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FACE IT, EVEN ZETA'S NOT PERFECT; She's one of the world's most beautiful women - but Catherine Zeta-Jones' appearance has captured the headlines for all the wrong reasons in recent weeks. As the world's celeb-watchers debate whether the actress has lost her looks, JO CARNEGIE, former deputy editor of Heat magazine, argues that every woman's allowed a bad day - even Oscar-winning superstars.

Byline: JO CARNEGIE

FORGET Cheryl and Ashley's divorce - Catherine Zeta-Jones' face is the hottest topic in Celebsville right now.

When the Swansea-born actress stepped out at a charity gala in New York last week her appearance was the talking point for all the wrong reasons.

Photographed in the harsh May daylight, Catherine's appearance got the critics salivating.

Much was made of her "suspiciously" smooth forehead and "dull, lifeless skin".

One caption sniped the 40 year old was "losing her looks" and speculation even went down the plastic surgery route, with one surgeon giving his expert opinion that CZJ has probably had a brow lift (ouch), eyelid work and "repeated use of Botox".

Give the woman a break! For the hoo-ha it's caused, you may well be forgiven for thinking she'd dyed her skin green and stepped out with a traffic cone surgically attached to her head.

Far from someone who's losing her looks, I see a woman who looks exhausted with slightly too much foundation on (sorry Catherine).

Yes, she might possibly have had a bit of work done, but name me an actress in Hollywood over 35 who hasn't and I'll eat my hat.

Could it be that Catherine was just having an ugly day? Shock horror! I don't know about you, but I have at least one day a week where I look in the mirror and think "urgh".

Ugly days are commonplace, but when someone as famous and beautiful as Ms Zeta-Jones has one it makes front page headlines across the world.

Celebrities aren't allowed "off" days, you see.

From the moment they step out the door, whether it's to a premiere or the post office, they're meant to look a million dollars. It's in their unofficial contract when they sign up to the fame game: "Clause 22: must look nothing short of perfect at all times".

Catherine has been quick to defend herself, saying her slightly frazzled appearance is down to weight loss from doing her new Broadway show, A Little Night Music.

Eight strenuous shows a week, plus two kids to look after and a husband and home to run - well several actually, homes not husbands - will take its toll on anyone.

But for someone like Cath, who has always flown the flag for curvy women and glamorous beauty, the criticism is twice as bad.

It's hard isn't it, for these celebrities? One bad picture and their whole persona is picked to pieces. Es-pecially women of a "certain age" like Catherine, where in a town like Hollywood you're over the hill from 22 onwards.

Take four other famous ladies in the headlines this week, the stars of the new Sex and The City 2 movie.

SJP and co (combined age 187) may have looked fabulous on the red carpet, but it hasn't stopped the rumours about super-slim Sarah's obsessive diet and exercise routine to stave off ageing and bitchy snipes about her "veiny hands".

Really, who cares when you're wearing head-to-toe Valentino? Too fat, too thin, too wrinkled, too young-looking... these women just can't win.

Even when they look good, there seems to be a bad story behind it. These female stars just aren't allowed to be.

If they're in good shape, they've got some eating disorder and obsession with staying young.

If they have a bad day like Catherine, suddenly they're in danger of losing their sex symbol status.

Depressingly, all this scrutiny over their appearance does make a lot of them turn to plastic surgery.

How many times have you looked at a photo of a famous woman (or man - Mickey Rourke say no more) and said: "Nooo! What have they done to themselves?" The problem is that when you live in the Hollywood bubble, your perception about what's beautiful goes skew-wiff.

They start having a nip here, a tuck there; throwing money at something that can't be bought.

It's a keeping-up-with-the-Joneses scenario, celebrity following celebrity in the misguided pursuit of eternal youth and beauty. But plastic surgery is so insidious that before you know it you're on your tenth treatment and sporting one of the frozen faces that has become a showbiz epidemic.

It's got so bad even stars who aren't old enough to wear wrinkle cream are going under the knife. Jordan for one, and take The Hills star Heidi Montag, who at the grand old age of 23 has had so much plastic surgery her own mother doesn't recognise her. Scary.

Someone has to throw some sense into this debate.

And thankfully it's our Catherine, who has shrugged off "Facegate" with typical Welsh grit.

"There are people who expect me to look the way I do on-screen, where I have a great director of photography and fantastic lighting," she said.

"I'm sorry to disappoint people, but I don't look like that all the time - no actress does."

Hear hear. When I see a picture of a star looking rough, I don't think they've let the side down. It actually makes me warm to them.

In my time as deputy editor at Heat magazine, we printed countless pictures of stars with no make-up, or bad hair days and so on.

And yes, I'm not saying our intentions were entirely honourable - who isn't going to rub their hands together in glee at seeing Cameron Diaz with a big spot on her chin - but it just showed that celebrities are as human and flawed as the rest of us.

We're kind of in this all together, even if their wrinkles and ugly days are seen by half the world.

Ideally, the perfect remedy for Catherine would be a few Gower walks to put the colour back in her cheeks.

But Broadway beckons, so I hope at the very least she gets some sleep, has a few good meals and steps out at the next premiere back to her gorgeous, glossy self.

A new day brings a new photo opportunity, and when you're as fabulously A-List as CZJ, one bad picture isn't going to ruin your life or career.

CAPTION(S):

ABOUT FACE: Zeta in the photograph which caused such a furore (left) and (right) pretty in pink and back to her stunning self just three days later
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 30, 2010
Words:1034
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