NEW YORK – She hasn't bared her midriff on Total Request Live, dated a Backstreet Boy or advertised for Neutrogena, but to many teen-age girls Kelly Osbourne is the cat's — or bat's — meow.
The quirky 17-year-old, who popped onto the scene in the reality show The Osbournes, has suddenly found herself with a huge following in a community once dominated by blond waifs.
Why has the daughter of shock-rocker Ozzy Osbourne become a role model for millions of girls around America?
The answer is simple, say the experts. Despite her designer wardrobe, mansion, blossoming music career, top-rated TV show and appearances on Howard Stern, Kelly Osbourne is just your average teen-age girl who fights with her brother, whines to her parents and cries during sappy movies like A Walk to Remember.
"She is such a real girl. She is not your cookie cutter, mainstream, teen pop queen," said Gina La Guardia, editor of Go-Girl.Com, a Web site bombarded with Kelly fan mail.
Alyssa Vitrano of YM magazine said Osbourne's popularity is well deserved
"She is so comfortable in her own skin and is not at all concerned with what people think of her," Vitrano said. "She is a real kid. She hasn't groomed herself to be a celebrity."
But little Ms. Osbourne is not all sugar and spice. She is a brash club kid who sports a heart-shaped tattoo and a mouth so foul it would make George Carlin blush, which is why many feel she is a poor example for young girls.
"She blatantly shows disrespect for herself because she doesn't respect others, especially her parents," said Courtney Totushek of the Best Friends Foundation, an organization geared toward building character in the youth of America.
"The choice of her language shows that she doesn't hold herself in a positive light," Totushek added.
But Osbourne's unapologetic attitude is the thing that has her fans talking. And, despite her rebellious streak, she has a strong bond with her parents and seems unconcerned with her body type, which is much more realistic than other teen idols like Britney Spears.
"I'm not fat and I'm not thin," Osbourne told Entertainment Weekly. "And I'm not trying to be an [expletive] supermodel, so I wish people would just leave it alone."
Vitrano said this is a positive attitude for girls to hear. "She is a more healthy and natural looking girl, and flaunts it," she said.
Osbourne is a billboard for young American girls, telling them, "You don't have to be 5-feet, 8-inches tall, blond and popular with the boys to be liked or cool."
This message goes a long way, considering the average girl doesn't have a size 24-inch waist or a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad.
But Chris Allen, the 24-year-old chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas, is horrified at the prospect that Osbourne is an inspiration to the future leaders of America.
"I'm not impressed with her," he said. "If you are looking toward MTV for a role model, you are looking the wrong way ... The best role models are in your communities because [those people] are more in tune with who you are and how you grew up. You can do a lot better than looking towards TV for a role model."
Aside from covering Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" on the Osbourne Family Album, Kelly has tried her hand at dishing advice to teens in a YM magazine column titled, "Ask Kelly." Osbourne doesn't put up a front as a know-it-all, but Vitrano feels she delivers mature advice.
"She is so wise beyond her years," Vitrano said. "She just encourages everyone to do their own thing."
When "Erin" wrote in to ask if she should be having sex, Osbourne responded: "Well, I haven't kissed anyone in a year. Things just happen naturally; you shouldn't rush into it, because you always end up with the wrong person. And remember, everyone's not doing it. A lot of people are, but not everyone."
In any case, Osbourne's experiences and no-nonsense attitude seem to reverberate with young women who are facing serious dilemmas about sex, drugs, parents, and independence.
"Girls love to watch her, and they like to see that she is going on all these trips but is a bucket of nerves just like them," La Guardia said.