, Sharon Horgan is one of the most highly acclaimed comedy writers at work. She won a BAFTA nomination for her sitcom, Pulling. Her particular brand of humour took on all the taboos and showed the darker dimension to the female psyche.

Two-time Sportswoman of the Year, boxer Katie Taylor, is an inspiration to both men and women. The dynamo has sparked a rise in the interest in women's boxing in Ireland, and there's the feeling this is just the beginning. Even with the public in her corner, Taylor has spoken out about the lack of attention women's boxing gets in the media. "It is very frustrating at times, because if I was a man, my fights would be televised more."

Jockeys Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh are proof that men don't try to shoulder women out of male-dominated professions. I was at Cheltenham this year when Walsh rode home her second winner (a 20/1 shot). The racetrack exploded with cheers and the goodwill came from everybody in attendance.

Mavericks don't follow trends; they initiate them. Vivienne Westwood is one of the few designers who refuses to subscribe to the new season's whims and fancies and she's one of the longest-reigning female designers as a result. Irish singer Roisin Murphy's singular style made her an international talking point. Westwood made her a guest model.

Angelina Jolie may have been denounced as a homewrecker, but pre-Brad Pitt, she was an inspiring nonconformist. She adopted her first child at 26.

She is the closest we have to the screen legends of yore, actresses who inspired women not just with their hairstyles. They were pithy. Think of Lauren Bacall: "In Hollywood, an equitable divorce settlement means each party getting 50pc of publicity." They were sage. Think of Elizabeth Taylor: "It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting."

TOUGHEST

Maureen O'Hara, who describes herself as the "toughest Irish lass that ever took on Hollywood" kept company with Che Guevara and compared herself to Joan of Arc. No messing about there.

Compare these women to the new generation of actresses and their generic opinions. I'm reminded of a recent observation by Amanda Seyfried: "I mean, at the end of the day, if you can't have a Girl Scout cookie and a piece of cheese, what is life all about?"

Mavericks are women who buck the size zero trend and celebrate the female physique.Women like Nigella Lawson and, latterly, Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), have been responsible for the shift in the desired female physique.

Mavericks don't subscribe to books like The Rules and the tired old double standards of dating. It's popular for today's female celebrities to reveal the lack of notches on their bedposts. And given that the average number of lovers is 11 in Ireland, these revelations don't exactly endear them to the average woman.

Ultimately, the most interesting women in the world are those who disregard convention and do things differently. They take their own lead and, soon, others follow.

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