Here's how two people called Jeremy McConnell and Stephanie Davis turned their lives into car-crash celebrity trash stories (and all they had to lose was their dignity). Six months ago, Jeremy McConnell was a former Mr Dublin who'd appeared on MTV reality show Beauty School Cop Outs, so not even your Instagram-obsessed 14-year-old sister would recognise him. Stephanie Davis you might have known: she got sacked from playing Sinead on Hollyoaks – her agent confirmed at the time that she was ditched "following warnings for lateness, attendance and… a final incident in which she turned up to set unfit to work because of alcohol consumption". Then they both ended up on Celebrity Big Brother (the bar is, quite honestly, very low these days) and made the best career move available to them: seemingly shagging on live TV. Now they're a Mail Online Sidebar of Shame staple, getting more celebrity mag covers than Beyoncé, Rihanna and Adele put together every week. Every rank detail of their lives is another twist in their ever more depressing journey to rock bottom. But, here's the thing: magazines and websites need something to fill those blank empty pages for readers to flick through in the hairdressers or on the train, and these celebs need publicity, mainly so they can go on more reality shows in exchange for money. Then the magazines want to speak to them because they're on a reality show, the resulting publicity giving them the ability to up their fee for that next reality show. It's a circle of life, just not the kind Elton John sung about.
So how is it done? How do they get people to keep reading about them? As someone who's worked in celebrity journalism for over 10 years, I can tell you exactly how to do it in five easy steps.
PISS PEOPLE OFF
The quickest way to fame in 2016 is public outrage, which explains why Katie Hopkins is still paid money to share her opinions. Steph and Jeremy not only appeared to have sex on telly (weird that the 'general public' are shocked by this, given that it happens almost every week on Geordie Shore) but Steph was cheating on her boyfriend, a man called Sam Reece, who was watching her on TV from outside the Big Brother house.
Even Philip Schofield, a man who has had so many ropey 'celebrities' on This Morning that he should have learned to rise above this shit, got dragged into it, ranting, "Do you know what? I'm sick to death of these two. Who cares?" during a segment one day. Cheers for another week of publicity and headlines, Phil!
THINK WORST CASE SCENARIO
Depressingly, I've learned that people only want to read about celebrity lives if they're having amazingly good news, or incredibly bad news. There is no in-between. So if you're not getting married, go and get punched in the face in a car park, as poor Steph Davis did last week. I'm not saying some unhinged member of the public didn't assault her, as she claimed on Twitter, but who took the photo of her "writhing in pain" on the floor after the attack that she tweeted, then deleted? If your mate's first reaction when someone twats you in the face is to take a picture, then you're right on track to becoming a Z-list star. Which brings us to…
THE TWEET/DELETE METHOD
If you tweet something, someone, somewhere will screengrab it. Nothing gets deleted from the internet. Steph Davis does late-night Twitter rants, Snapchats of her arm with a drip in it, screengrabs of other girls DM-ing Jeremy pictures of their tits – it's all out there. In just one week, she revealed she'd split with Jeremy (then deleted it), claimed she was pregnant (then deleted it) and posted a photo of herself drinking while pregnant (see step one: outraging the general public and ending up on the Mail Online).
INSTAGRAM IS FOR INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES
For most people, it's a good place to put your holiday photos and stalk your exes. But for Z-list celebrities, it's a subtle way of feeding celebrity websites photos to use in stories about you. See it as a gallery of your life – 'empowering' selfies, pictures of your new puppy that you bought to mark 22 days without an argument with your boyfriend (FYI: Steph's puppy hasn't been spotted in four weeks, has anyone checked up on it?) and of course the inspirational Instagram quote. Things like, "One day you'll wake up in the morning and wonder what happened to the girl who use [sic] to be there for you no matter how much you pushed her away." What could that mean?
GET A GOOD AGENT
It's no good going on Twitter rants, getting pregnant, splitting up, cheating and having exes tweet sex tapes of you if it's not earning you any money. This is your career! You can't live on just your earnings from tipping photographers off that you'll be browsing rings at H Samuel in the Trafford Centre on a busy Saturday! You'll need a ruthless agent who'll call the celebrity magazines to try and set up exclusive chats, which can earn you anything from £5k to £15k [€6,500-20,000] (and if you've got a really, really good story, more than that). It's not unusual for celebrity couples (or exes) to share the same agent, which means they're calling one magazine saying one half of the couple wants to slag off their ex, and calling a different website to set up a "the ex hits back!" piece. I've had an agent call me to tell me that his client, a very low-level celebrity, punched his girlfriend (also a Z-list "star") in the face, but he's sorry and he's willing to speak to the media about it – for a fee.
So there it is. You might lose your friends, family, any professional respect you ever had and most of your dignity along the way, but you can probably make around £40k [€52,500] and stay famous for a year if you commit to a lot of reality shows. Good luck! You'll need it. The author of this piece has asked to remain anonymous to protect their job in showbiz journalism. More like this on VICE: What We Learned from Dale Winton's Essay on Donald Trump