Not for the first time, Tulisa Contostavlos has prevailed against the bullshit
Celebrating the fall and rise of a babe who doesn’t give a fuck
Today Mazher Mahmood, the undercover journalist also known as the Fake Sheik, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for tampering with evidence in a case involving Tulisa Contostavlos.
He’d been found guilty earlier this month of conspiring to pervert the course of justice after he posed as an influential film producer trying to lure Tulisa to star in a fake Hollywood blockbuster in 2013.
After weeks of grooming Mahmood met her in London’s Metropolitan Hotel where she allegedly arranged for him to buy half an ounce of coke for £800. She was subsequently charged in connection with supplying class A drugs when Mahmood handed the evidence from his underhand investigation to the police. The sheer absurdity of the lengths Mahmood went to to convince the singer to co-operate are astounding.
In the three years since Tulisa fell from grace spectacularly, but never stopped trying to clear her name.
Mahmood’s conviction is a victory for Tulisa, a woman ripped to pieces by the British press, a woman who became a victim, according to the Irish High Court, of being “cruelly deceived in a shabby sting operation”, without ever letting herself be seen as a victim, a woman who was guilty of nothing more than being a successful woman from a shitty background.
After her drug trial collapsed The Guardian wrote: “Tulisa is famously a working class girl made good, though of course made good is never what she is allowed to be”.
Her victory today is all the sweeter because of the ridiculous amount of classism and misogyny she’s faced over the years. Although it hadn’t been proven that Tulisa sold anyone drugs, the tabloid media – and the majority of the British public – chose to believe it. We ate it up because she was a woman, and a chav, so she was fair game right? People felt comfortable in ridiculing her for selling drugs; after all they’d already ridiculed her for her fashion choices, for her make-up, the way she acted, the way she spoke.
In an interview with VICE earlier this year she said: “They were openly calling me a ‘chav’ from the day I got the X Factor job.
“I think the opening line on an article the next morning was something like, ‘It’s 4am and down the backstreets of Ibiza, a drunken chavvy girl covered in tattoos with big hoop earrings is staggering with a kebab in her hand. She turns around and ladies and gentleman, this is your new X Factor judge.’ It’s like, so fucking what if I had a kebab and I’ve got tattoos and go to Ibiza?!
“It would be alright if a posh girl did it, but as soon as it’s me, it becomes a problem. It was as if they thought I’d gotten too big for my boots. It hadn’t been seen before – such an “urban” female becoming so famous – and I guess they wanted to take me down a peg or two.”
Compare Tulisa to the case of Cara Delevingne. When pictures of the model dropping a bag of white powder emerged in the same year, the reaction couldn’t have been more different. Effectively we clucked our tongues and shook our heads and looked away, half in amusement as an unfazed Cara laughed and hid her baggy away. Of course, we could swallow the possibility that Cara does coke. She’s a posh girl, and she’s respectable. It’s acceptable.
If there’s anyone who has ever exemplified our society’s uncomfortable dichotomy over which women deserve our time, it’s Tulisa. Cara was worthy of second-guessing. She was respectable, worth our time, and so she could avoid the derision we heaped onto the eventually proven innocent Tulisa. Nobody equated the photos of Cara cringing playfully outside her Belgravia flat with anything close to what was happening with Tulisa, and nobody seemed at all perturbed with the idea that you might have to pull down some women to elevate others.
Collectively we might be forced to now treat women like Cara with respect, but you could still get away with being misogynistic to girls like Tulisa.
What’s most impressive about the singer though, is how she never let herself wallow in adversity. She’s never moaned about being from a Camden council estate, never moaned about growing up caring for her mother as she struggled with bipolar and schizoaffective disorder, never moaned when a dickhead breached her privacy and leaked a sex tape, never moaned when she was effectively burned at the stake in the aftermath of the Fake Sheik sting. In every case she simply continued to work as best as she could to, slowly but surely, overcome it, even as the people around her continued to underestimate her.
It’s certainly the case that Mahmood, underestimating her sheer staying power, thought that he could get rid of Tulisa without much fuss. Because she was just some chav girl, she’d roll over, complain, scuttle off into obscurity. What he didn’t account for was her fighting spirit. Tulisa has been working since she formed N-Dubz with Fazer and cousin Dappy at just 11 years old, and she wasn’t going to stop because of this. She didn’t sit GCSEs, she didn’t have a good upbringing, she’s not a woman who was expected to succeed, let alone market herself as a “Female Boss”, but she still did just that.
Effectively, Mazher Mahmood tried to fuck her over, but today she got to fuck him instead.
In the courtroom this afternoon Judge Gordon told Mahmood: “You wanted another scalp and Miss Contostavlos’s conviction would have achieved that.”
As he was sent down another of his alleged victims – victims whose own cases are strengthened by Tulisa’s tenacity – shouted from the public gallery “your turn now Mazher”.