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Home > Culture and Society

Dying to be famous

If you're a teenager, becoming a 'missing Surrey schoolgirl' or a 'tragic ecstasy death teen' may seem like an quick and easy route to celebrity. Just think: instant fame; no more school and, if you're very lucky, a televised appeal from Will Young. Fantastic! But don't be too hasty - it's not as easy as it looks.

Paul Carr

18 November 2002

If you're a teenager, becoming a 'missing Surrey schoolgirl' or a 'tragic ecstasy death teen' may seem like an quick and easy route to celebrity. Just think: instant fame; no more school and, if you're very lucky, a televised appeal from
Will Young. Fantastic! But don't be too hasty - it's not as easy as it looks.

As any wannabe tragi-teen will tell you, achieving fame on the back of your death/disappearance is a difficult business. First of all, you'll almost certainly have to end up dead - probably at the bottom of a canal or curled up with a syringe in your arm - but, more importantly, you'll have to get yourself noticed above the thousands of kids who go missing or die in tragic circumstances each year without getting any more than an 'other news' mention in their local paper.

Take for example the case of 13-year-old Surrey saxophonist Amanda Dowler (Milly to her friends) who went missing on her way home from school on 21st March 2002. The following day Amanda's picture appeared in ever national newspaper, on every news bulletin and on posters across the length and breadth of the country. Fame indeed - but Milly was one of the lucky ones.

Just two months later, 14-year-old Hermelin Mavanga went missing from outside his home in London. The circumstances were not dissimilar to Milly Dowler's - a young, apparently happy, teenager leaves his house but never returns. But unlike Milly, his name fails to bring up even one result on Google. Nice try, Hermelin, but no reconstruction.

So, what did Hermelin do wrong and, more importantly, how can you be sure that, when you meet your untimely and tragic end, you'll be hailed as a Dowler and not ignored as a Mavanga?

Here are some tips...

  • Avoid living in an inner-city trouble spot. Unless you're lucky enough to be the victim of a racially-motivated murder, your chances of becoming more than just a statistic are greatly reduced if you live in a London borough. Or Wales. If you're in any geographic doubt, move to Surrey where no one runs away and human life is valuable.

  • Be a 'happy, popular child who always did well at school'. This is an extremely important factor in achieving posthumous tragi-fame. After all, everyone knows that lonely, miserable, stupid kids deserve everything they get.

  • Ensure that your disappearance is 'completely out of character'. Children who are constantly being abducted and brutally murdered are unlikely to attract sympathetic coverage in the red-tops.

  • Look almost pornographically cute at all times. Abducted or not, no one wants to see an ugly child looking at them from the newsstand. If you are unable to look cute, you should at the very least try to appear white and blonde.
    (This is especially important if you plan to overdose on drugs: the stark contrast between your pretty, white self and your heroin-filled, purple self is a picture editor's dream.)

  • And finally, before you go, ensure that your 'tragic child portfolio' is up to date. The ideal T.C.P. will contain the following:

    - A home video of yourself and the rest of your (two parent) family unwrapping Christmas presents. If you don't celebrate Christmas, footage of you ironing or performing in a school play will suffice.

    - A collection of photographs comprising: one school portrait, one holiday photo taken on a beach, one picture of yourself standing, happily, in a field of corn. Try to appear both happy and innocent in each.

    - A hand-written note to your mother/sister, decorated with hearts and flowers and presented in your cutest handwriting. Subject unimportant.

    - A list of your favourite celebrities for the showbiz appeal. Try to choose clean-cut celebrities who have albums/books/films to promote as they will agree more
    readily and will be more media-friendly. Will Young is an ideal choice; the Pop Idol winner sets aside one day a week just to make missing child appeals.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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