The popularity of Gemma Collins on ITV skating show Dancing on Ice – despite Jayne Torvill’s disapproval – proves a mystery to Jane Bradley.
Gemma Collins represents everything that is wrong with the modern world.
Perhaps, to be fair, not Gemma herself – fellow celebrity acquaintances have publicly claimed that as an ordinary person, she can be quite pleasant. But as her self-styled persona “The GC”, she embodies and embraces the self-obsessed, narcissistic nightmare that any self-respecting millennial should be desperate to distance themselves from.
Yet, somehow, just somehow, she is one of the most popular faces on TV – gazillions of votes from adoring fans dragging her back from the brink of explusion on Dancing on Ice every week.
She is a self-proclaimed high-maintenance nightmare, with a book, entitled “How to be a Diva” to her name. She strops, sulks and whinges, then expects the world to pick her back up again when she falls – which she did with quite a satisfying smack in the show the week before last – which it does.
I had never come across Ms Collins before her appearance on the ITV skating show. Apparently she shot to fame as a character on that classiest of all classy TV programmes, The Only Way is Essex (Towie). She became a celebrity overnight for being ... herself. The concept of these programmes – part reality show, part soap opera – is still a mystery to me. Is any of it real? Is it all scripted? Are these people fictional characters? Are they – please no – like this all of the time? I’m not sure I’m ever going to find out.
I’m going to be blunt: Gemma Collins is a terrible skater. Her long suffering partner Matt Evers, the most patient of men, physically wheels her out a la last season’s Cheryl Baker onto the ice on a weekly basis, after a behind the scenes look at her “training”, which usually consists of a sulky-looking Collins sitting at the side of the rink clutching a takeaway coffee mug, talking the talk about how difficult her life is.
In the meantime, her fellow contestants such as Melody Thornton and Saara Aalto are being swung around by their feet in near-professional-standard performances, or like Coronation Street’s Jane Danson, dusting herself off after a bonafide fainting session without a single complaint to get on with the job.
For those of you who are not DoI fans, the format is similar to any other show of its ilk, such as XFactor or Strictly Come Dancing. The contestants perform and are judged by the experts – who in this case include legendary ice dancers Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean. Every week without fail, Collins ranks pretty much bottom, then is saved from a place in the skate off – a competition between the two lowest-ranked skaters – by the public vote.
For some reason, viewers repeatedly save Collins, which leaves me wringing my hands in exasperation at the state of society.
Various friends and family members – including her mum – are dragged in over the course of each week to try to make her see sense and we are told that this week will be the week that she starts to put her back into it.
Last week, her on-off boyfriend James Argent, who also apparently featured on Towie, donned a pair of skating boots in a bid to build back up her confidence after the previous show’s dramatic fall.
“I came here to try to cheer Gemma up, to get her back on the ice ... but you’ve already done it yourself,” he said, shaking his head admiringly as Collins attempted to make her way across the ice.
After each performance, which invariably sees Collins clutching at Evers – performing a basic forward stroke of her own accord about once a minute – instead of telling her that she needs to pull her finger out and actually start working at this thing, everyone reassures her that she has been extremely brave to appear at all – on a show which pays her to perform.
“It was like you rose from the dead,” added Argent, of her minor spill.
While Collins’s actual salary has not been published, appearance fees for previous series of the show have reportedly usually ranged between £20,000 and £100,000 – for a maximum of a six-month commitment.
My salary is, you’ll be glad to hear, substantially lower. Yet if I refused to get out of bed one day, telling my bosses that due to a tiring shift the day before and a lack of confidence in my ability, I would not be able to do my job, well, you can imagine what they would say.
The thing that worries me about the world we live in is that no-one dares to say anything to her, nor to call her on her questionable work ethic. She is a terrible example to anyone watching the programme – children and adults alike. The message is clear: be a nightmare and you’ll get attention. Work hard and keep your head down – and you’ll be ignored.
Even self-styled “nasty” judge Jason Gardiner, who found himself involved in a public spat with Collins after proclaiming a particular performance to be “lazy” and “mediocre”, appeared to have been chastened by the show’s producers, gritting his teeth to provide a more encouraging commentary on her performance the following week.
However, my favourite part of the programme is watching Jayne Torvill give Collins her score. The skater, who notoriously shied away from any kind of unnecessary publicity throughout her competitive career and has still clearly not embraced the world of fame with quite the same width of open arms as her partner Dean, purses her mouth and practically spits out the low score which Collins’ skating undoubtedly deserves.
As a child, I used to mix up Jayne Torvill and the Queen and seeing the stern look on her face as she regards Collins reminds me why.
“Three” she says, icily, her lips pursed unapologetically. Her existence in the world gives me hope that all is not lost.
I hate to use the word snowflake – and indeed, it doesn’t actually apply to Collins, her being a mature 38-year-old adult rather than a spoiled teenager – but if the ice skate fits...