Heather Mills, former wife of Paul McCartney, has struggled over the past few years to change her public image from that of an attention hungry, gold-digging opportunist to an inspirational role model for disadvantaged women worldwide. Mills lost part of her left leg after being hit by a motorcycle in 1993 and has used prosthetics ever since. She and McCartney separated in 2006, divorcing two years later after a high-profile court case in which Mills was awarded an estimated sum of £24.3 million.
Seeking to improve her image, Mills participated in ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" in 2007. Her performance came off as tepid, which surprised industry marketing analysts who expected her to outperform many others on the show. "The way I saw it," said an executive for a major television ratings firm, "she had a better chance of going all the way than her competition. Many of them came into the auditions with two left feet. Heather doesn't have any left feet. Seemed like she had a leg up to me."
Despite the set back, Mills remained undaunted and more determined than ever to prove herself in the court of public opinion, having failed there miserably during her divorce from McCartney. So in December 2009, she announced that she would be joining the celebrity cast of ITV's "Dancing on Ice."
At the program's launch, Mills said, ''The charity's been suffering a lot...they [the show's producers] said they'd give us a good fee for the charity, so I thought that would be good." With only £24.3 million ($38.7 million USD) to live on, Mills found herself burning through cash and unable to sustain her charity.
''The other reason I did it," Mills continued, "is I've got 6,000 amputees on my website who look to me for inspirational things to do.'' Mills realized that her original advice -- marry rich, create a public scandal and demand an expensive divorce in the midst of a media frenzy -- wasn't going to be practical for many of her 6,000 supporters.
But the bad news came today that Mills had failed to make the cut. After reviewing footage of her performances and fielding complaints from other skaters, the judges decided to disqualify Mills for having an unfair advantage. They cited her artificial limb, which is made of Norwegian wood.
"Not to sound cruel, but that leg is practically a hockey stick on the ice," said lead producer George Jessbury. "They can spin her around on it, she can balance better and they can hold her up easier. It's just not a level playing field."
"She had the deck stacked against her from the start," said one of the show's production assistants. "She had a lot of problems getting used to the ice. Then she got real sick. Dutch Elm disease, they said. I don't know how she stayed in it this long. But the judges' decision was crap."
Jessbury defended his position. "I'm not unsympathetic. I understand that she's had an ironic life. A disfigured model. Struck down by a policeman on his way to help in an emergency. The fact that her name is Mills and her leg was made in one. But right is right. Her prosthetic leg gives her an edge. It's like bringing roller skates to a marathon. No one else had a chance. So we asked her to stop using her wooden leg, but she refused."
Mills bowed out graciously and thanked her ex-husband for extending her "lots of support" for her decision to enter the competition. McCartney's "support" was estimated in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
"All I can do now is continue to put my best foot forward," Mills said as she signed autographs and thanked her admirers.
Then she filed a law suit against ITV.