What's With the UK's Fascination With Olivia Palermo?

Yesterday the UK's Daily Mail posted one of their standard non-stories about a celebrity, built up around some photos. It secured the top spot on the paper's website, so you'd assume the celeb story was about an A-lister. Not so. Olivia Palermo of all people, in her bikini with her boyfriend, had garnered the lead story spot. "Far away from The City: Reality TV star Olivia Palermo puckers up with model boyfriend as she shows off bikini in St Barts," the headline blared. Across the pond, Palermo seems to have become more of a celebrity than she is back here. She's been a fixture for several seasons now at London Fashion Week, sitting front row at Topshop Unique and Richard Nicoll, she snagged the cover of Tatler which ran with the headline "Girl of the Year," she was one of Vogue UK's "Today I'm Wearing" style diary girls, and was the face of Freda for Matches, the upscale UK boutique chain. So why all the fuss?
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Leah Chernikoff
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Yesterday the UK's Daily Mail posted one of their standard non-stories about a celebrity, built up around some photos. It secured the top spot on the paper's website, so you'd assume the celeb story was about an A-lister. Not so. Olivia Palermo of all people, in her bikini with her boyfriend, had garnered the lead story spot. "Far away from The City: Reality TV star Olivia Palermo puckers up with model boyfriend as she shows off bikini in St Barts," the headline blared. Across the pond, Palermo seems to have become more of a celebrity than she is back here. She's been a fixture for several seasons now at London Fashion Week, sitting front row at Topshop Unique and Richard Nicoll, she snagged the cover of Tatler which ran with the headline "Girl of the Year," she was one of Vogue UK's "Today I'm Wearing" style diary girls, and was the face of Freda for Matches, the upscale UK boutique chain. So why all the fuss?
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Yesterday the UK's Daily Mail posted one of their standard non-stories about a celebrity, built up around some photos. It secured the top spot on the paper's website, so you'd assume the celeb story was about an A-lister. Not so. Olivia Palermo of all people, in her bikini with her boyfriend, had garnered the lead story spot. "Far away from The City: Reality TV star Olivia Palermo puckers up with model boyfriend as she shows off bikini in St Barts," the headline blared.

Across the pond, Palermo seems to have become more of a celebrity than she is back here. She's been a fixture for several seasons now at London Fashion Week, sitting front row at Topshop Unique and Richard Nicoll, she snagged the cover of Tatler which ran with the headline "Girl of the Year," she was one of Vogue UK's "Today I'm Wearing" style diary girls, and was the face of Freda for Matches, the upscale UK boutique chain.

So why all the fuss? "Most press over here first met her when she was the face of Freda for Matches at LFW in February 2010," says Sasha Wilkins, a British fashion editor who pens the blog Liberty London Girl. "She was utterly charming, pretty and had great manners...and we all love Jo Sykes, Freda, and Matches so she was launched over here in good company."

To be fair, even when Olivia was being all underminder-y on the City, her manners were always in check. She was never loud or brassy or outright rude.

In fact, well-mannered is exactly how Matches' site describes her (with just a smidge more adoration), "The uptown girl became a style icon when she stole the show in MTV’s The City, a glossy depiction of the lives and loves of a set of well-dressed twenty-something-year-olds in New York. She’s sweetly charming with impeccable manners – not to mention heartmeltingly beautiful - with style to match." Not a peep about how Palermo came off pretty bitchy and villainous on the reality show.

Wilkins explains, "Of course no one in the UK knows about that whole socialite letter controversy from a few years back that first had her hitting Manhattan headlines, so she has no bad history over here at all. Also relatively few people have actually seen The City so they only know her from event photos, where she only ever looks pretty, demure, smiley, and neatly dressed."

In short, she's endeared herself to the Brits. "Basically, the English press adore Americans who give London the time of day. They think it adds a frisson of glamour," explains Wilkins. "I think a lot of British people love to loathe Americans--thinking them brash, bold and fake but Olivia comes across as a pretty and well dressed almost English girl when she is over here, and that gives her novelty value too."

So, case closed? UK readers (and all readers), what are your thoughts on Ms. Palermo?