Kelly Osbourne, America's Newest Sweetheart
It was somewhere between telling her rocker dad to F off and seeing her rock a glittery cap and ski goggle-sized Chloe sunglasses that I fell in love with Kelly Lee Osbourne.
A little sunnier than MTV's sardonic cartoon character Daria, part Janeane Garofalo served with a hefty helping of Andrew Dice Clay's mouth, Kelly is the kind of teenage girl I wish I had been -- a self-assured, sweet girl badass (with fabulous designer threads, of course).
We wouldn't be exposed to this pink-haired, quirky beauty were it not for MTV introducing her and her family to the world with the reality sitcom, "The Osbournes." The show, which garnered some of the highest ratings ever for the network, has been a bonafide hit, even embraced by none other than the sharpest tool in the shed, George W.
Though she shares the stage with papa Ozzy, business mama Sharon and younger brother Jack, Kelly is a standout in her own right. With a nose that seems to wiggle like Samantha's on "Bewitched," she goes clubbing around Los Angeles and beats up Jack as if she were blindfolded and swinging wildly at a piñata. She recently cut the Madonna cover "Papa Don't Preach" -- which is included in the forthcoming soundtrack for "The Osbournes" -- and performed the song live on MTV at its annual Movie Awards telecast June 6. The video for "Papa Don't Preach" video premiered June 11 on MTV's "Making the Video."
She was slated to perform the song again on The Tonight Show Friday, but recently canceled because she broke her hand -- she told Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America that it was raining and she slipped down some stairs. She is expected to perform on Saturday at the Wango Tango festival presented by the popular L.A. radio station KIIS. All this at the ripe old age of 17.
What Kelly may not realize, however, is the scope and breadth of her presence on television. She is not a Mandy, a Britney, a Christina or any hot young teen thang with minimal talent and an army of stylemakers and tastemakers yapping at their heels. She is very much her own person -- I'm just f---ing me, she would say -- and that has made all the difference.
She is impetuous and brash -- letting out loud yelps when she feels misunderstood or is the subject of a mishap, like the time she accidentally set the teakettle on fire. There was the time her older sister, Aimee (Ozzy's daughter from a previous marriage) set up a gynecological appointment for her and Kelly flipped out.
"I said, 'Aimee, my teeth, my car, my vagina, my business.'" But for every time she whines to her parents about curfew, Kelly displays her tender-hearted side, whether it is sitting on dad's lap and giving him a kiss before he takes the MTV Total Request Live (TRL) stage or taking the family cat (one of many) to the veterinarian for shots.
"I have my dad's bad habits of farting and burping in public and not caring," said Kelly to London's Sunday Times, "but I have my mum's sense of humor and strength."
More impressive is Kelly's unapologetic disregard for her appearance on TV, where she flaunts a makeup-less face, bed head and a buddha belly on more than one occasion. Never has an American television audience seen her kind of body either, which is equally refreshing. Neither stick-straight nor overweight, Kelly is the kind of girl who clearly does not deny herself a helping of meatloaf or ice cream sundae. It's a stark juxtaposition to MTV's endless images of half-naked, reed-thin spring break coeds and Real World roommates who freak out that they are filling out their size 0 pants.
"I'm not fat and I'm not thin," Kelly has told Entertainment Weekly. "And I'm not trying to be a f---ing supermodel, so I wish people would just leave it a lone. I'll read a Web site and someone will say, 'Two words, Kelly: Slim-Fast.' And I'm just like, Oh, f--- off!"
"My physique goes against everything L.A. stands for," she told the Sunday Times.
She quickly rejected a revealing midriff top during a Cosmo Girl photo shoot, reminding the stylist, "'I think you neglected to notice that I'm fat. I'm not going to wear that." She's like, 'We'll airbrush it out.' I'm like, 'Are you nuts?' In the end, I put this ugly black T-shirt on with a belt and just stood there."
Compare that photo shoot with Oprah's Vogue cover shoot, in which the talk show host dropped a significant number of pounds not so much for her own benefit, but to fit into her designer duds and perhaps to please Vogue's notoriously wicked editor, Anna Wintour.
No teenage audience -- especially the female contingent -- has really encountered anyone on television who looks or sounds like Kelly Osbourne. She may very well be the antidote to all the girls starving themselves to look like Calista Flockhart on her "fat day." The press has witnessed Kelly's teenage star power and capitalized on it. In the March issue of YM for instance, she dispenses advice to her contemporaries on everything from relationships (" ... to be honest, I'd dump him") to sex ("too many people don't understand the seriousness of what they do, and mistake the act of sex for an act of love, and most of the time, it's not") to curfew ("Up until 9th or 10th grade, I wasn't allowed out late either").
And she seems to have an opinion on everything.
On celebrities: "My favorite thing to do is to go to one of the chi-chi clubs where all the celebrities hang out and put sunglasses on and just watch all of them. Because they really are the most ridiculous people ... I'm probably more ridiculous than them but it's just fun to watch."
On L.A.: "I think L.A. is filled with so many struggling people, striving to find something that most of them will never find, and in the process, they're just making themselves miserable ... everyone's so skinny with fake t--s and blond hair. I kind of don't fit into that here."
On 9/11: "I just don't understand how one group of people can hate another group so much, that they [would] do something as drastic as kill them all."
On fame: "I don't really consider myself as being famous because I haven't done anything to justify fame. I just sat on my ass in my house all day. I didn't really like do anything."
Kelly's blunt honesty, though profane at times, resonates with audiences. She has her own voice, makes her own decisions (like getting a tiny heart tattoo on her hip) and laughs at herself and her family's antics. At a time when girls are pegged mean, self-conscious and insecure, Kelly Osbourne trounces their shaky ideals. Dye your hair pink! Wear obscenely large sunglasses! Wear what you want! Flaunt your stomach! Though every other word is bleep this and bleep that, Kelly Osbourne is sending a message of confidence to a new generation of teens.
Genevieve Roja is associate editor of AlterNet.org.