LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS
Celebrities! They’re just like us, only richer, taller, and ten times more fabulous! Carolyn Moore on celebrity lifestyle brands – out of touch, out of our reach, and big business in Hollywood.
Ah celebrities. They just love telling us regular folk what to do.
Whether it’s Sheryl Crow imploring us to use a single sheet of toilet paper to help save the planet (what if I use as much toilet paper as I need and you stop getting 50,000 people to hop in their cars and drive to your concerts?); Gisele Bundchen advising against sunblock use (we weren’t all blessed with your genetics, dear); or Jenny McCarthy helping bring measles back from the dead (#Facts, #TeamScience), it was only a matter of time before some bright spark realised there was money to be made imparting such invaluable gems of wisdom to the masses.
In 2008, when Gwyneth Paltrow launched a weekly lifestyle newsletter called GOOP, nobody predicted that “Professional Advice Giver” was about to become Hollywood’s hottest sideline. Promising to “nourish the inner aspect”, this cryptic mission statement forewarned the kind of pretentious, unattainable, and largely impractical “advice” that was to come (infrared vagina steam clean, anyone? Not unless you want a very expensive yeast infection, say doctors).
But despite imparting lifestyle advice that makes us want to consciously uncouple our brains from our skulls, GOOP has gone from strength to strength, evolving into a complete lifestyle platform. Where else could you learn hard scientific facts (don’t insult your drinking water, it makes the molecules sad), source convenient lunch recipes that will make your kids the envy of their classmates (homemade vegetable sushi – quick AND delicious), and purchase a gold plated juicer – a steal at $4,700 – all in one place?
Some would say it’s absurd, but this is Gwyneth’s reality. As she says herself “I am who I am. I can’t pretend to be somebody who makes $25,000 a year.” And with an attitude like that she was setting herself up to fail when she undertook a charity challenge last month to feed herself on $29 a week. While her shopping basket did not include cheap, filling foods like potatoes, it did include seven limes, because as any poor person will tell you, having a gold plated juicer is a waste of $4,700 if you don’t have anything to juice.
This is what $29 gets you at the grocery store—what families on SNAP (i.e. food stamps) have to live on for a week. pic.twitter.com/OZMPA3nxij
— Gwyneth Paltrow (@GwynethPaltrow) April 9, 2015
While self-awareness may not be her strong suit, she has self-assurance in spades. When the Grande Dame of Celebrity Lifestyle Blondes, Martha Stewart, dismissed her last year as a movie star who “just needs to be quiet”, she added “if she were confident in her acting, she wouldn’t be trying to be Martha Stewart.” Gwyneth’s retort (delivered from the podium at Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Summit – touché) was that she was “psyched that Martha sees us as competition.”
In their subsequent battle, the weapon of choice has somewhat fittingly been food, and Paltrow saw Stewart’s “Consciously Coupled” chocolate pie and raised her an anaemic looking “Jailbird Cake” – a dig at the five months she spent in prison for insider trading. And when GOOP went on to hire a former CEO of Martha Stewart Living, it was a shot across the bows to let Martha know she wasn’t bowing out of the lifestyle arena anytime soon.
But as someone who has achieved fame and success off the back of her lifestyle brand, rather than the other way around, Martha has the upper hand. As the Queen of the Lifestyle Blondes, she now reigns over a kingdom of wannabes, all of whom are aiming to be the next GOOP, but none of whom would have the audacity to challenge Martha so directly.
Jessica Alba’s Honest brand has the mummy market cornered, while Lauren Conrad caters to the Millennials. We wait with baited breath to see what self-confessed design expert Ellen DeGeneres has in store with her E.D brand; and if Reese Witherspoon’s soon to launch Draper James project isn’t dripping with Southern Belle charm, we’ll eat our Kentucky Derby hats.
Celebrity lifestyle gurus are crawling out of the woodwork in Hollywood, and the newest blonde on the block will have you know that that woodwork was handcrafted from a 6,000-year-old Sequoia tree by an artisanal carpenter in Brooklyn. Because despite the competition, there’s only one woman truly rising to the challenge of going head to head with GOOP, and that’s Blake Lively.
Just as tall, just as blonde, and just as removed from reality, Lively announced last week that she rubs truffles on her nipples before breastfeeding to give her baby “a balanced palate from a young age, so she doesn’t only eat beige food” – and Gwyneth wept that she hadn’t thought of that first.
When she teased in 2013 that she was working on something that was “without a genre”, Lively told reporters “There’s nothing like it out there.” But when she launched her website, Preserve, it didn’t take a computer science degree to notice it very much had a genre – it was an online store, and in addition to its over-priced wares (personally “curated” by Blake, naturally), Preserve’s side order of quasi-spiritualistic lifestyle advice made it almost exactly like something else out there, and that something was GOOP, put through an Instagram filter.
“I’m no editor, no artisan, no expert,” Blake confessed in her editor’s letter, “And certainly no arbiter of what you should buy, wear, or eat.” And yet here is the website where she tells us what to buy, wear and eat, just like Paltrow, assuming we will pay hard earned cash to indulge her vanity.
Because ultimately that’s what celebrity lifestyle brands are – a perfect outlet for the narcissism of celebrities who think they’re just like us… only better.
This feature first appeared in Like magazine, May 2015.