From conception to cancer, frying pans to fine dining, these days there’s little celebrities don’t feel qualified to lecture us on – and thanks to pioneer Gwyneth Paltrow, they’re battling to sell us their personal brands of happiness. Sophie Heawood sifts through the hype and hypocrisy of the latest A-list lifestyle gurus.
Soz Gwyneth, but we are now totes over Goop. It’s not that following all the instructions in one newsletter would set us back 40 million quid, or that she promotes a skin range called Prtty Peaushun. It’s not even that she had to invent a new word for divorce just to make it fit the brand — we still had her back, even as she consciously uncoupled her way into the midlife singles market on her luxury yoga mat. No: it’s that she’s gone so deep into the lifestyle marketing vibrations that she gets a bit funny when other celebrities do the same. She’s now got lifestyle beef with Jessica Alba.
Alba, star of films such as Sin City and the forthcoming action comedy Barely Lethal, has set up a thoroughly wholesome eco-brand based on the idea that she is a thoroughly wholesome earth mother and not at all the ass-kicking sex bomb many of her roles suggest. The Honest Company uses ‘safe’ chemicals in its environmentally-friendly cleaning products; a bottle of hypoallergenic laundry detergent costs £7.61. ‘Being a mom is the most profound experience I’ve ever had,’ she says in the promotional video. ‘All my priorities have shifted. I feel this intense responsibility to create the safest, most loving environment.’ Unfortunately for Alba, Paltrow has published a Goop investigation into so-called safe chemicals, and it turns out The Honest Company cleaning products might have had a passing acquaintance with some toxins. She advises us not to buy them. But perhaps Paltrow is annoyed about something else; last year, while Alba was promoting her book The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You, she was asked if she was inspired by Mrs Goop. ‘Gwyneth probably lives a very similar lifestyle, but I didn’t grow up with a bunch of money, so my tips are much more grounded: repurposing things and making things at home,’ she replied. Ouch.
Alba is far from the only one threatening to steal Paltrow’s celeb lifestyle crown. There are so many actors and models selling their own brand of everything that it’s hard to remember who we used to want to be, before we apparently started wanting to be them. To be clear: we don’t mean Katie Price lending her name to a horsey pink perfume, or David Beckham doing the Bogle in a new range of arse-hugging undies. We’re talking about the brave new world of the lifestyle gurus: celebs who not only tell you what to wear and how to cook, but how to think and breathe and feel while you’re doing it.
Clueless star Alicia Silverstone, who has already written a bestselling diet guide, The Kind Diet, has just published a new book with a breathtakingly expansive subtitle: The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning. Throughout, its message is that if you are a Kind Mama like she has been with her son, Bear Blu (ie if you follow her programme), then you won’t struggle to conceive, or get postnatal depression. ‘And if you’re already expecting — and have maybe hit a couple of bumps in the road — then I’ll show you the way to have a luminous, present, ailment-free pregnancy.’
In the book she also claims that tampons make women infertile: ‘Unfortunately, feminine care manufacturers aren’t required to tell you what’s in their products, which means that no one’s talking about the potential pesticide residues from non-organic cotton and the “fragrances” containing hormone-upsetting, fertility-knocking phthalates that are snuggling up to your hoo-ha.’
Because celebrities appear to be the new oncologists, Silverstone says she can also ‘significantly lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer’. Her website, thekindlife.com, ‘a community around Alicia Silverstone’, encourages ‘living your healthiest and happiest life to the fullest, while taking care of Mama Earth at the same time!’ Recent posts include ‘Permaculture is Awesome!’ and ‘Why Nylon Sucks’. In 2012 she was forced to defend her child-feeding methods after being mocked for a video she posted that showed ten-month-old Bear eating pre-chewed food directly out of her mouth. ‘People have been feeding their kids that way for thousands of years,’ she said. ‘He attacks my mouth and I think it’s adorable.’ On the site other mothers can tell stories about raising their kids — as long as they are attachment parenting Kind Mamas, too.
This is natural living, branded by the stars and with the possibility of million-dollar book deals for the authors, who usually hire a ghost writer to do the work for a fraction of the fee.
In April last year, Oscar-winning Reese Witherspoon was arrested for disorderly conduct and obstruction when she tried to stop police taking her husband in on suspicion of drunk-driving near Atlanta. The 38-year-old apologised, admitting she had ‘clearly had one drink too many’, and accepted a fine of $213. But, far from keeping her head down in the aftermath of the scandal, Witherspoon has been beavering away on the ultimate in image-management — 12 months after the police mugshot was taken, she audaciously launched plans for a ‘multi-channel’ lifestyle brand that emphasises her old-fashioned Southern roots and personal style. The brand is named Draper James after her much-adored nieces (she also has three children of her own), and she plans to develop her own range of everything, from furniture to frying pans, lingerie to plastic containers. And just to show she means business, she has hired Andrea Hyde, a former CEO of French Connection and Nicole Farhi, as president of the brand and plans to open her first retail store next year.
Witherspoon is cleverly launching her ‘look at my perfect life’ enterprise after losing the plot — but for others, the inevitable is yet to come. Fate likes nothing more than to make your life come crashing down as soon as you tell people how perfect it is. We were shocked to discover Nigella’s real kitchen wasn’t the one shown on the telly programme, but when it turned out her real life wasn’t the one on display either, it became clear she could never again publish a book with a title like How to Be a Domestic Goddess.
Martha Stewart was also a domestic goddess, teaching Americans how to host the perfect Christmas and bake the perfect cake for years. That is, until the year she got banged up, and had to spend Christmas with the crims in a remote American penitentiary.
Julia Restoin-Roitfeld, daughter of French fashion goddess Carine Roitfeld, made a lifestyle website called Romy & the Bunnies about how to stay sleek after becoming a mum. No jogging bottoms for her — the site is all gorgeous pictures of her daughter, tips for glowing skin, and links to things you can buy, such as a £93 Bonpoint baby towel and Armani eye cream. But since her split with her baby’s father, the model Robert Konjic, after launching the site, the updates are a bit thin on the ground.
Cast your mind back to those lovely days when famous people were creatures of mystique from other planets, not nagging voices in your ear, advising you on the best way to get that last bit of carrot peel out of your juicer. But ever since the celebrities worked out how to download Instagram to their phones, and persuaded their reluctant publicists to let them tweet, they’ve been telling us all they know about how to live our lives. And given how blindsided some people were by Paltrow’s separation, we seem to fall for it. But the thing about all this lifestyle stuff is that it actually tells us nothing. Isn’t it really just an elaborate commercial smokescreen, designed to make the punters feel like they’re involved? Open your heart and your life to the world once a week and then carry on living another truth entirely, while we’re too distracted by the branded bikram pants and smoothie recipes to see. Celebrities — they’re just like us! Except they’re not. It’s genius.
Source: London Evening Standard