How A Wannabe Glamour Model Became The Subject Of Internet Hate

Ever since telling a newspaper she wanted an abortion so she could appear on Big Brother, Josie Cunningham has been at the centre of a tabloid storm.

1. This is 23-year-old Josie Cunningham.

Last year she sparked controversy after she revealed she’d had a £4,800 tax payer-funded breast enlargement on the NHS.

Despite proudly posing topless in The Sun, shortly afterwards Cunningham announced her new chest was “ruining her life” and that she intended to sue the NHS for clinical negligence and emotional distress.

She then revealed that she was working as an escort to pay for her reduction surgery.

2. Here she is, explaining her decision on ITV’s Daybreak.

3. This month, she announced she would be having an abortion in order to further her aim of appearing on Big Brother.

She told the Sunday Mirror that the Channel 5 reality TV series wanted to shortlist her as a contestant before realising she was pregnant.

4. The story was quickly picked up by other media outlets.

6. And she was swiftly deluged with abuse on social media, including death threats.

7. It appeared Big Brother bosses had ruled her out as a guest on the show, but she claims otherwise.

So, I have just been told that I haven't been definitely ruled out of Big Brother! UNLUCKY HATERS! "How could we" is not "No we're Not!" :)

— Josie Cunningham (@JosieCOnline)

Not many people in the world make me want to give them a swift kick to the face but I can safely say @JosieCOnline IS one of them #tramp

— Laura Stillie (@Laura_Stillie)

@JosieCOnline You actually insult my eyes.

— Carly Marie North (@CarlyNorth)

10. While an online petition to stop her appearing on TV has so far attracted nearly 14,000 signatures.

11. However, a number of media commentators have written to defend her. Writing in the Guardian, Martin Robbins claims:

Much of this seems to come down to basic snobbery. The Mirror gleefully quotes Cunningham’s vision: “An abortion will further my career. This time next year I won’t have a baby. Instead, I’ll be famous, driving a bright pink Range Rover and buying a big house.” It’s a statement that invites judgment, from the sort of character tabloids thrive on mocking – a woman who doesn’t know her place.

In reality, her actions are no different from those of thousands of women who exercise their reproductive rights in order to make informed choices about their future careers and families, yet because she uses the wrong language, because she talks “common”, and wants to be on Big Brother instead of working in a call centre, she has been subjected to a torrent of vile abuse and bullying. Much of it incited by the very newspapers that promote the celebrity lifestyle in the first place.

12. And in the New Statesman, Sarah Ditum writes:

The demand for these permanently burnable witches seems easy enough to explain: it’s down to cultural misogyny. Less obvious is why women show such alacrity in taking on the role, but perhaps there’s an answer in Cunningham’s backstory. According to her account, she was ferociously bullied by boys at school for having small breasts. “I may not have been suffering in a visable [sic] manner, but mentally I was suffering for over a decade,” she writes on her official site. Maybe once you’ve learned to be hated, and learned to be the best at hating yourself, it begins to make sense that you should get some benefit from it.

13. The debate looks set to continue.

On Monday she will be launching her first endorsement and has invited the press to attend.

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Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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