D-list divas like Clare Balding are ruining the art of the celebrity interview as they seek to control what we read

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IN this day and age, celebrities are in total control of virtually everything they put into the public domain.

There are Photoshopped Instagram pictures, self-promoting tweets, airbrushed music videos, heavily edited Wikipedia pages and self-congratulatory websites.

 BBC darling Clare Balding was recently exposed for trying to control an interview

(Channel 4 images must not be altered or manipulated in any way) CHANNEL 4 PICTURE PUBLIC
BBC darling Clare Balding was recently exposed for trying to control an interview

The interview is, you would think, one of the last ways to find out what famous people really think, presented in an authentic, truthful manner.

However, there is a disturbing plague currently infecting showbiz journalism in this country called copy control or approval — the practice of celebrities being allowed to over-rule interviewers and literally choose what appears about them in print or online.

And just who are the control freak divas insisting on this practice?

You would presume Hollywood A-listers such as Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Lawrence.

 Clare took a “breathtaking liberty” by altering the content of a recent interview with Saga magazine, according to the journalist who interviewed her

Rex Features
Clare took a “breathtaking liberty” by altering the content of a recent interview with Saga magazine, according to the journalist who interviewed her

Oh no. Sadly, it has now spread to home-grown British TV stars including the apparently down-to-earth sports presenter Clare Balding.

She was exposed in full ridiculous glory this week for trying to ­control what was written about her in a cover ­feature for Saga, the oh-so-gentle magazine that features advice and information for the over-50s.

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Ginny Dougary, an interviewer with 35 years of experience, wrote an exposé for the Observer detailing the lengths Balding and her team went to, to control the content of the interview.

In what she rightly described as a “breathtaking liberty”, the BBC Olympics darling removed entire parts of the interview and replaced them with self-promoting lines about her latest book.

Shockingly, the gay rights advocate and her agent also complained that “there is way too much about her being gay in the interview”.

 The Balding interview in Saga magazine was heavily edited after complaints from the star

The Balding interview in Saga magazine was heavily edited after complaints from the star

Changes were agreed by the magazine’s editor, ­infuriating Dougary who refused to allow her name to appear on the piece.

Despite weak denials from the mag and Balding, the, er, saga was soon trending on Twitter and has become known as “Baldingate”.

Now, I want to reassure you that I do not stand for so-called copy control, quote approval or any ­similar practice.

My interviews which you read in The Sun or in my Bizarre column are a genuine reflection of what happened.

And largely the A-list celebs — including icons such as Paul McCartney, Madonna, Dolly Parton and Joan ­Collins — continue to open up based on a mutual respect that has been built by a decade of speaking to them face to face.

 Towie's Lauren Goodger demands copy control

Getty Images – Getty
Towie’s Lauren Goodger demands copy control

But I feel it is my duty to report to you that many of the words from supposed “stars” that you read in gushfest magazines such as Hello! will have been directly approved and often changed by the celebrity, their agent or PR team.

In some cases there may not even have been an interview at all, with the so-called quotes coming from an email exchange between a mag executive and the celebrity’s entourage.

 Left to right from top: Peter Andre, Lauren Goodger, Paul Hollywood, Gareth Bale, Patsy Kensit, Kym Marsh, Ronan Keating, Sharon Osbourne, Sarah Harding, Will.i.am, Kristina Rihanoff, Michelle Mone

Left to right from top: Peter Andre, Lauren Goodger, Paul Hollywood, Gareth Bale, Patsy Kensit, Kym Marsh, Ronan Keating, Sharon Osbourne, Sarah Harding, Will.i.am, Kristina Rihanoff, Michelle Mone

Recently my Bizarre team have turned down interviews after copy control demands from D-listers including Towie’s Lauren Goodger, Strictly professional dancer Karen Clifton, Coronation Street actress Kym Marsh and Mysterious Girl singer Peter Andre (he was promoting a new low-fat Greek yoghurt, apparently).

And there are so many more, including the casts of dramas Call The Midwife, Downton Abbey and Victoria.

Many of those actors are ex-soap stars such as Jenna Coleman, who now believes her fame is so big that she shouldn’t sit down for any form of honest interview — despite being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to appear in and promote a mainstream TV show.

These prissy celebrities could learn a thing or two from genuine international stars who are confident enough to say what they think and appreciative of a platform to promote their latest work.

 Hollywood superstar Jennifer Lawrence has no diva conditions when interviewed

Rex Features
Hollywood superstar Jennifer Lawrence has no diva conditions when interviewed

Just this week I sat down with Pink for the next episode of my Bizarre Life podcast. She’s an international superstar who has sold 47million albums and is worth £100million.

But, without the slightest demand for copy control or topic approval, she opened up about the most personal of issues, from her struggles with being a mum to difficulties in her marriage.

She’ll help a lot of other people talking so publicly about issues many of us go through.

 Left to right from top: Madonna, Paul McCartney, Pink, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran, Celine Dion, Simon Cowell, Shania Twain, Joan Collins, Harry Styles, James Corden, Gary Barlow

Left to right from top: Madonna, Paul McCartney, Pink, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran, Celine Dion, Simon Cowell, Shania Twain, Joan Collins, Harry Styles, James Corden, Gary Barlow

So too did Ant McPartlin when he revealed in intimate detail to me his secret battle with depression and prescription pill addiction, sparking a national debate on the matter.

Again, he asked for no form of copy control or approval. He had a story he wanted to tell, trusted me to present it appropriately and was delighted with the results.

I call on all celebrities and journalists to bring an honest approach to showbiz interviewing.

In this era of fake news, it is the least readers deserve.

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