If you had the option, why in the world would you 'be Diana'?


There’s a meme doing the rounds at the moment.

‘In a world full of Kardashians, be a Diana’, it urges. Which makes me wonder a couple of things:

1. If anyone reading it really remembers the late Princess, and

2. In a world made up of about 50 per cent women, is my choice really reduced to just these two options?

The image of Diana is an iconic one: taken by her favourite photographer, Mario Testino, it was published in black and white in 1997 for Vanity Fair. She wears a strapless, dark velvet dress and gazes serenely down the lens. Her hair is short, slicked back. There isn't a royal jewel to be seen. Diana has sealed her place as a different kind of princess: a loving, hands-on mum, a tireless advocate for charities that previously struggled for traction - leprosy, AIDS - and a cover girl.

She and Prince Charles have divorced after a long separation, and she has fallen in love at least once (with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan). She has drawn back from public commitments to combine "a meaningful public role with a more private life".

She is at the height of her beauty and seemingly at peace with her position as one of the most famous, and admired, women on the face of the earth.

Princess Diana and Prince William. Picture: Getty Images
Fun mum ... Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince William in 1991. Picture: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

On the face of it, yes, she is preferable to the oft-loathed Kardashians, that group of women 'famous for being famous', publicity-hungry, living their lives in a consensual, real-time Truman Show. I mean, what have they ever done except look good and walk red carpets?

But hang on. There are a lot of parallels between Diana and the Kardashians.

Diana was another woman famous for being famous - thrust into the spotlight through marriage to a prince. Those who can remember back to the '80s will remember their fairytale wedding, televised and watched by an estimated 750 million people. Fast forward: there's Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries tying the knot on E!, watched by an audience of at least 5 million, and front and centre in a gazillion news reports thereafter.

Diana was a fashion icon, her look copied by women around the globe. Ditto the Kardashians.

Diana could court the media like no one before or since - until the Kardashians.

Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries
Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. Picture: Getty Images

For those who can't remember, there are so many reasons NOT to be Diana. Her unhappy childhood, and bitter contempt for her stepmother Raine Spencer, the woman she called 'Acid Raine'. The bulimia, which she said started after Charles commented she was "starting to get a bit chubby", and rendered her thin and haunted for years. The self harm: "I was trying to cut my wrists with razor blades... we were trying to hide that from everybody... I was just so desperate," she said in the tapes used for Andrew Morton's infamous book Diana: Her True Story. Her unhappy marriage to Charles, whose affections remained steadfastly attached to his now-wife Camillia Parker Bowles (who Diana dubbed 'The Rottweiler), throughout his first marriage.


The desperate moment in 1982 when, pregnant with Prince William, she threw herself down the stairs. ("The Queen came out and saw me and was horrified," she later said.)

And of course, her early death in a car crash in Paris, and the scandal and conspiracies it gave rise to.

For every reason to be Diana, there are five to avoid it - at all costs.

So here's a thought: if we want our girls to 'be Diana', make them want to be her for all the good reasons - the charity work, the closeness to her boys, her determination to put compassion ahead of what was considered the done thing. And hell, yes, because she looked good.

And if they want to 'be a Kardashian', fine, because there is merit to being a Kardashian too - they are successful business women, they have been endlessly supportive of Caitlin Jenner throughout her transition from man to woman, they surf the zeitgeist like pros, they seem close and loving sisters.

But never forget there are so many other options. Women like Rosie Batty, who has come back the unimaginable hell of losing her son in horrific circumstances to lead the fight against domestic violence in Australia. Like Hilary Clinton, who is firmly on track to becoming America's first female president. Like Michelle Obama, who has pioneered a healthy eating program to fight childhood obesity in the US.  Or human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, or comedian Tina Fay, or Ab Fab's fabulous Jennifer Saunders or ... you get the picture.

And there's one option that's better than any of those. Don't be a Kardashian. Don't be Diana.

Just be yourself.