Procter and Gamble have recently presented British Olympic hopefuls Victoria Pendleton (track cycling), Jessica Ennis (Heptathlon) and Keri-Anne Payne (open water swimming) as its new brand ambassadors. To trumpet this, the women have appeared in countless interviews, features and glossy inserts in women’s magazines. And they are presented like starlets – plucked and buffed and bronzed (by Braun, Pantene and Olay, of course) – groomed until they glow. And until they gush about how much they love waterproof mascara, how face wipes are a “must-have” and how “a touch of blusher works wonders.”
To us, there’s something a little sad about this. These women are incredible – they have fought hard to be at the very peak of their game. They are dedicated, tough professionals, about to take on an almighty challenge with the world watching. We’d rather hear about the sheer grit and slog it takes to get where they are, not how much they worry about their hair frizzing when it rains.
We’re used to actresses having to double as models, but we hoped that sportspeople might be allowed to appear on their own terms. We don’t need another raft of girls to look like Jennifer Aniston. As well as reducing them to beauty canvasses, it also makes them ordinary. In the P&G sponsored interviews we hear that Jessica Ennis likes nothing more than curling up on the sofa, watching Grey’s Anatomy with her Labrador.
We think we’d like these superhumans to stay super. We’re more than happy to think of them as fierce, strong and untouchable. We don’t need them to be glowing girls next door. We want them to be different to us, we think it’s marvellous that they are superior.