Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lily Allen: From Riches to Rags

Lily Allen's career change from pop star to shop assistant doesn't look too smart

Here's a new game: you have to come up with shop titles named after Beatles records. So for example a glove shop could be called All You Need is Gloves ? not very inspired, I admit. Rubber Sole, selling Crocs etc, I see from the internet already exists. To be honest I'm already struggling. I'm thinking of maybe launching a high-end sports chain store that specialises in equipment for posh schoolgirls, called Lacrosse The Universe. My girlfriend gets involved. She's going to open a massive American- style discount warehouse store that sells everything from peanut butter to shotgun cartridges, and it's going to be called I Am the Walmart. Hmm, she may be ahead.

The reason we're playing is obviously because of Lily Allen's new vintage (new vintage?) clothes shop, called Lucy in Disguise. I don't think there is actually anyone called Lucy; as far as I can work out, from watching Lily Allen: From Riches to Rags (Channel 4), she just came up with the name ? possibly after a glass of wine or two ? and then had to formulate a plan around it. I know, she thought, I'll give up being a pop star, and go and work in a shop instead. Lily didn't want the fame any more, she wanted to be like everyone else, she sought the mundane. For most people the dream goes the other way.

She's setting up in business with her elder sister Sarah, who she doesn't hate any more, as you'll know if you've listened to the lyrics of Lily's song Back to the Start. Trouble is, neither have even the tiniest idea about business or finance or anything. Sarah has spent most of her life up to now clubbing. So she's put in charge of money. She flies to LA and spends a lot of it, and goes drinking, and misses her flight home. Sarah is a bit annoying.

Lily too is utterly hopeless. She also spends a lot of money on stuff, and smokes fags and drinks wine. She cackles a lot, nervously and annoyingly, and flashes her boobs, less annoyingly. She's also nicely honest about not having a clue how the real world works, admits she's deluded and naive. And that she finds criticism really hard.

One of the problems is that all they have is a funny name, and Lily's credit card, but they don't really know what it is they're trying to do. So they go and see Mary Portas ? you know, Channel 4's shopping guru, that woman with a red bob who looks a bit like a Swan Vesta. Mary asks them about business plans, budgets, mark-ups, dull stuff like that. And she organises a focus group, with the sisters hidden behind one of those one-way mirrors. The focus group confirms that Lily has no idea about the real world in terms of what kind of money normal people have to spend on clothes. It also confirms that she's not good with criticism ? she ends up storming off in a strop. Suddenly a career change from international recording artist to shop assistant isn't looking so glamorous.

I worry about the move. For one I'm not totally convinced Lily is suited to retail. She strikes me as being someone who is led by her heart rather than her head, which works for songwriting and singing, but less so in the business sector. You wouldn't buy an album by Duncan Bannatyne would you? I'll also miss her ? I thought she was very good at what she did before. As a person too ? she was refreshingly down to earth, told it like it was, stuck her finger up and said "fuck you" to the right people. She can come across as a bit of a princess in this documentary, but that ? along with the laugh ? probably has as much to do with insecurity as anything else. She also comes across as dead clever, funny, a bit vulnerable, and very hard not to like. Too good for secondhand clothes anyway.

Yeah, but she isn't really going anywhere is she? You don't really disappear by letting a camera crew follow you around, at work and at home, for an intimate three-part documentary. And this silly clothes thing clearly isn't going to work because both she and her sister are rubbish at it. So Sarah will disappear into the darkness of her clubs again, and Lily will reappear, drunk, on the front page of the Sun. And maybe sing a few songs, to pay the bills. That's my advice (and possibly the seed of a new Beatles-based game): get back to where you once belonged. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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