Gwyneth Paltrow has been annoying me lately, as you might have noticed. She’s everywhere lately, and I keep waiting for the insufferable narrative of privilege that she peddles to come back and bite her in the ass, but it never does. On the contrary: everything she touches turns to gold — and this is even more infuriating, because for God’s sake, Gwyneth! What more do you need?
But I started thinking about why Gwyneth Paltrow could be so annoying and yet continue to be successful, and naturally this line of thinking led to the mommyblogosphere, that other bastion of annoying and yet somehow successful people. What kind of lessons can we take from people like Gwyneth, who are successful despite their own absurdities, I thought? Is the answer to just start being annoying and absurd, and the money and fame will follow?
No. But also yes. Kind of.
1. Turn your biggest flaws into assets.
With her lifestyle branding, what Gwyneth does right (and you will always hear this about her, by the way, even in articles from people who don’t really like her), is that she does not really pretends to be something she is not. She has always been rich and privileged, and she’s been famous for most of her life. Her life isn’t like ours, but rather than trying to make it seem like it is, she just tells us about her own life, as if we are all freely able to partake in the fabulous stuff she does, and all we needed to do was to be told about it in order to do so. If she pretended to be one of the people (as some stars have actually done — think Tyra Banks), it would come off as insincere. And insincerity is the biggest sin you can commit when you’re trying to sell a lifestyle to the masses.
2. Your platform is just a means of gaining attention: the real object is to push your own products.
Most of Gwyneth’s audience will never be able to do all the fabulous things that she does and buy all the fabulous stuff she recommends. Does she know this and write about it anyway? I think so: Gwyneth may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but surely she has at least a rudimentary understanding of the class system. I think she does it because she knows people will want to buy a piece of that lifestyle, even if it is just in the form of a $29.95 exercise video or a copy of her latest book. Ultimately, Gwyneth is not being paid to promote the special skincare products that only available on the French countryside — she is pushing her own products that are accessible to a large portion of her audience. The other stuff is just window dressing.
3. Accept the negative press along with the positive — it is part of the game.
Being in the public eye requires a certain degree of comfort with negative press, and as a celebrity Gwyneth has a leg up over other internet personalities for dealing with this kind of thing. The truth is that negative press fuels the fire of publicity, and it’s rare that somebody can reach a level of notoriety without attracting a group of critics (or worse). This shouldn’t be dreaded, though — the economy of fame is based on balancing the good and the bad press just enough to keep the conversation going.
Gwyneth has benefited from the mocking press her internet endeavors get her. Even the articles that mock her tend to mention the name of her cookbook, or talk about her partnership with personal trainers. She may not like reading the negative press, but she’s savvy enough to know she needs the negative press to keep her business going.
Cartoon by Nicoletta Ionescu