As Paris Jackson descended on the Melbourne Cup, her neckline bouncing with trinkets and jewellery, her feet nestled in a couple of brown ankle boots, she was every bit the international celebrity who was under no obligation to go to extreme lengths to abide by the day’s strict dress code.
After all, when you’ve reportedly got a $100,000 pay check in your pocket for a few hours of small talk and a few hundred photos, the power surely sits squarely in your hands.
But what followed her fleeting and fabulous public appearance on our national stage were news reports laden with snark and sarcasm, the inference clear, the distaste made known: Paris Jackson was the 19-year-old diva with an inflated sense of self-importance.
The first whispers came from Fairfax, when the news outlet reported the teenager “wasn’t a fan” of the custom-made Alex Perry frock made for her time in the Myer marquee, instead opting for a boho number from Morrison. Of course, it would be convenient to forget, in our reporting of her ‘diva-like’ demands, that both Myer and Alex Perry received enough positive PR from the ensuing stories about the saga – arguably even more than if the dress was to be worn as instructed. Oh, and don’t forgot too, Morrison is still stocked by Myer. They’re winning here, too.
Listen: Holly, Mia and Jessie on why Paris Jackson was at the Melbourne Cup…
Next came a piece from the Herald Sun – both in print and online – with the headline “Wacko Jacko 2.0”, the accompanying photo one of the 19-year-old with her face to the window, her tongue poking out.
“Cute. You guys are f*ckin’ cowards. Bet you don’t have the balls to call me that to my face,” she wrote in response on Twitter.
“I couldn’t care less what they call me [to be honest] but adding the ‘2.0’ is their way of dragging my father into it and THAT I will not stand for.”
Consider, for a second, being 11 years old when your father passed away, your grief public property for a time when his memorial was streamed to millions. Consider that father, the one that raised you, unable to defend a legacy that – rightly or wrongly – involved multiple accusations of child sexual abuse. Consider how defensive you may be, how desperate you would be, to re-write that narrative and preserve a reputation he can’t for himself.
And after the Herald Sun‘s piece? Well, then came a piece from news.com.au, outlining how and why Paris Jackson is “one of the most guarded celebrities in the world”, describing the restrictions on what you can and can’t ask her “extreme”.
The news outlet touched on how, in the five minutes they were offered with the star, they were not allowed to mention Michael Jackson or any member of the Jackson family nor were they to ask of her “past adolescent struggles”. Fair and fitting, you’d think, given the fact she’s 19 – still a teenager – and one who has revealed she has struggled with alcoholism, mental health issues and attempted suicide. But forget all that, she’s guarded, news.com.au say, because the teenager hasn’t got her Instagram comments turned on. Of course, we assume that has nothing to do with her battle with cyberbullying that she has been open about, too.
There were more headlines than that, too. The Herald Sun had more than a few, going with, "Party girl Paris Jackson lets loose in Myer marquee at Melbourne Cup," because... she stuck her tongue out? The Daily Mail, meanwhile, went short and cutting: "Paris Jackson's nightmare Melbourne Cup appearance."
Let's be clear: Paris Jackson isn't a diva. She did exactly what she was paid to do. She turned up to the Melbourne Cup in a dress stocked by Myer and gave the day, and the retail giant, the headlines it sought.
Paris Jackson wasn't an "unusual" or "interesting" or "controversial" choice for the Melbourne Cup. She was exactly the person that Myer needed and wanted.
And if, in the process, she dodged some questions from prying reporters because they hit a little too close to home, then it's a celebrity crime that's been committed before and will be again.
Yes, she was fiercely private. Why? Because at the age of 19, Paris Jackson is anything but a typical 19-year-old.