The fall out following the revelation that Zoella’s debut novel had the help of a ghost writer has caused an online uproar, forcing her to leave Twitter. So are we demanding too much from the vlogging superstar?
Ah the inevitable backlash, it was so predictable wasn’t it? YouTube sensation Zoella has suffered the quick fire annihilation reserved for almost all stars that go from niche to over-exposed in three months flat. Twenty- four year old Zoe Sugg went from teenybop blogger to international celeb with a book deal and beauty line to boot. She was in Vogue! In the Band Aid video! Honestly, I would be shocked if she wasn’t asked to perform a parody of Zoella (ella eh eh) in the X Factor finals.
Her tween novel, Girl Online, became the fastest selling debut ever with more than 78,000 copies flying off shelves in the first week. It was then revealed that her book had had a great deal of ‘editorial assistance’ courtesy of a ghost writer. This last minute admission was a bad call, it seems, from Team Zoella who has been pushing good old honesty as her USP from the start.
Some have rallied to defend the first-time author, saying that taking on a ghost writer was just common sense, echoing her PR team’s sentiment: “it’s difficult isn’t it, when you’ve never written a book before” . Others feel aghast that someone who has built a whole brand around authenticity can betray her thousands of young fans by selling a book as her own work when that might not entirely be the case.
Everyone from The Sunday Times to Katie Hopkins have attacked Zoella’s ‘fakery’, and the fallout from disappointed fans forced both Zoella and her boyfriend (and fellow vlogger) Alfie to take to the Twittersphere and announce they were ‘quitting the internet’ for a couple of days.
But is the ghost writing revelation really the problem here? I doubt that people would bat an eyelid if it was revealed that someone from Made in Chelsea had published a book that wasn’t exactly written by them. Are the haters quick to blast Zoella in particular because she is so… well, normal? People seem to have something against her because she’s a little too sweet and fame came to her that little bit too easily. In short, it’s like if you next door neighbour became an internet sensation overnight. Where was the struggle? The years slaving away at uni or in an internship? Somewhat unbelievably, Zoella has made an entire career from being pretty, happy and doing normal things normal young people do.
Yes, arguably Zoella is the colour beige personified; this decade’s version of Lauren Conrad – safe, predictable and gloriously normal. But in a world of Tay- Swift’s A-List breakups and Kim K’s oiled up backside, does normal even cut it any more? Thankfully yes. Personally I like my beige celebrities circa 2004, wearing a poor selection of headbands (hey again LC), and I can understand Zoella’s mass appeal: nonthreatening and uncontroversial. There are certainly worse people for young girls to be obsessively googling in their bedrooms. In fact, if you want your little sister to have a celeb idol, you want ti to be Zoella.
Or maybe the real problem is that Zoella’s success is no longer so cookie cutter cute and simple – she is now a global vlogging star, YouTube famous on an almost unparalleled level. She no longer fits ‘brand normal’. She now vlogs from her penthouse rather than her bedroom at her parents’ and she’s ditched her apprenticeship to become a full time Vlogger – with an estimated income of nearly £300,000 a year. She has six million YouTube subscribers and 2.2 million Instagram follows. In other words, she’s far from being a normal 24 year old girl.
As far as Twitter is concerned, she has now entered the celebrity arena, where building her up and then knocking her down is all part of the game. As a society we have become obsessed with tearing people in the public eye down because they’re too smug (Gwyneth), too try hard (Gaga) or too provocative (everyone with a music video and a bum). Now those that once rolled their eyes at Zoella’s banality can’t even do that anymore – so they’ve reverted to slamming her for being a cheat and a liar.
But what makes people most angry, it seems, is when something trivial has mass effect on pop culture, our news and even our tweets. But slamming them on Twitter is of course counterproductive – you’re only going to make them more famous. So maybe it’s time we paid less attention to those breaking the internet and follow Zoella’s lead and quit it instead. Now that would be something really abnormal.