Male stars who romance younger women will barely raise an eyebrow these days.
But when a woman celeb of a certain age dares to snog a fresh-faced bloke at a party, she’s certain to come in for some flak.
Especially if she is Caroline Flack, the 39-year-old Love Island presenter with a penchant for toy-boy partners.
So, unsurprisingly, tongues started wagging when Caroline copped-off with Strictly Come Dancing pro AJ Pritchard at the National Television Awards after-party on Tuesday night.
At 24, AJ is 15 years younger than Caroline and she’s not long split from her fiance Andrew Brady who was 13 years her juniour. She also famously dated One Direction’s Harry Styles too – when he was 17 and she was 31.
Then there was Prince Harry , five years younger, and Caroline’s also been seen with Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens, 13 years her junior.
Well, good for her. Isn’t it time we stopped snarking about “cradle-snatchers” and started celebrating Cougars.
Because Caroline is not the only sexy, witty and successful female celeb to pull herself a fit young fella.
Liam Payne was just 14 in 2008 when Geordie judge Cheryl first clapped eyes on him at his X Factor audition. He went on to become a global hearthrob with One Direction.
Rumours of a relationship between Liam and Cheryl started to surface in February 2016 and despite a 10-year age difference they got it on and had a baby Bear, now two, together.
They split last year. Cheryl explained it all in her last single with the line: “Oh my God I’m such a sucker. I fall in love with every f***er.”
Brigitte Macron, 64
Theirs is an intriguing love story that began when the French First Lady, then 39, was 15-year-old Emmanuel Macron’s literature teacher.
Despite the scorn of his parents, they fell in love and embarked on a relationship when he was 16.
The mum-of-three, now 64, has been married to the 40 year-old French president for 12 years.
She’s previously opened up about the age gap, saying: “Emmanuel’s only fault is to be younger than me.
“Of course, we have breakfast in the morning, me with my wrinkles and him with his freshness, but that’s how it is.”
Melanie Sykes, 48
Brunette bombshell Mel has been married twice, first to Tudors actor Daniel Caltagirone, 46, and then to second husband Jack Cockings, 15 years younger than her.
They met over Twitter and married after a whirlwind romance that wasn’t to last. Mel divorced Jack after seven months of marriage when the relationship turned ugly.
Later in 2017 the mum-of-two was rumoured to have been secretly dating 34-year-old pop star Olly Murs but never confirmed the relationship.
Addressing the rumours, the singer told Loose Women: “Mel’s amazing…there might have been something. I’m single, since the last time I checked, I’m definitely single.”
Kate Beckinsale, 45
Maybe it was doing all those Underworld horror film but Kate must really need a laugh. Since her divorce from director Ken Wiseman in 2016, she has been linked to a string of young comedians.
The actress, who has a daughter with her ex Michael Sheen, dated American comedian Matt Rife, 23, on and off for the last two years and in November last year she was pictured having a passionate kiss with Brit comedian Jack Whitehall, 15 years her junior, at a nightclub in Los Angeles.
She’s also been linked to US funny man Pete Davidson, 25, who stars in Saturday Night Live.
I wonder if any of them tried this gag: “Every woman should hang on to her youth. But not while he’s driving!”
Shirley Ballas, 58
Dancing queen Shirley has previously been linked to a former pupil who is more than 20 years younger than her.
The Strictly head judge was rumoured to have dated Russian dancer Yegor Novikov, who she taight as a teenagerm when he was 24 and she more than double his age
Now twice married Shirley – the mum of 32 year old Dancing With The Star professional Mark – is said to be dating 44-year-old actor Daniel Taylor after they struck up a romance on the set of panto Jack and The Beanstalk at Christmas. Oh no she isn’t… oh yes she is.
Madge has always had a thing for younger men. Second hubby Guy Ritchie was 10 years younger than her, setting the trend for the slew of toyboys that followed.
There was model Jesus Luz who was 21 when Madonna was 50, followed by a 29-year age gap with French dancer Brahim Zaibat, who was 23 at the time.
Then when she was 54 she dated dutch choreographer Timor Steffans, who was 26.
Her last relationship was in 2016 with model Aboubakar Soumahoro, who is 32 years younger than her.
Of course there are downsides to dating a younger man.
It was reported she dumped Timor because her then 17 year old daughter Lourdes had a crush on him.
Carol McGiffin, 58
They’ve been engaged for 11 years and are yet to set a wedding date.
However, Carol McGiffin and fiance Mark Cassidy were showing they’re just as in love as ever as they enjoyed a romantic boozy lunch on holiday in Florida this week.
The Loose Women star, 58, and Mark, 36, had spent a week touring some of the West Indies on a luxury cruise.
Carol and Mark got engaged in Thailand in December 2008 after just four months of dating.
Despite their long engagement and lack of wedding, Carol has insisted they will get around to tying the knot. In a 2017 interview, she said: “It’s definitely going to happen next year.
“Although, to be fair, I have said that for the last five or six years.
Caroline Quentin, 58
Their eyes met across the set of Men Behaving Badly, it was love at first sight…but Caroline thought her future husband was gay.
“My God, I think I’m in love,” 58-year-old Caroline said, “He was the runner, the tea boy, and 12 years younger than me. I thought: ‘He’s so fabulous, he’s bound to be a homosexual boy. He’s too beautiful.’”
But a week later Sam, now 46, asked Caroline out for dinner and they have been together ever since.
Twenty years later, with two children, the couple are the perfect example of how true love knows no age.
Caroline was previously married to Have I Got News For You’s Paul Merton for seven years before they divorced in 1997.
Anna Friel, 42
The Marcella actress couldn’t help herself when she cheekily grabbed Stranger Things actor, Charlie Heaton’s bum at a 2017 Baftas after party.
Despite the 17-year age gap, apparently the chemistry between the pair was clear for all to see and they were all over each other for the rest of the night.
But it seems it was just a one-off as her spokespeople denied any romance and said they were “just friends”.
The mum-of-one has been romantically linked to Robbie Williams and Rhys Ifans.
Joan Collins, 85
When it comes to marriage, fifth time’s a charm for diva Joan. She has frequently declared that the secret to a happy marriage is a younger husband – and a spare room to banish him to if he snores.
The 85-year-old actress has been married to Percy Gibson, 53, since 2002 and they’re arguably one of the happiest couples in show business.
She once said: “Marrying a younger man has the advantage of being with someone who has vigour, vitality, stamina and health, which certainly encourages me even further to keep in shape both physically and mentally.”
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