Does everyone hate Charlotte?

Last updated 12:06 26/09/2012
Charlotte Dawson
TELL-ALL: Charlotte Dawson's co-authored memoir, Air Kiss & Tell.

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It's been a big month for Charlotte Dawson. She was hospitalised in late-August after an enormous number of tweets called for her death under the hashtag, #diecharlotte.

This was after she had tracked down a Twitter troll, identified her place of work, and called her up to say that her online conduct was appalling. Most recently, Dawson's memoir Air Kiss and Tell, co-authored by Jo Thornley has been released.

Whether all these things are coincidental or part of an elaborate PR scheme is beside the point, Dawson has come to show that she has never been one to hide her problems. Being honest and open gives her some semblance of control over what people say about her.

An adopted child, Dawson first met her biological mother on camera for TVNZ. With this new autobiography, Dawson talks candidly about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child, alcoholism, and mental illness.

She rehashes old and embarrassing media scandals including a failed marriage to a famous swimmer, a jailed boyfriend, online dating, and alleged sex tapes.

Further, as her book says, she doesn't "suffer from surgery shame". She publicly had lip collagen injections during her stint as a reporter for channel nine's Today show, and has documented the removal of her breast implants on channel seven's Sunrise.

In Air Kiss and Tell, Dawson says "I often think that maybe I like to flaunt [my insecurities]". This statement goes to the heart of her very uneasy relationship with the public eye. I get the feeling that in equal measure, Dawson would be 100 times happier if she didn't read the gossip section of the Daily Telegraph and that she relishes being named there.

Dawson has been treated badly by the media. In the late 90s she married swimmer, Scott Miller, who had hopes of winning gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Miller broke his foot in a fall that ended his career.

The marriage dissolved and Women's Day ran an article "painting me as an evil, vindictive wife and insinuating that I was violent and had deliberately sabotaged Scott's chances of making the Olympic team".

The onslaught of resultant media abuse was destructive to her career - she lost her job and was forced to perform the role of "Sarah the bogan" in a play running at Star City Casino (though she did enjoy that role) before escaping back to her motherland, New Zealand, feeling exiled there. She carried out a successful (albeit seven-year-long) defamation suit against Women's Day.

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She further laments that "relationships are not permitted to bloom naturally over time" when the media is involved, analysing every move, and straining a budding romance.

She also writes about social media trolling (the book was printed before trolls caused her hospitalisation). "I know that I shouldn't respond, and in most cases I don't, but sometimes...when a heinous comment is directed at my 'handle' I just can't let it go." She rightfully feels personal distress at public criticism.

Despite being only relatively famous (Dawson is first to admit her status as a "D-lister"), she also feels that the public have a certain zeal in despising her.

When the police arrest her boyfriend one morning and bring along cameras, she muses at how disappointing it must have been for the media that she wasn't in the house at the time for her to be filmed, bed-hair and all.

She also says that Australia (and perhaps New Zealand) "hates" her which is hyperbolic at best given a significant number of people who aren't glued to celebrity gossip don't know who she is.

All the same, Dawson seems to enjoy fame. She clearly reads her press and even includes excerpts of it in her book. The middle coloured-photo section of the book also showcases media tearsheets that mention her. Dawson further highlights her penchant for celebrity with copious name-dropping (Dawson writes this is her entitlement as it is her book) and tedious reflections on relatively famous people who really have nothing to do with the thrust of the narrative.

She also describes a man leaving her for an anonymous TV starlet, reflecting, "she was... on prime time television, so [he] had definitely scored exceptionally well." Meeting (other) famous people and being on television seems to be part of her vision of a successful and enjoyable life.

All this cumulates to the conclusion that Air Kiss and Tell is part of a tug-of-war between Dawson and the public. It's telling that this isn't her first autobiography. She wants to literally be the author of her own life (or at least, co-author) without opting out of celebrity culture.

By rehashing old gossip, she puts her own spin on it. Who can blame her? Gossip reporters, and now, social media trolls present Dawson in ways are oftentimes purposefully mean or untrue.

Air Kiss and Tell will be interesting to readers who have followed Dawson's career and are interested in what she has to say. However, it's clearly a book written in a struggle for control rather than one that truly reflects on a rich life filled with stories and drama. Maybe next autobiography?

Air Kiss and Tell will be published by Allen and Unwin on Monday

-Daily Life

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