Cheryl is the latest in a long, long string of famous women to learn that tabloid headlines only care about one thing: her relationship status.
This week was an incredible one for Cheryl: on Tuesday (20 Feb), she finally fulfilled her dream of opening a new £2 million centre for disadvantaged young people in her home town of Newcastle.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that members of the press would want to learn more about the former Girls Aloud singer’s charitable endeavours – when she decided to make this centre her priority, for example, or what it was that inspired her to make this her mission.
Unfortunately, though, all they wanted to talk about was the state of her relationship with One Direction’s Liam Payne.
Over the weekend, several media outlets claimed that Cheryl and Payne – who are parents to 11-month-old son Bear – were on the verge of splitting up. And, yes, these reports were all entirely based on the word of an unverified and unnamed source.
Cue a number of journalists stepping forward to ask Cheryl about these same rumours. Thankfully, though, the TV presenter knew exactly how to shut them down and return the focus to Cheryl’s Trust.
“[The split narrative] doesn’t bother me at all because my focus is solely on this,” she told BBC Breakfast.
“I’ve waited for seven years to finally be here and none of that matters. This is the most important part for me.”
“It feels absolutely amazing to actually finally be here,” Cheryl continued. “This has been ongoing for many years.”
Discussing the work of the charity centre, she said it would “help thousands and thousands of youth change their lives”.
“I want to start in the heart of Newcastle because that’s my hometown and where I grew up and where I struggled as a teenager,” she explained.
“If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to get out I don’t know where my life would be right now.
Cheryl added: “I want to say anybody, if you’re feeling… vulnerable, sad, lost, the door’s here. You’re more than welcome. We’ll welcome you with open arms… that’s what we’re here for.”
The Prince’s Trust Cheryl’s Trust Centre is a collaboration between the Prince’s Trust and Cheryl’s Trust, which aims to build on the work which the Prince’s Trust does in Newcastle, boost employment opportunities for young people and support school pupils who are at risk of being excluded.
It also pledges to “totally transform the lives of thousands of young people across the North East every year, giving them the confidence, skills and support they need to build successful, happy lives”.
All in all, it sounds an incredibly worthy endeavour – and far more important than Cheryl’s romantic status. But, then again, our society has proven time and time again that women are put on this planet to be judged on the basis of their personal lives (see the recent Twitter storm about Jennifer Aniston if you don’t believe us).
The questions are always the same: how great a guy did she manage to ‘ensnare’ into marrying her? How good is she as a baby machine? Is her relationship still intact? Is she on track to be married by 30 – or 35 at the very latest? Do her kids do well at school? Does she run an efficient household? And so on and on and on, forever, until the end of time.
Yes, a quote from Cheryl about Payne will probably sell more magazines – but they peddle a tired old narrative, one which is incredibly damaging to our society.
So what can we do about it?
Well, as Aniston stated in her now infamous open letter to the HuffPost: “Tabloid practices, however dangerous, will not change, at least not any time soon. What can change is our awareness and reaction to the toxic messages buried within these seemingly harmless stories served up as truth and shaping our ideas of who we are.
“We get to decide how much we buy into what’s being served up, and maybe someday the tabloids will be forced to see the world through a different, more humanised lens because consumers have just stopped buying the bulls**t.”
Images: Rex Features