The description of “famous for being famous” can be applied to no one better than to Spain’s Belén Esteban. She rose to fame in the gossip press in 1998 as a result of her relationship with the popular bull-fighter Jesulín whose child she was expecting when the relationship ended. Her obvious enjoyment of the publicity and her loud-mouthed and belligerent manner quickly made her a television favourite and her media presence has been constant ever since.
In 2002 she started her career as contributor and then co-presenter of a number of gossip programmes
on Antena 3 and Telecinco channels and is now a regular presence on the programmes “Sálvame” and “Sálvame Deluxe”. Over the years she has used these platforms to publicize details of her personal life, to the endless fascination of mass audiences. Many of her assertions have been held into question and in 2009 she was reported to the courts by the Madrid region Children’s Ombudsman for exposing her daughter to constant media pressure.
In 2009 Belén decided to undergo plastic surgery to improve her facial appearance. The magazine “Revista”, the first to publish pictures of her new look, broke all sales records. After selling every copy in just a few hours the magazine had to publish a second print run. Her subsequent re-appearance on television achieved a record of over three million viewers, the highest audience ever for a gossip show. At the same time she broke all records on internet searches.
There has been much speculation regarding the reasons for Belén Esteban’s success as a media phenomenon, including academic studies about her role as a “postmodern heroine”. According to one thesis, her life fits the classic story pattern of the poor girl who falls in love with the rich hero; rejected by her lover and his family she struggles to survive and bring up their child alone. Other studies identify her as the ultimate heroine of a capitalist society: her success owing to supply and demand and devoid of quality. Raúl Tristán describes her as: “That icon of Spain at its seediest and coarsest, risen to fame through a bedding and infidelity and earning more euros for ranting nonsense on the television than the hardest working Spaniard earns by the sweat of his brow from sunrise to sunset.”