Pippa Middleton, Fame

Mara Soldinger/E! Illustration

It's April 28, 2011, and Pippa Middleton is preparing. The next day her sister will marry her college sweetheart, and there are so many things to do, like double-checking the appetizers with the caterer and confirming the shuttle rental for the wedding party.

Oh, wait. That never happened, because the next day was not going to be a normal nuptial; it was the most anticipated wedding of the 2000s, and her sister was going to become a member of the Royal Family. And she may not have realized it at the time, but Pippa's entire life was about to change—her butt was about to be the world's biggest celebrity.

But before all the pomp and circumstance and the million and one blog posts, Pippa was a totally normal 27-year-old. (If you can consider a wealthy, chic Londoner whose sister is dating Prince William normal, of course). When you forget the younger Middleton sister you know today, her rollercoaster ride of fame is completely fascinating.

Before she made her mark in that iconic white dress, Pippa was living a life relatively away from the spotlight—after attending the prestigious (and very, very expensive we might add) Marlborough College and then University of Edinburgh, she was living in London and working as an event planner for the family company Party Pieces. She wasn't exactly a stranger to the British paparazzi, of course, but that was more a matter of her acquaintances than anything else.

And then, enter Alexander McQueen. 

For millennials, the moment that Pippa Middleton revealed herself in front of Westminster Abbey, holding her sister's train, was pivotal. Ask anyone and they'll be able to tell you where they were when they first saw Pippa Middleton strut down that red carpet. She became an instant phenomenon—or, rather, her derrière became an instant phenomenon. Articles and Facebook groups dedicated to her (admittedly perfect) bum popped up immediately and she was celebrated the world over as the younger, cooler, less uptight sister. No one knew it was possible to upstage Kate Middleton, but there you have it.

Of course, due to the laws of physics, what goes up must come down. Or, as Pippa famously told Matt Lauer during her first-ever onscreen interview for Today, fame can have an upside, a downside and a backside. (Great sense of humor on that one, eh?). While the middle Middleton sibling was instantly celebrated, she was instantly scrutinized just the same. The British press loves a scandal and left no stone unturned in their search—Pippa was now the Hot Single Sister that everyone speculated about. Whether the "adoring" public was shipping her and PrinceHarry, following her every romantic move with then-boyfriend Alex Loudon or, worst of all, unearthing embarrassing photos from her collegiate years, it was all Pippa all the time. 

And this, ladies and gentleman, is where the story can go in one of two directions. The first is a tale as old as time—or, shall we say, as old as gossip magazines. A beautiful, charismatic, wealthy, socialite-adjacent person finds their 15 minutes, and the next you know they're Paris Hilton-ing all over town. It would have been a very easy decision for Pippa to make; in fact, exploiting her sudden fame wouldn't have taken much thought at all.

As Kate Reardon, editor-in-chief of Tatler told The New York Times mere days after the start of Pippamania, "How she exploits these opportunities is going to be very much up to her—there are many people in her situation who, within weeks, would befalling out of nightclubs and hanging out with celebrities and getting a huge head about all of this."

But "many people" Pippa is not. 

Even her pseudo-scandal was nothing on the level of pictures of Prince Harry that have leaked to the tabloids, and they did nothing to overtake the public's adoration for her. Instead she capitalized on her moment in less booze-fueled ways: She wrote a book, for one. Her party planning tome Celebrate earned her a six-figure advance in 2012, and paved the way for columnist gigs at Vanity Fair and The Telegraph.

Matt Lauer, Pippa Middleton

Anthony Harvey/NBC

She gave her first-ever on-camera interview to the aforementioned Lauer, and charmed the pants off of America with her down-to-earth gushing about then-baby Prince George and her bashful reactions to the earlier dress mania. (She in fact insisted that The Dress was, hilariously enough, meant to blend in with Kate's train). If the rumor mill is to be believed, she attempted to parlay that successful three-parter into a correspondent gig a la Jenna Bush Hageror Chelsea Clinton, but it never materialized.

It wasn't all raindrops and bubblegum and insanely inflated paychecks. Almost as fast as her star rose, she started to feel the adverse effects. The media scrutiny that popped up after the wedding intensified, and this time it wasn't just focused on whether she had the hots for Prince Harry—the British press (being the British press, of course) didn't let her get away with a single outfit choice without asking if she "dressed in the dark" or horrifying comparing her outfits to potato sacks. They constantly accused her of not living up to whatever aesthetic potential they themselves assigned to her.

And then there were the constant criticisms about how she spent her non-royally-engaged time. That book deal that proved so lucrative to her bank account seemingly did away with her authority in the party planning arena, with readers finding evil pleasures in the fact that she was paid to advise us on the proper way to steep tea or fill ice trays. Beautifully produced as it was, Celebrate was a total flop. A metaphor, perhaps? Not to Pippa. 

Ever with the steel reserve, she turned her focus to what is now her main forte: Charity races.

That's right...after becoming arguably the most famous sister in the world for several years, Pippa Middleton now spends her days pounding the pavement in the name of heart disease, wounded soldiers and children's cancer. She celebrated her 32nd birthday last fall by doing a 50-mile swim-run. She climbed 33 miles of glacier to raise awareness for disabled athletes.  It's so admirable it's almost baffling, if you forget that given the choice, most people would choose traipsing through the Swiss Alps over a day job, too. 

It's a new normal for Middleton. Sources told E! this winter that she wanted to spend her 2016 training to become a nutritionist, and that attending society events topped her list of favorite activities. It might seem like a far fall for someone who was poised to overthrow the Duchess of Cambridge in a popularity contest, but a life relatively out of the limelight seems to suit her much better. She's often hinted at her discomfort with fame, and many could choose to believe that it simply took her these five years to carve out the life she wanted to live.

And for what it's worth, she'll also be able to brag that she handled her roller-coaster ride of notoriety with far more grace than most would muster. But of course, we're not naming any names. 

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