Written by Gemma Cairney


Snap, Crackle and Pop

As a Radio 1 DJ and a former stylist assistant, Gemma Cairney has spent her fair share of time around pop stars. But would she be one? No chance.

Gemma with Rita Ora.

Never, ever, ever compare yourself to a pop star. There is literally NO POINT.

I’ve interviewed Rihanna, my punk Afro frizz, next to her smoothed, hay hair. My hurried, finger-dabbed blusher, next to her pristine, expensive, lavishly and professionally-applied, bronze-statue delicate cheeks.

Just the other morning, I was met with balloon-deflating noises as I strolled into the Radio 1 Breakfast Show studio with a saggy, yellow, Bob Marley beanie just as Nick Grimshaw was asking his team: “Where issss she?”

“She” was obviously not me. “She” was Rita Ora, due any minute to do a one-off co-hosting stint on the show.

I’d just popped by to say ‘hi’ as I often do at the end of my shift. Seconds later Rita opened the door with sorcerer strength, rather than actual pushing, fierceness charging through her veins. She slopped in like Jessica Rabbit on a day off, in gigantic pantaloon-style Mork and Mindy dungarees, a crisp white shirt, heels under the floor-skimming flares, a casual fedora and reflective aviators. To add insult to injury, I could see my reflection in them. Totes caj.

“I’m only doing this cos I looove you,” she said, wrapping herself around Grim, like a sexy cat. She meant getting up; it was 6.30am after all. I, on the other hand, had been up since 3am to start the early breakfast show at 4am.

On the way home, I felt philosophical. We must never compare ourselves to sexy cat pop stars, it’s unrealistic. It is quite literally in their job spec to have rails of steamed, magazine-worthy garments to wear every time they leave the house. They have multiple outfits to change into throughout the day. Who else in the whole wide world changes more than three times a day?

I know most of this because I worked as a stylist assistant for pop stars in my early 20s. I spent hours maniacally darting around town; to get the ultimate outfit for a GMTV appearance (approachable, fun, not too sexy, morning-ish) or the ultimate outfit for promo shots (much sexier), the ultimate outfit for a live performance (sparkling and bordering on costume).

And let’s not forget the façade and paraphernalia, which, depending on the occasion, can be nude-coloured underwear, Spanx, tit tape, bulldog clips, facials that include oxygen masks / injecting yourself with bat blood or *insert choir boy sound* aiiiiiiiiiiirbruuuuuuush.

I’ve learned about semi-permanent eyebrow tattoos and billion-dollar eyelash extensions. I once met an ‘eyelash extension technician’ who had a client fly in regularly from LA specially for a cartoon giraffe flutter. I know beauty therapists who’ve performed waxes on the world’s most plucked and fucked.

Once you open the floodgates to all the wonderful and not so wonderful buffering techniques available, you realise it’s possible to endlessly polish. It could be a life’s mission.

I am not denigrating the art of being a pop star. Blimey, it looks intense – all the staying relevant and looking like a purring cat all the time. Then there’s singing and dancing at the same time, the press lashing and record label pressure for all the above. Oh, and, writing, or at least coming across, a catchy ditty to put out there and claim as your own.

They work HARD. Harder than they are allowed to talk about. Like everyday hard, on Saturdays and Sundays hard. Plus, they have to NOT eat Big Macs every one of those days. The Big Macs from the copious drive-thrus they pass in a single bunk, trying to sleep on a rumbling tour bus. Because if they ate them, they would be thrown to the dogs on the Sidebar of Shame for having ‘burger bellies’.

What does a pop star do when they have crippling period pain? Probably a quick gig to a few thousand.

I don’t envy them these things, so I will not envy how they look. Which is mostly like a comic book heroes or the Cadbury’s Caramel bunny.

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Written by Gemma Cairney

After a brief go at drama school and a stint working in fashion in her early 20s, Gemma is now a broadcaster, magpie, life enthusiast that has won awards for making documentaries on subjects such as violent relationships, presents the early breakfast show on BBC Radio 1 and co-produces and presents internet entertainment show, The Fox Problem