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The remarkable evolution of Anne Hathaway's public image.

My first perception of Anne Hathaway was a simple one.

She was an all-American girl. A prodigy of the entertainment business, complete with infinite pearly white grins and an aura of determined innocence.

Here was a girl who followed the rules; who carefully walked between the lines of what it means to be a good girl, one who smiled when the cameras told her to.

She was our ugly-duckling-turned-swan, our Princess of Genovia. The one who went from goofy and curly-haired to straight-haired and charismatic.

Her iconic transformation on The Princess Dairies said far more than it intended – as Hathaway’s hair straightened, so too did her personality. After all, the only mode of survival as a woman in Hollywood is to nod and smile. Words are discouraged, opinions like poison.

Anne Hathaway's transformation in the Princess Diaries. Image: Walt Disney.

And then Hathaway got tired. Really, very tired. Standing beneath the lights of stardom a little too long, the glare grew blinding. Suffocated by the intensity of fame, Anne Hathaway began to flirt with the boundaries of being a good girl, eventually crossing them completely without looking down and certainly not looking back.

She spoke out of turn, she cut her hair off. Her toothpaste commercial grin was still there, but it wasn't the same anymore. By 2013, the actress was the most hated person in Hollywood. Her public image had taken more than a hit; her reputation as a difficult, pretentious actress euthanising public perception that she was Hollywood's golden girl.

Publications like the New York Times and Forbes ran thinkpieces on why hatred for Hathaway had such legs. Her critics were given their own nickname (Hathahaters, if you were wondering) and public disdain for the then 31-year-old become a full-blown pop culture phenomenon.

So why did people hate her so much, and with such vitriol to boot?

Anne Hathaway at the Oscars in 2013. Image: Getty.
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At the time, the actress had a problem in how she appeared in interviews. She would word-vomit. She rarely appeared to be modest about her own performances, and the people didn't like that.

Hathaway "whined" about having to lose weight for roles like her one in The Devil Wears Prada and said she "cried" watching her own performance in Les Misérables.

She fell in love with the wrong kind of person: Raffaello Follieri, a millionaire Italian entrepreneur who was jailed on fraud and money-laundering charges in 2013. Their high-flying lifestyle was out of touch with reality and played into the perception the actress thought she was better than everybody else.

And then, of course, the clincher: Hathaway graced the Oscars stage in 2013 for her Best Supporting Actress win and awkwardly declared, "It came true!" As it left her mouth, it was squeaky. It was clunky. It just wasn't genuine. We knew it, she knew it, and she knew we knew it.

From there, her public image was shot.

Or was it?

You may have noticed Anne Hathway has been making a few headlines in 2017. But remarkably, they have been headlines devoid of controversy. They've been... normal. Ones about parenting ("Anne Hathaway's Real Take on Postpartum Weight Loss Will Make You Love Her More"), ones about being a wife ("Anne Hathaway Opens Up About How Marriage Has Changed Her"), ones about being a human ("Anne Hathaway is really over everyone hating her: 'I think it's weird'"). Ones the masses can relate to.

Anne Hathaway at the UN. Image: Getty.
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Interestingly, it's all been timed with the release of her newest film, Colossal.

In Colossal, many have said Hathaway plays a character so unlikeable she borders on "manic", "narcissistic" and "an actual monster". Or, in other words, a character who isn't too dissimilar from the real life one she once played.

And so, in promoting her new film, Anne Hathaway has realised there's only so much unlikeable the public can take. Her public profile can't be laced with negativity anymore, so she did a couple of things to change that.

She amplified her social media use. Naturally, if there's one way to reach the outliers - the ones who struggle to relate to her kind of movie star - it's by giving them unfiltered glimpses of your everyday life. Insight into her marriage with producer Adam Shulman, whom she married in 2012, and insight into her experience as a first time mum of her one-year-old son Jonathan Rosebanks Shulman.

Then there's been her press tour. In being interviewed about her newest film, a new kind of Hathaway has emerged — one who appears to be more than her fame.

This year alone, the actress has spoken at the United Nations, has spoken publicly about her struggles navigating the use of Instagram and posting photos of her son online, and has even worn a $15 dress to a premiere of the film.

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Here's a woman who wants to be back in our good books.

So does the remarkable evolution of Anne Hathaway's public image say more about us, or more about her? Does it speak to her manipulation of the media, or does it speak to the fact we are swift to ride the wave of public outrage?

Regardless of where you stand, there's one thing we can be sure of: PR is a powerful thing.

And from a PR perspective, it doesn't matter if Hathaway is a good person, or a rude person. It doesn't matter if Hathaway has been lovely all this time and we missed it, and it doesn't matter if she really is as pompous as her haters will have you believe.

What matters, it seems, is how we're taught to perceive her. How quick we are to eat up whatever message a PR strategy is willing to feed us.

Who needs truth any more? Authenticity is in vogue — so long as it's dressed in the clothes of a carefully curated PR strategy first.

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