Prime Minister Julia Gillard has a history of embarrassment with apparently loose shoes and difficult heels. She had again made headlines from her “shoe malfunction“. This is the third time that her shoes had slipped in nine months.During the 2010 election campaign, she lost a high-heeled shoe when she stepped off the back of a forklift while visiting a distribution centre in her electorate.
On 26 Jan 2012, when the PM and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott were presenting the inaugural National Emergency Medals at the Lobby Restaurant near the old Parliament House in Canberra, about 200 protesters arrived from the nearby Aboriginal Tent Embassy and surrounded the site. The protesters were incensed by remarks supposedly made by Mr Abbott in an ABC interview that morning in which he said he thought it was probably time to reconsider the relevance of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. The mob banged on the three glass sides of the restaurant chanting “shame” and “racist“. The two leaders, protected by police and security officers, escaped out a side door after about 20 minutes. The PM lost her footing and a shoe, as she was dragged by a security officer to an awaiting vehicle. Protesters chased the car down the road, banging on its roof and bonnet. The size 36 Midas pump blue suede shoe was seized by the protesters, who finally returned it after considering auctioning it off on eBay (Ref 1, 2, 3, 4).
Footage of the PM’s unceremonious exit from the Australia Day event was splashed across televisions, newspapers and websites around the world, with some news organisations focusing on the fact the Australian leader lost her shoe during the chaos.
“A fancy dinner. A hurried escape. A shoe left behind, found and offered back by an unlikely suitor …. The story … called to mind a kind of Cinderella story turned on its head, a combustible mixture of race, social status and the juxtaposition of a leader dining in a glass-walled restaurant only steps from a decades-old protest encampment.”, The New York Times reported.
The BBC said the two leaders had to be “rescued” from the protesters while Italy’s news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia said she was “fleeing enraged aborigines“. The Sun News in Canada noted the PM lost her “blue-suede shoe” during the commotion – perhaps alluding to the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll track Blue Suede Shoes, famously sung by Elvis Presley. Other news organisations noted her look as she was rushed to her car by her protection officers, pointing out that she looked “visibly rattled” and “frightened” (Ref 5).
In August, the PM slipped out of one of her high heels as she walked on stage at Sydney’s Customs House to launch a cyber safety initiative. As a male guest helped her put it back on, the PM could be heard telling him “it is a Cinderella moment“. On the podium with both heels intact, the PM explained she had been distracted by seeing how well event host Melissa Doyle had walked in her high heels. She told the audience: “I think I thought myself into that moment. I was staring at Mel and admiring the way she got up and down these stairs with those big heels. And though I’ve got far more humble heels on, I thought to myself ‘I bet I don’t do that as elegantly’.” (Ref 6).
Yesterday on her way to a press conference on the last day of her visit to India, the PM lost a shoe when her heel became bogged in soft grass and she fell spread-eagled nearly landing on her face near the Gandhi Memorial in Delhi.
Helped up by her hosts, she quickly recovered and laughed off the incident as she explained to the men around: “For men who get to wear flat shoes all day every day, if you wear a heel it can get embedded in soft grass. And then when you pull your foot out, the shoe doesn’t come, and then the rest of it is as you saw.” Gesturing to the female reporters, the PM told a male journalist who questioned her, “If you’re in any doubt about the logistics of this, some of my friends here can help you with the description.” (Ref 7)
The PM’s tumble was being shown on Indian TV where she won praise from one commentator who said she seemed very fit as she had recovered well and continued with her busy schedule. (Ref 8).
UK-based magazine TNT said Liverpool soccer player Luis Suarez, who was recently ridiculed for theatrically going down too easily in a match, could learn from Ms Gillard. “Note to Luis Suarez and your mates: This – as Julia Gillard demonstrates in New Delhi – is how you fall over without anyone touching you and not look like a fool,” TNT wrote.
The Telegraph reported Ms Gillard “provided a good natured commentary of the incident“. India Express said she “showed good humour and immediately joked about it“. (Ref 9).
The PM brushed off suggestions she could wear boots, saying that would lead to fashion critique in Australia about wearing boots with a skirt. (Ref 8).