Celebrities seem intent on becoming lifestyle gurus. But how easy is it to follow the rules? Hadley Freeman finds out.
As a celebrity, the world, you are led to believe, is fascinated by your every move: what you eat (do you eat?), where you hang out, who you know. You spend much of your time detailing all of the above to interviewers - so why don't you lecture the peasants directly how to live their lives? Welcome to the age of the celebrity lifestyle guru, in which any celebrity can start a website and tell fans how they (if they're lucky) can be more like them.
Makeup advice, fashion tips and joyless food for 'guilt-free' living at Oprah.com
I start the day with a bowl of "high energy (and guilt-free) cereal", which is a revelation, as I never thought of cereal as being particularly guilt-inducing. But the Oprah modus operandi is predicated on the idea that all women want to be thinner and look younger, and all food choices are between the saintly if faintly unsatisfying or the delicious but diabetes-causing.
Usually I buck against this tiresome mentality but, professional that I am, I accept that today, yes, my skin does need to "feel a bit firmer, smoother and plumper" and I can use "makeup and creams [or] needles and lasers - your face, your call", Oprah adds, non-judgmentally. I opt for makeup and creams and instantly look, if not younger, then shinier.
Oprah's fashion tips are slightly more fun: accessible with added - to use an Oprah word - pizzazz. And so, wearing my wrap dress ("an essential"), circular sunglasses ("hip") and some downright ugly "low-heeled platform shoes" ("incredibly versatile"), I am ready to "live the best life you can" (Oprah's mantra), looking a little like Edna Mode from The Incredibles.
Following Oprah's spring cleaning instructions, I attempt to "declutter my space", but no matter how many cute terms she coins for "crap", not even Oprah can make cleaning interesting. I give up and spend the rest of the morning taking quizzes to ascertain the state of my "emotional balance" and "real age".
Lunch is a "portobello mushroom and bell pepper sloppy joe", which is as good as a mushroom slathered in tomato sauce can be and is - phew - "guilt-free".
By now even I am tiring of seeing Oprah's face as it is impossible to go anywhere on her site without encountering her perkily peeking out of a closet or spinning around in a sequinned dress. So I pick up one of her recommended books of the month, The Social Animal, by David Brooks. Contrary to Oprah's promise, I don't find "the key to success".
For dinner, I am amazed to learn I'm allowed to eat "puffy mashed potatoes", but only, I am less amazed to learn, if I substitute the usual cream and butter for egg whites.
I spend the evening thinking about Oprah's rules to live by and decide that she is right: I really don't spend enough time looking at life through a lens of love.
Most importantly, having skipped dinner due to nausea at the thought of eggy mashed potatoes, I definitely feel thinner.
Shopping, fasting and pontificating at Goop.com
Despite being the most prescriptive (Latin for "bossy") of the lifestyle gurus, Gwyneth Paltrow's website, the ickily named "Goop", is in fact the hardest to follow faithfully or even fathom.
It's not that I am blinded by the Marie Antoinette-like blinkered entitlement that emanates from every word (her pick of Paris hotels? "The Ritz - its service is pretty flawless for France"), as I was steeled for from a website by the actress.
No, the confusion stems from its lack of consistency. Sometimes she raves about "delectable cookies ... that you find on my kitchen table". At other times she states, more credibly: "I love fasting."
Similarly, sometimes Gwyneth advocates "the giving of one's self" to others - at other times, "friendship divorce" is more attractive and she describes, at surprising length, her "happiness" when she heard that something "unfortunate and humiliating" had happened to a "frenemy". Maybe she was fasting that day.
Seeing as I don't love to fast, I opt for one of Gwyneth's various lifestyles that doesn't involve words such as "liquids only". But I do intend to divorce a friend. (Clarification: I do not have any children named after foodstuffs and religious figures. Thus, I will make do with my puppy, whom I temporarily rename Jesus Banana.)
Wake up ridiculously early, as is inevitably the Gwynnie way (perfection is a full-time job.) I attempt to feed Jesus Banana a tablespoon of flaxseed oil for breakfast. He looks at me and then glances towards the counter where my phone is, looking very much like he is about to call the SPCA.
Easily the most frequently invoked name on Gwyneth's website, after her own, is that of Tracy Anderson, her personal trainer, whose exercises Gwyneth does for seemingly hours a day and then, impressively, continues to exercise in the shower "doing my post-workout stretch while the conditioner was doing its magic on my hair to combine activities/save time".
I procure one of Anderson's DVDs and last 10 minutes. Anderson - who has the face of a blow-up doll and the body of a child - has an obsession with "tininess" that is, frankly, creepy. But it's her obsession with "getting a tiny dancer's body" that does me in: I never was an Elton John fan. And so, I grant Anderson's wish and make her "super super tiny" by turning off her DVD and rendering her invisible.
Gwyneth talks often about her "girls", so I call up one of my "girls" and suggest a "girly shopping trip" for "fun, frivolous fashion" that "will go from a meeting to ballet practice with ease".
"Are you drunk?" my friend asks. I decide she will be the friend I divorce and head out alone.
For every token mention of Uniqlo on Gwyneth's site, there are about a billion recommendations for her mate, Stella McCartney. I go to Uniqlo for a jumper, but without the recommended accessories from Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, my jumper, I suspect, lacks the Paltrow Factor.
For lunch, I have a BVLT, a vegan "bacon", lettuce and tomato sandwich comprised of "sprouted wholegrain bread", "vegetarian bacon" and something called "Vegenaise", which, I can exclusively reveal, is disgusting. I am mystified by non-vegetarian, self-confessed gourmand Gwyneth's fondness for fake foods, such as meat-free "bacon", and so on.
As a lifelong vegetarian, I have never once reached for something that rhymes with chicken, but never knew a barnyard. But then, Gwyneth always did look like a goody-two-shoes and when she dabbles in vegetarianism, it is inevitable, I guess, that she would dabble in the extremist version.
I spend the afternoon eating seaweed to protect myself from radiation in Japan while reading Gwyneth's highly original book recommendation, Pride and Prejudice, by some lady named Jane something. Truly, she has access to all the insider information.
In the evening, I attempt to go to her top recommended New York restaurant, Babbo, but am firmly told there are no tables for at least a month.
So Jesus Banana and I stay at home and finish off the seaweed. You can't be too careful about that Japanese radiation and there's nothing like making a news story about yourself to achieve true empathy.
Designer shaving kits and exclusive restaurants at Lifeandtimes.com
Despite having once claimed that "I don't do too much blogging/I just run the town, I don't do too much jogging", Jay-Z has recently found a rather large window in his schedule to enter the blogosphere (no word on his jogging plans yet, incidentally).
His blog is definitely the product of the modern-day millionaire Jay-Z as opposed to the Brooklyn-based crack dealer that he once was. Which is perhaps fortunate if one is to spend the day following his tips, although arguably just as difficult.
Wake up and listen to Jay-Z's remix of Sade's The Moon and the Sky, which makes for a soothing start to the day. As I am not a man, I don't need to shave, which is lucky as Jay-Z's recommended shaving kit costs US$1088 ($1287). Because he's worth it.
For my outfit, Jigga Man recommends clothes by a label called "Aether Apparel" that combines "space-age materials and authentic design", which sounds like half-recommendation, half-criticism.
Like Kanye West's blog, Jay-Z's blog is basically his take on My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music, albeit with more of an emphasis on favourite basketball moves (the unfortunately named "floater") than whiskers on kittens. Unlike Kanye, Jay-Z is not such a fan of the multiple exclamation mark - in fact, I can hardly find any exclamation marks at all, making him unique among celebrity gurus. The upside to this is I don't have a migraine after five minutes of reading. The downside is that when I try to read the Jigga's appreciation of designer Nigel Coates, who "favours pairing contrasting points of culture in his subject matter", I fall into a two-hour coma.
Lunchtime. Hova is quite a fan of the French chef Daniel Boulud, so I attempt to go to Boulud's ABC Kitchen for lunch, only to be briskly informed that without a reservation this will be nigh impossible. I mope outside, listening to the very mopey album, Lucky Shiner, by Gold Panda, which is also recommended by Jay-Z, but isn't very filling.
Perhaps one of the more unexpected things on Jay-Z's site is a photo of some clouds, presumably taken by the man himself judging from its "SC", or "Shawn Carter" signature, with no explanation beyond "Peace GOD". And so, I stand on the pavement and do one of the few things I can afford to do on Jay-Z's site: stare at some clouds until someone tells me to "Get the f*** out of my way, man." Peace, GOD.
For dinner, he recommends I go to restaurant Adour Alain Ducasse. In a repeat of the lunchtime experience, the fact that I am not Jay-Z makes this impossible.
So despite Jay-Z's tantalising promise of "a veggie option that slays" (which, upon investigation, costs between $85 and $110), I stay at home, listening to "Parisian beatmaker Onra" and reading about Jay-Z's favourite pieces of "iconic furniture" until my brain gives up and dies.
Well, Oprah comes across as the least obnoxious celebrity lifestyle guru, mainly because she actually seems to think about what is feasible for her readers.
Jay-Z and Gwyneth are much more interested in banging on about their lives.
Gwyneth's recommendations for London hotels are, she writes "on the pricey side, but my Goop girls are doing some research into some more affordable places". Heaven forbid that Gwynnie should look at hotels that are less than £300 ($570) a night. It is not a particularly helpful approach, but it is probably a much more modern one.
As I slipped on my wrap dress and examined my eyes for crow's feet, I didn't feel like Oprah - I felt like a member of Oprah's audience.
When I attempted to swallow a VBLT, and I saw a reflection of my face in the toaster - pained, devoid of joy, but more than a little sanctimonious - I felt, at long last, like I was getting close to being Gwyneth.