HEATHER Mills McCartney has announced she will be competing in Dancing with the Stars, the US version of Celebrity Come Dancing.
The one-time model, who lost a leg in motorcycle accident 14 years ago, is expected to appear on the show next month.
The estranged wife of Sir Paul McCartney will be competing against Muhammad Ali's daughter Laila and former N'Sync singer Joey Fatone in the show.
The move is being seen as an attempt to regain some public sympathy following bitter divorce proceedings that have seen her vilified in the media.
Lady McCartney, 38, and Sir Paul, 64, who have a three-year-old daughter, Beatrice, announced in May that they were ending their four-year marriage. Since then their relationship has become increasingly acrimonious.
Last night celebrity publicist Max Clifford said he thought the move was the latest in an ongoing battle between the couple to "win the hearts and minds" of the public, but said that it would be an "uphill struggle" for Lady McCartney to win sympathy.
She is the latest in a string of fading or out-of-favour celebrities to appear on reality TV shows in a bid to regain public sympathy. But such bids often backfire.
Former TV presenter Michael Barrymore hoped an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother last year would improve his public standing after the scandal surrounding the death of Terry Lubbock in the TV presenter's swimming pool in 2001. But Barrymore was portrayed during the show as being petty, branded as a "bully" in some sections of the press and widely perceived as deeply troubled.
Mr Clifford said he thought Lady McCartney was unwise to appear on the dance programme and it showed how keen she is to court public opinion.
"She obviously still wants attention. I think by doing this she is hoping that because of her disability that people will admire her pluck. It also shows that she is hoping for a fresh start in America.
"But I don't think the US press and public will be that much different from the UK. In the States, Sir Paul is, if anything, viewed as even more of a legend than he is here.
"I think she has been badly advised on this - but then I would have to ask if she takes advice from anybody other than herself."
Lady McCartney's publicist, Phil Hall, insisted she was doing the show "as a challenge". He said: "She's doing it because she loves dancing, always has, enjoys a challenge and sees this as a combination of both".
He added that her participation was "nothing to do with the money".
However, a source close to Lady McCartney said it was a chance to change her fortunes: "Heather knows that she is disliked and in danger in England, so is hoping that appearing on the show will help forge a career in America. She hopes to completely relocate to America by the end of the year."
Her participation on the show was announced yesterday by chat-show host Jerry Springer on ABC's Good Morning America.
Springer, who has competed in the show, said of her: "There's a lot of message in that because it's to show people whatever challenges they face in life they can dance. She might be a sentimental favourite."
The show's executive producer, Conrad Greene, said: "Heather really wants to prove to everybody that having a disability doesn't hamper you in any way.
"And we thought it would be very interesting to have someone with a disability on, because we wanted to show that dancing is something everyone can enjoy."