Great LezBritain: Tickled pink for Mary Portas


“Great LezBritian” is a fortnightly stroll through the very best of British lesbo-centric entertainment and culture. Plus there will be some jolly good interviews with the top ladies who are waving the flag for gay UK.

We know it may seem that we’re just opening the door and entering a party that has been in full swing for a while now, but as our column is a fortnightly affair then this is the first opportunity we’ve had to crack open the tequila and talk about the 2010 Pink List, and the fact that Mary Portas wore this year’s pink crown (alongside former Welsh rugby union star Gareth Thomas).

For those outside of Dear Old Blighty, the Pink List is the Independent on Sunday’s list of the UK’s 101 most influential gays and lesbians. Every year we like to take it to the pub and nestle our heads right into its bosom and admire those that have broken boundaries, reshaped perception and gained a well-deserved gold star for achievement.

Obviously measuring someone’s influence and achievement is rather ambiguous, so the Pink List causes much vigorous debate and fist-slamming on pub tables. Deciding whether a pioneer in fertility law or the Poet Laureate or a bestselling crime novelist should have a higher placing is no walk in the park so we applaud the judges for taking it on (these include Dame Clare Balding and former culture secretary Ben Bradshaw). Had it been left to us, we would have been sick in our own mouths and buckled under the pressure screaming: “They’re all winners, for goodness sake let them all be number one.” And this would have made for a rubbish list.

One disappointment is that there are not more women on the list – 31 in total – but this was expected disappointment because the fact is that lesbians are not exempt from that old wanker we call Patriarchy. Women will continue to be underrepresented on all kinds of lists while we are still underrepresented and marginalised in society in general. Still, there were nine more women than on last year’s list so a small hurrah for tiny footed progress.

On a brighter note, we were tickled pink to see Mary Portas enter the list for the first time and stride straight into the top spot. We were first introduced to Portas on BBC2’s Apprentice spin-off You’re Fired. She appeared before us like a much needed shot of estrogen in a TV expert field swamped by the likes of pseudo-angry Gordon Ramsey’s and Duncan Bannantyne types.  Her advice to the Apprentice rejects was always forthright, pithy and empathetic; and all the while we liked to covet her excellent choice of shoes. On the second occasion she was on the show our conversation went like this:

Lee: When I grow up I really want to be that woman

Sarah: When I grow up I want that damn fine jacket

Lee: When I grow up I will actually be her, so that damn fine jacket will be mine and I’ll give it to you

At this point, we did not know Portas was sashaying to the Sapphic beat. It wasn’t until about a year later when we were already obsessively gripped by her own TV show, Mary Queen of Shops, that we read a reference to her partner Melanie Rickey (Grazia’s fashion features editor at large) in a newspaper interview.  And we will not lie, we were delighted. 

To say she is a “good one for the team” is an understatement because whatever our “team” is supposed to do, we are sure that Portas will not only make us look fabulous but we’ll be more efficient with a tidy profit at the end too. 

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