Once upon a time, when a celebrity couple broke up, you learned about it on the cover of a magazine of their choosing or heard about it on the (entertainment) news.
I never thought Russian supermodel Irina Shayk would be the one to make me wistfully remember the glory days of entertainment reporting. Shayk had been dating Bradley Cooper for four years, they have a daughter Lea (two) together and she was by his side for much of awards season for his directorial debut A Star is Born.
Not long after Cooper’s chemistry-filled performance with co-star Lady Gaga on stage at the Academy Awards, there were reports of trouble in paradise between him and his real-life partner.
One outlet reported that Shayk liked a comment on Instagram in which Gaga’s ex-fiancé took a swipe at her. As it turns out, she didn’t, but she did unfollow her on Instagram which is the 2019 equivalent of throwing your partner’s clothes out the window.
None of the affair rumours were true of course, but pop culture connoisseurs are desperate for a messy celebrity break-up in an overly polished and primed Hollywood where everyone is an expert in PR.
But there has been no official statement from Cooper and Shayk, only comments credited to sources about everyone’s respective upset.
Throughout all this, Irina has remained entirely silent, only giving an interview to Glamour UK in February to accompany her cover shoot, explaining why she doesn’t like dishing about her personal life.
“I have a lot of friends who share a lot of their personal life on Instagram or social media, very publicly. I admire it and I think it’s great – but I think it’s all about personal choice,” she explained. “Because my work requires me to be out there, I just decided my personal life will be quiet. That’s why it’s called personal, because it’s something for you and your family and I feel happy with it.”
To suddenly release a statement or start giving interviews about her heartbreak would contradict her statements made just a few months earlier, but she clearly has something to say and is using the best tools at her disposal: paparazzi.
Before dating Cooper, Shayk was famous, mostly in fashion, but had crossed into mainstream recognition thanks to her five-year relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo.
But once paired with Cooper, a bonafide Hollywood A-lister, she joined him in the upper echelons of Hollywood and the pervasive attention that comes with it. Now, she’s making the most that focus with all she’s got – and boy, is it entertaining.
The last month has been a veritable display of her shrewdness, impressive self-awareness and unashamed desire to stay famous and doing what it takes to stay there.
When news of the split broke she was pictured smiling and laughing while getting a pedicure. Afterwards, she was pictured leaving her New York City apartment in a beige Burberry boiler suit, carrying a trendy Away suitcase, a brand with which she has a partnership.
Naturally, the pictures were used around the world to illustrate the news her relationship had ended. It was a physical representation of her leaving him, controlling their break-up narrative and indicative that Irina’s talent extends beyond taking a good picture.
Soon after, she chose a shirt dress in Burberry’s signature print and her daughter wore the matching kids version. The fact that she has a long-standing ambassador role with Burberry isn’t just a happy coincidence.
Throughout the week, she shared throwback pictures of her on set in bikini after bikini and flew to Florence and Milan to walk for Pitti Uomo and Versace.
But the true master stroke was her outfit last week, which on the surface appeared to be your standard supermodel-off-duty attire: a pair of combat boots, black shorts, loose top and structured blazer; wearing her trademark sunglasses and her hair tousled in beachy waves.
When you gaze your eyes slightly downward, it looks at first as if she’s clutching a book. On further inspection, it’s a €3,000 clutch by Olympia Le-Tan, modelled after Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 1869 book, The Idiot.
It was perfect.
Tabloids the world over interpreted it as her sending a message to her ex, while one women’s magazine, which are struggling to adopt a tone which analyses fashion in a constructive way sycophantically wrote that she would inspire a new summer book club; seemingly forgetting that Shayk was not actually reading the book, but rather carrying it in clutch form.
Le Tan’s range, which fuses literature and fashion, has countless other inoffensive book titles, so Irina’s choice of title was a display of her intelligence. She has a small window to keep hold of her A-list status and is doing everything within her power to manipulate the interest in her to extend her career.
She isn’t just in on the joke, but now she’s making them herself.
Paparazzi culture is changing, and not necessarily for the better, with more aggressive techniques employed by unscrupulous photographers the world over. I always dismissed celebrity complaints at these pap hubs as being divas until I saw this video of Bella Hadid at New York Fashion Week in 2017.
But in the US, they are protected under the Constitution as freedom of the press, so if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
This, coupled with social media which empowers anyone with any type of profile to create – and control – their own narrative and essentially rebrand themselves in any fashion they so wish, means that celebrities in particular are more accessible than ever.
As paparazzi culture changes – not necessarily for the better – coupled with social media, celebrities are more accessible than ever. Irina exclusively uses hers to push her modelling work and seems to be more an old school girl; one who sends messages through the media and maximises headlines.
At 33, she qualifies as a millennial, one who understood the era of media manipulation at its height in the early noughties when Us Weekly and People magazine reigned supreme; E! News was still in its early days and TMZ was just a seed that had been planted in Harvey Levin’s head.
After years of models being seen and not heard, it appears that she is someone who really has something to say…but we may never hear her say it.
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