The true story behind Paper Dolls, a must-see drama that follows the rise and fall of a manufactured girl group.

Thanks to our brand partner, Paramount+

Paper Dolls delves into the inner workings of a manufactured girl group, and while the story is fictionalised it was inspired by a pivotal moment in Australian pop culture history.

Based on an original concept by Belinda Chapple and created and written by Ainslie Clouston, Paper Dolls is an eight-part scripted drama that tells the story of a girl group called Harlow, which features five young women who have been thrust together via the reality show Pop Rush.

In 2000, Australian audiences religiously tuned into a new reality TV series called Popstars, which featured thousands of hopeful women lining up to audition for the chance to be part of a new all-girl pop group.

After a televised flurry of callbacks, tears, home visits, performances, and make-overs (which proved to be an immense ratings success) an Aussie pop group was formed, a band that went on to top the charts comprised of Sophie Monk, Belinda Chapple, Katie Underwood, Sally Polihronas and Tiffani Wood.

And then in 2022, away from the TV cameras, it all came crashing down.

The rise, fall and behind-the-scenes moments of their making were chronicled in a book released this year by Belinda Chapple entitled The Girl in the Band: Bardot – a Cautionary Tale and is the inspiration for the new Paramount+ Australian original series Paper Dolls.

Watch: Paramount+ Paper Dolls official trailer. Post continues after video. 

Video via Paramount+

While Australia has just finished watching their audition process and group formation play out on TV, behind-the-scenes Harlow members Jade Hart (played by Courtney Clarke), Charlie Levett (played by Miah Madden), Annabel Tonkin (played by Naomi Sequeira) and Lillian Milton (played by Courtney Monsma) are gearing up to release their first single amid a wave of internal drama.

When a member of the group is accused of stealing, the music label removes her from Harlow, creates a fake story about her departure to throw off the press and brings in newcomer Izzy James (played by Emalia) to round out the group.

Izzy has a powerhouse voice and an incredible stage presence and had previously been signed with the label behind Harlow. All before seeing her pop star dreams seemingly come to an end, leaving her working in a pizza shop before she storms back into the label and demands to be given a second chance. 

While Izzy has a complicated relationship with the studio that created Harlow, and its executive Roger (played by Ditch Davey) it’s more the tense dynamics of the group itself that bring the most drama to her storyline.


The Harlow girls are living on top of each other in a small house (with only one bathroom, a central cause of the house drama) and being followed by cameras every waking moment as they work from morning to night doing appearances, recording a single, and filming their first music video.

Image: Tony Mott. 

Anyone who is aware of the history will know that the first episode of Paper Dolls plays out in a way that mirrors the real Australian music group's history.


As Belinda Chapple chronicled in her book, and is widely known now after being confirmed by the woman herself, Chantelle Barry was the original fifth member of the group selected via Popstars. But following accusations of theft in their shared house, she was replaced by Tiffani Wood before their first single was released.

Paper Dolls is a fascinating look into the inner workings of the entertainment industry, both the life-changing moments of glamour and the ugly moments of disappointment and abuse that happen behind the scenes. In the moments where the always lurking TV cameras are pushed away.

Steered by their no-nonsense manager Margot Murray (played by Emma Booth), the women work to a brutal schedule in order to launch their group, and the Harlow house becomes a melting pot of emotions, jealousy, friendship, mental health struggles, accusations of nepotism, and sisterhood.

Image: Tony Mott. 


One of the greatest strengths of this series, along with the way it blends fact and fiction together in such a mesmerising way, is the on-screen chemistry and performances of the women who make up Harlow. As a viewer you will feel drawn into their separate backstories and secrets, while watching them perform together on stage and bond within the walls of their house are some of the highlights of the series.

Paper Dolls is an addictive new series that takes its inspiration from a piece of Australian music history but tells a story that stands on its own. A fictional tale with an incredible cast (and some very catchy tunes) that you'll want to watch through to the end.

Paper Dolls streaming December 3, only on Paramount+ Australia.

Feature Image: Tony Mott. 

New Series, Paper Dolls streaming December 3 exclusively on Paramount+. Stream A Mountain of Entertainment for only $9.99 per month.