Why I admire Katie Price: Former glamour model Jordan is everything Woman's Hour presenter JENNI MURRAY normally detests… So what has changed her mind
22:19 GMT, 1 July 2012
Had you asked me ten or 15 years ago what I thought of Katie Price, then best known as the glamour model Jordan, I doubt I’d have had much to say in her favour.
She represented everything I — and lots of other women — loathed about the objectification of the female form. She was a woman who sold nothing but sex, while the rest of us struggled to be seen as equals in the workplace.
But when I first interviewed her in 2004 around the publication of her first autobiography, Being Jordan, I was surprised to find I really rather liked her.
As for 'getting her kit off', Katie says that she'd do it again but she doesn't 'think anyone would be interested'
She was 26 and a single mother. Her
first son, Harvey, was only two and his father, the footballer Dwight
Yorke, took little interest in either of them. Her modelling ‘career’
was waning and she was looking at new ways to make her living — hence
the confessional book.
Here was a hard-working, straightforward young woman who had missed out on education, but had masses of canny intelligence and a surprisingly shy streak. It was apparent, even then, that Katie Price had no intention of sinking without trace. She had a disabled child to raise and a living to earn.
Her determination to pick herself up and dust herself down, despite the knocks of a series of failed relationships, and the difficulties faced by her son, shone through. What’s more, she’s honest. She looks you straight in the eye when she speaks to you. The book was a catalogue of romantic disasters and her obvious lack of understanding about why so many of her relationships had been catastrophic failures made me feel a bit sorry for her.
Model mum Katie Price with Princess, Junior and Harvey
There was no doubt she’d been available
to pretty much all seductive flatterers. What she seemed unable to grasp
was why it was rare for any of them to stick around. I recall her look
of shocked surprise when I asked if it could be because they went to bed
with Jordan and woke up with Katie Price. The fantasy was one thing,
the real woman quite another.
Since then we’ve learned more about Katie Price than we would ever have thought possible from Katie herself; a mistress of self-promotion. We watched her appearances on I’m A Celebrity and the blossoming romance with Peter Andre. We saw the extent of their opulent lifestyle, their children and the collapse of their life together. On the rebound, she bounced into a disastrous second marriage with the cage fighter Alex Reid, which lasted barely a year, and is now engaged to an Argentinian she met at the Oscars …
It’s hard to keep up with her private and her public life, but she’s a woman who knows where she’s going and what she wants. Before being questioned on Woman’s Hour last week in our interview to mark the publication of her latest novel, In The Name Of Love, she lays down her boundaries. ‘Ask me anything you want. If I don’t want to answer, I’ll say no politely.’ And that’s refreshing in an era where celebrities think they have the right to dictate the terms of an interview.
Katie got a 300,000 advance from Random House for her first series of children’s books
She’s a very different woman from the
one about whom I’d had such complex feelings eight years ago. I’d
resented and despised her for what she represented as a willing sex
object, but liked and pitied her, too. This one needed nobody’s pity!
Katie Price has grown up and, it seemed to me, in an entirely good way.
Yes, the hair is still blonde and a bit Barbie, her clothes and nails are pink (‘I do love pink,’ she says), but the breasts are greatly reduced and look almost normal. There’s no cleavage on show, and her lightweight, pink skirt flows around her ankles. It’s only when she turns around that you see an expanse of well-toned back.
Katie Price might still flash a little flesh, but in front of me is a confident, clever and independent business mogul. She’s reportedly worth some 45 million, not as a result of appearing naked in front of the cameras, but from a series of money-spinning ventures: horsey gear, clothes, cosmetics and her books. The shy, slightly unsure Jordan is gone — the woman in front of me seems entirely content in her own skin (with the aid of a bit of Botox). First, we talk about the books. The new one is a classic romance. Young woman about town goes on holiday with her WAG best friend, meets a Spanish charmer, falls in love, his family objects … will they get together
She’s published around 40 books in all. Eight are fiction, and there are three more autobiographies, covering different parts of her eventful life. Some of her publications are children’s stories, generally about ponies, and some are practical guide books for young riders. In 2006, she won WH Smith’s Children’s Book of the Year.
Katie's published around 40 books in all. Eight are fiction, and there are three more autobiographies
She enjoys the process of making a book
and says she loves to please her fans. ‘I don’t think the stories are
really about me, but I make sure my heroines like the same perfume as
me, for instance. My fans like that!’ She makes no effort to hide the
fact she doesn’t write her novels herself. She discusses the plots with
her ghost writer and they plan out characters and story together. But,
she says, she feels rather sorry for the ghost, Rebecca Farnsworth, who
‘does all the hard work of actually sitting down and writing the book,
but gets none of the credit’. So far she’s sold nearly five million
Her next tome, she says, will have advice for women on how to run a business. ‘I want to do a business book because I think people are fascinated by how I’ve done it,’ she says. Indeed. Her lingerie and swimwear, perfume, accessories, beauty products and babywear sell all over the country. And her equestrian line (Katie has five horses and is a keen horsewoman) has galloped to entrepreneurial nirvana.
The secret of her success Hard work and
following your passions, she says. ‘When I got into the equestrian
world, everything was in such dull colours. I knew girls wanted to dress
up their ponies in pink and blue like I do, so I thought why don’t I
create a range And that’s what I did — and girls just love it. I took
over 80 per cent of the equestrian market.’
MARRY FOR MONEY
When Katie married Peter Andre in 2005 she sold the wedding rights to ITV and OK! magazine for 2 million
Unfortunately, she believes
her passion for horses contributed to her separation from Peter Andre,
who believed, erroneously, she says, she was having an affair with her
dressage instructor. When I say it seems she truly loved Andre, she
exclaims: ‘Oh I did, I never wanted to split from him…’
Her response was so spontaneous it
couldn’t have been manufactured by even the most talented performer.
This time, she is keeping her relationship away from the cameras — and
is trying to do the same with her children. While she has her own TV
company and still makes shows about her home life, she says she looks
back at the time when every moment of her and Andre’s life was filmed
and admits: ‘We were selling our souls.’
She no longer involves her younger
children (Junior, six, and Princess, four), deciding to keep them away
from the camera after Junior crowed to his school friends that he was
famous because he’d seen himself on TV. She made an exception for
ten-year-old Harvey, involving him in a documentary to raise awareness
of his complex disabilities. He has Prader-Willi syndrome, which affects
appetite and causes him to gain weight easily, and septo-optic
dysplasia, which affects his sight and hormone balance.
He also has learning difficulties, and his education is the focus of her latest project. She was shocked when it was announced that Harvey’s special school, Dorton House in Sevenoaks, Kent, was to close — and she’s come out like a tigress to defend her child’s right to an appropriate education. Together with other parents affected by the closure, she’s part of a group setting up their own special free school for visually impaired children. She has, inevitably, become the public face of the plan. ‘It’s not easy to do,’ she says of starting a school. ‘Although it’s great that we now have the legislation to do it ourselves in the way we want for our children.’
Katie is now engaged to argentinian Leondra Penna who she met at the Oscars
Lost love: Katie with former husband Peter Andre (left) and cage fighter Alex Reid (right)
Inevitably, I asked her about breast surgery, following the PIP scandal. She was, she says, too young at 18 to make the decision to have implants and advises others to wait till at least 21 before considering it. And, while she has no problem with Botox and fake tan, she warns against surgery, emphasising the fact that anaesthetics should really only be used when absolutely necessary.
She doesn’t speak of any regrets with her past brushes with the scalpel, but I believe it when she says there’ll be no more breast enhancement or liposuction — she’s done both. ‘Yes, I’ve had boob jobs and I’ve had lipo, but at least I can talk about it and the bad experiences.’ Again, you can’t fault her honesty — most celebs deny they’ve had plastic surgery. Nor can you doubt her courage. Not many people would take on Rachel Johnson, Boris’s redoubtable sister, in a Cambridge University debate. She was debating the motion that ‘the only limit to female success is female ambition’ — and she won.
So, what about her criticism of Beyonce, responsible, along with other pop stars, Katie argues, for the inappropriate sexualisation of young girls. She thinks hard when I suggest that’s a bit rich coming from her, as she never had any qualms about getting her kit off. She concedes I may have a point. But then she says: ‘When I did the men’s mags, people had a choice to buy it, whereas with music videos, on TV, children don’t have a choice — it’s just there in your face.’
As for ‘getting her kit off’, she says that she’d do it again but she doesn’t ‘think anyone would be interested’. I still don’t approve of what Jordan did in her heyday, There’s no question that she played a major role in encouraging other young women to think they’d make a fast and harmless buck by stripping off. They won’t. They’ll simply perpetuate the idea that women are there to be ogled, pawed or worse. I’ll be even more impressed with Katie if she warns them off selling their bodies as vehemently as she cautions about the risks of plastic surgery.
She could also talk more often about how little respect men and women had for Jordan. And how sad it sometimes made her. But when the new Katie Price charms me with her frank honesty, laughs at her own inadequacies, details her mistakes and expounds her conviction that working hard and protecting your kids are what life is really all about, I can’t help but embrace her, wish her luck and say: ‘It is possible to re-invent yourself. Good on you, girl!’