Topless Ambition for Kirsten?
Last night I managed to catch Kirsten’s Topless Ambition on BBC Three. Children’s TV presenter Kirsten O’Brien investigated whether or not she would have to follow in the footsteps of other kids’ TV presenters and take her clothes off for a lads’ magazine in order to get better presenting jobs, targeted at a more adult audience.
It’s an interesting concept from the start. Kirsten’s friend and colleague Anjellica Bell bared all for FHM magazine and as a result made a swift transition from children’s television to more adult shows, like The One Show. Ditto, Gail Porter and the like before her. Kirsten, however, was very realistic. She knew she wouldn’t feel comfortable getting her jugs out, even though it seems like the sure-fire route to success these days. That didn’t stop her giving most things a go though: she goes to a strip club and tries out the pole, and even joins a topless model for a photo-shoot (although Kirsten herself is fully-clothed). And what do you get in return for trying? The poor lass has to endure the editor of FHM telling her she’s average-looking and probably wouldn’t shift many copies if she appeared on the cover of his magazine. Harsh. Plus, some tubby agent guy tells her she looks too ordinary and Peter Stringfellow (!) declares women can be sexy and serious OR funny and plain. You can’t possibly mix the two, apparently.
So there you have it, right from the horse’s (ie. Peter Stringfellow’s) mouth. Women can either be funny or sexy. So where does Kirsten fit in? Thankfully, the more you watch her, the more you realise just how grounded and intelligent she is in her approach to this feedback. Just when I was beginning to fear the programme was trying to say “you must do a topless photo-shoot to get more work”, Kirsten’s best friend makes a valuable contribution: “You’re funny and talented!” she proclaims! Ah, yes – thank goodness! So Kirsten doesn’t need to take her clothes off then! And off she goes to pursue more stand-up comedy gigs. The documentary ends with Kirsten explaining why she has decided to turn her back on children’s TV after 12 years. Her mother died when she started presenting SMart, then her colleague and close friend Mark Speight died recently, as the latest series was coming to an end. She tearfully admits it’s time to move on now. It was a touching end to an insightful piece.
One thing I learnt from the programme was that I don’t want to see Kirsten O’Brien in sexy photos. Not because I don’t think she’s attractive, but because it was clear that she wasn’t comfortable with the idea. Doing the shoot would be like selling your soul to the (lucrative, money-spinning) devil. I’d much rather watch one of her stand-up gigs. So if I have to make a choice, I guess funny wins over sexy then?