Michelle, still belle…

Michelle Leslie’s back on the catwalk in the skimpy underwear for which she’s famous. (Which was greeted by the SMH website, of course, with a celebratory photo gallery and video.) It’s funny – Michelle only ever seems to be pictured in two kinds of clothing – burqas or skimpy swimwear. It must be really tough for her to know which to go with when she gets dressed in the morning.

Now, I do agree that she’s suffered a lot. I wouldn’t wish even three months in a Bali prison on anyone – and given the sentences for the most recent Bali bombers, Indonesian courts feel the same way. What with all the doubt over whether the drugs were hers, she certainly has had terrible luck. As Kate Moss found, it’s a big shock when models get busted with drugs, even when they’re snorting them themselves. They generally get to operate in a pleasant moral bubble because they’re beautiful, and it must be difficult to cope when that’s burst. Plus, she’s probably really nice. And the media’s picked on her lots. And John Howard did too. And she can’t really find work at the moment. The poor dear.

Well, tough. Models have it so good that this is one of the few places where the tall poppy syndrome actually seems justifiable. These are people who get paid a fortune just to show up and be beautiful. We have pretty much no control over our looks, so the only bit of their jobs that models actually have any input on is the showing up part. No wonder we resent them.

It’s natural to be jealous of models. These, after all, are people whose job involves trying on beautiful clothes and walking. Who always get admitted ahead of us in nightclub queues. Who get any man they want. Who earn fabulous money for essentially nothing. Who get to swan around the world while the rest of us have to bust our guts working. So when one model gets in trouble, when one of the alpha pack shows a sign of weakness, is there any wonder that the rest of us descend like a pack of vultures?

If she’d had a regular job, if she’d been on struggle street, I’m sure we would have been more sympathetic. Look how ape everyone went over Schapelle – almost every article stressed how beautiful she was, and how she was a beauty student. I’d say she had lots more to learn about putting on makeup subtlly, but then again I haven’t studied the art the way she has. If Michelle had not been a model, or even if she hadn’t pulled the burqa stunt when there were so many photos around of her in undies and body paint, she’d be a national hero. Channel Nine would even have held a second embarrassing people’s inquiry that would have exonerated her via worm. And you can’t get fairer than that.

Michelle used to have all the privileges of model status without much of the downside of fame. Now, she has to deal with a degree of infamy, which will wear off slowly. They’re the cards. But I reckon the hand she’s been dealt is still pretty darn good. (And judging by the photos, the rest of her’s held up alright as well.) As Kate Moss proved, scandals are temporary, but hotness is permanent.

Dominic Knight