A WAG Drama Unfolds In Britain

Oct 9, 2019
Originally published on October 9, 2019 6:10 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Move over, Sherlock Holmes. Britain has a new super sleuth, and the Internet is calling her WAGatha Christie. Let me explain. A drama unlike any other is unfolding across the pond. And to walk us through it, we are joined by Elizabeth Paton. She covers fashion and luxury from London for The New York Times. Elizabeth Paton, welcome.

ELIZABETH PATON: Hello.

KELLY: Hi. I don't even know where to begin this story. It is so crazy. I guess I'll note Britons who do seem to love a really deliciously gossipy trashy tabloid tell-all, maybe they were overdue for a good scandal.

PATON: I have to say we've really, really needed it. Britain is exhausted by Brexit and the constant doom and gloom. So it's no surprise that WAGatha Christie, as you mentioned in the introduction, has broken the Internet today. And the reason why it's called WAGatha Christie is that WAG or WAGs is an acronym commonly used here to refer to the wives and girlfriends of high-profile athletes. And two of the women involved in today's feud are two of the most high-profile WAGs in the country.

KELLY: OK. The wives or girlfriends in question here are Coleen Rooney and Rebekah Vardy. Who are these two women?

PATON: Correct. So Coleen first came on the scene in 2006 as the young, fresh-faced teenage sweetheart of Wayne Rooney, who went on to become the England soccer team captain. And Coleen, you know, really has built up a powerful brand for herself. She's an idol for many young women here in Britain whereas Rebekah Vardy came on the scene more recently. She met her husband Jamie, who plays for Leicester City, when she was a nightclub promoter. They got married in 2016. And she's now in every front page and home screen here since Miss Rooney's allegations surfaced about her today.

KELLY: All right. Let's cut to these allegations then. The story at the core is a conflict between these two women, and this started with Coleen Rooney's Instagram account. I'll just lay a little bit of the backdrop and then let you pick up the story. Coleen Rooney noticed that things that she'd posted on her closed, private Instagram account kept turning up in the tabloid press, including in The Sun newspaper in Britain. And she decided to launch a sting operation to figure out how this was happening.

PATON: So what she did is she started publishing stories on her personal Instagram account but reducing the people that could view it to just one person, the person that she thought was leaking these stories to The Sun. And that person, as she announced sensationally this morning, was Rebekah Vardy, who she accused of releasing a number of stories about whether it was sort of more menial things, like she had had flooding in her basement, to this full story that she'd gone to Mexico for gender selection treatment. And once she had three clear screenshots that it was only Rebekah Vardy who had seen these stories, she let the cat out of the bag.

KELLY: What has Rebekah Vardy said? Has she fessed up, or what's her reaction been?

PATON: Well, it's a really interesting response. I mean, she didn't say that she didn't do it. She claimed someone had been hacking her Instagram account, but she was very upset, that she was pregnant and she was seeking legal advice.

KELLY: Give me a little bit of a sense of how big a story this is in Britain today.

PATON: It's the story that everybody needs right now, and it appears that people just can't or won't think of anything else. You've got some of the most serious political journalists in the country joking that maybe we could get Coleen Rooney into No. 10 where the prime minister lives in order to work out who's leaking the Brexit stories that are dominating the front-page headlines. But, honestly, it's just been the respite we've all been hoping for. It's been pouring with rain and sort of doom and gloom in the headlines, and sometimes you just need a little bit of cheer. That's the tea from here.

KELLY: That is Elizabeth Paton, European style reporter for The New York Times based in London. Elizabeth Paton, thank you.

PATON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.