Presenting Lily Allen: rich brat, pop star, & social justice warrior

Lily Allen

Lily Allen is not terribly famous in the U.S., but in her homeland she’s quite the star. Born into a well-to-do showbiz family in London in 1985, she attended a series of posh schools which she was kicked out of for smoking and drinking. She became a drug dealer, got a record contract through family connections, and ended up hitting it big by posting her songs on My Space. Since then she’s pursued a busy recording and performing career – and insulted a long list of fellow artists and assaulted more than her share of paparazzi. But she’s also found time to lecture her inferiors about world affairs.

Hillary Clinton at the 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen

On her Wikipedia page, one sentence after another is a head-scratcher. “On 1 October 2009, Allen and several other musicians released the world’s first digital musical petition aimed at pressuring world leaders attending the December 2009 climate change summit in Copenhagen.” Digital music petition? What? “During the London assembly and mayoral elections in April 2016, Allen announced that she would be giving ‘half her vote to the Women’s Equality Party’ – by voting for them on the London-wide Assembly list but voting Labour elsewhere.” Who asked? “On 15 June 2017, Lily Allen became involved in a controversy over the number of deaths in the Grenfell Tower fire.” What kind of expertise does a dropout pop star have in such matters?

Grenfell Tower in west London after the fire

We looked that last one up. In an interview on Britain’s Channel 4 news the morning after the fire, Allen actually accused the government and media of lying about the number of fatalities, which at that moment was up to seventeen. Newsreader Jon Snow had to explain to her that, as is the case with many such tragedies, the figure being broadcast represented the number of bodies recovered so far, and that the death toll would surely rise significantly in the hours and days to come. But Allen didn’t back down: as far as she was concerned, there was a conspiracy afoot and she was a brave, lone truth-teller.

Allen in Calais

There’s more. In 2016, Allen visited the migrant camp in Calais, on the French side of the English Channel. The migrants are camped there because they want to cross the channel and settle in Britain, even though, as has been widely pointed out, they have no right under international law to enter the U.K. But that didn’t stop Allen from apologizing to one of the migrants, a teenage Afghan named Shamsher Sharin, on Britain’s behalf “for what we’ve put you through.” When a TV reporter challenged her during an October 2016 interview to, in effect, put her money where her mouth was, Allen said that “if these children are being displaced, of course, there’s room for people in my house. I’m going to take them in.” She backed the promise up with an Instagram post promising to take a refugee into her £2 million home in Notting Hill. When asked in January 2017 whether she had made good on her promise, however, she refused to answer. Soon after, the post on which she had made the promise disappeared from her Instagram feed.

To be sure, she had an excuse. Was it a good one? We’ll scrutinize it on Thursday.

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