Written by Kayleigh Dray
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.
Rita Ora’s decision to host a party during a national lockdown (and global pandemic) is indefensible – but joining the pile-on won’t make us feel better about ourselves in the long run, says Stylist’s digital editor-at-large Kayleigh Dray.
“Have you seen what Rita Ora’s done now?” asked my friend in hushed, scandalised tones when I gave her a ring this week.
“No, I’ve been wearing a blindfold for the past few days, Sandra Bullock in The Birdbox style,” I replied, rolling my eyes extravagantly. Because of course I’ve seen what Rita Ora’s done now. Of course I have. How could I not?
You don’t need me to tell you that every single news outlet has its own unique angle on the matter of Ora’s now-infamous (and 100% illegal) 30th birthday party.
Some have kept it straight, opting for a simple ‘Rita Ora “sorry” for breaking lockdown rules to attend own birthday party.’ Others have leaned into the fact that she didn’t just break lockdown rules; she broke Covid-19 travel restrictions, too (‘Rita Ora broke self-isolation rule by throwing birthday party after paid private gig in Egypt’).
There are those who’ve reveled in listing off the celebrity guests who attended the swanky party. Who have salivated over the menu provided by the West London restaurant. Who have secured photos of the party itself – and of the police officers spotted peering through the windows at the event.
And then there are those who’ve taken things a step further. They’re more interested in how Ora’s parents have given her ‘a Reet telling off’ (because everyone loves a pun almost as much as they love the image of an adult woman being chastened by her mum and dad). How she previously told The Sunday Times that her birthday was going to be a “low-key affair”. And how bloody upset she’s made celebrity columnists Kerry Katona and Emily Andre with her rule-breaking antics, too.
Ora has apologised for breaking the rules – and that she’s done so without even trying to claim that she did so to test her eyes (because who would ever even dream of doing something like that, eh?).
“Hello all, I attended a small gathering with some friends to celebrate my 30th birthday,” she said, in a statement posted to her Instagram.
“It was a spur of the moment decision made with the misguided view that we were coming out of lockdown and this would be OK…
“I’m deeply sorry for breaking the rules and in turn understand that this puts people at risk. This was a serious and inexcusable error of judgement. Given the restrictions, I realise how irresponsible these actions were and I take full responsibility.”
Ora added: “I feel particularly embarrassed knowing first-hand how hard people have worked to combat this terrible illness and being fully aware of the sacrifices that people and businesses have made to help keep us all safe. Even though this won’t make it right, I want to sincerely apologise.”
A number of news outlets have reported that Ora has since paid the fine of £10,000 which is in place for anyone found to be breaking the rules. A fine which, true, probably wouldn’t make so much as the tiniest dent in her bank account (she apparently has a net worth of $30 million, after all), but hey ho.
Is this enough to quell the seemingly endless flow of outrage? Of course not. In fact, a number of radio stations have said that they will be blacklisting the singer’s music for the “foreseeable future.”
Tabloids, too, have made a point of asking anyone, everyone (including the likes of, and I kid you not, The Apprentice’s Ryan-Mark Parsons) what they think of Ora’s behaviour, and running their affronted commentary as headline-worthy news. And the singer’s name continues to trend on Twitter, too, with many calling for the “Covidiot” to be “prosecuted”.
No wonder she’s lost almost 20,000 followers on Instagram and counting, eh?
Now, there’s no getting away from the fact that Ora’s decision to host a party for 30+ people during a national lockdown (and global pandemic) is indefensible. She broke the law, she should be sorry for what she did, and she absolutely must pay that £10,000 fine. That’s a given.
What leaves a bad taste in my mouth, though, is how gleefully so many people have taken to raking her over the coals. Especially when you consider the fact that, during the OG lockdown, Downing Street backed Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick when he broke the rules to travel 150 miles from London to a property he owns in rural Herefordshire.
That Boris Johnson, aka the man who sits in Number 10 and comes up with all these Covid restrictions, wholeheartedly defended Dominic ‘My Eyes!’ Cummings after he broke lockdown to take a 250+ mile trip to Durham.
That Jaimie Laing hosted a, and I quote, “boozy bash” at his West London home until the wee hours of the morning.
That – and I’m sorry to bring him up, I really am – Laurence Fox took to social media to boast about having a “large group of friends” over for lunch.
So what’s the difference between all of the above and their fleeting ‘Ooh, look who broke the rules!’ headlines?
Well, firstly, Ora is a bigger name. Secondly, a secret celebrity party at a luxury restaurant, too, is infinitely juicier than a rich politician fleeing to his second country home – and we have all been starved of celebrity gossip for a long while (so far, we’ve yet to stumble upon this year’s golden WAGatha Christie moment).
But it goes deeper than just that, isn’t it? Because, as studies have repeatedly proven, we’ve long held women to a higher ethical standard than men. Because we, too, set the bar even higher for celebrities, assuming their wealth and their privilege and their instagram-perfect lives means they’re guaranteed to succeed where we will not.
And because, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, some small sadistic part of us quietly revels in tearing others down – especially if everyone around us is doing it too.
Witch hunts have long been something of a communal activity. Back in the bad old days, you wanted to be part of the mob because it meant you wouldn’t be burned at the stake. In today’s Covid-addled world, though, it’s a way to connect with others – something which feels all too appealing to those who, unlike Ora (sorry not sorry), haven’t been able to spend time with loved ones due to lockdown restrictions.
That being said, though, piling in to heap blame and shame upon the likes of Ora may make us feel a part of something bigger, and it may give us some short-term release of cathartic anger – but it’s still toxic, all the same. Nobody feels any better for doing it. Not Ora, obviously. And, more importantly, not us, because it’s just like picking at a too-fresh scab (insofar as you know it’s a bad idea, you know it’ll make you feel rubbish in the long run, and yet still… pick, pick, pick).
So, with that in mind: we’ve had our fun, we’ve enjoyed the many, many, many memes, and we’ve quenched our thirst for scandal. We’ve made it abundantly clear that we do not, will not, cannot ever find this sort of behaviour acceptable. We’ve 100% said our piece, over and over and over again.
Now, though, it’s time for us to be the bigger person. To rise above the noise. To channel kindness and empathy, as we all promised ourselves we would do back in February. And to move the fuck on already. Please.
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