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“White Women Will Destroy Your Life,” one Twitter user declared. Jameela Jamil, who herself has been very vocal about struggles with body image and food, made a post on Instagram encouraging people to simply ignore what most celebrities say they eat. “Most of them have some sort of disordered eating,” Jamil wrote. “Not all. But fucking most. Just scroll on and talk to professional nutritionists. Not a bunch of traumatized women who are mocked and scrutinized over their appearance daily.”

On the one hand, I do understand why a celebrity “wellness influencer” like Paltrow admitting that she basically starves herself might be upsetting. For people like myself who already struggle with disordered relationships to food and their bodies, it can be genuinely triggering to see a diet like that framed in an interview as healthy and even aspirational.

And yet, I kind of think Paltrow should say more–not about the specifics of her diet, but about the reality of living under such intense pressure to deprive oneself. As The View co-host Sara Haines, put it, “I’d rather have someone say to me, ‘I starve myself and I eat bone broth to look this way,’ than someone that’s like, ‘Oh my god, I eat anything I want.’ Because to me, that’s what feeds the dysfunction, and I don’t expect Gwyneth Paltrow to be above the dysfunction that most people in this society suffer from.”

Instead, Paltrow quickly backpedaled in response to the backlash and insisted she mostly eats like the rest of us: “By the way,” she insisted in a follow-up Instagram post, “I eat far more than bone broth and vegetables. I eat full meals. And I also have a lot of days of eating whatever I want and eating French fries and whatever.”

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Is that helpful or even believable? The truth is, despite any progress we’ve made as a society in terms of cultural awareness and acceptance, the mainstream beauty pendulum has begun to swing back towards thinness, whiteness, and able-bodiedness. And it’s crucial in this moment for highly visible people–particularly those with a traditionally aspirational (read: ultra thin) body type–to be honest about the literal and metaphorical costs of attaining said body type, so we can all confront the fact that our beauty standards necessarily thrive on exclusivity, inequality, and inaccessibility. Of course, having that conversation would require a certain level of nuance and a willingness to delve into uncomfortable questions beyond what a particular celebrity eats in a day to stay thin, and few seem ready to do that.

I think, too, something that isn’t discussed enough is the role that wealth plays in all this, the way access to money has increasingly become entangled with the currency of health and beauty. The eagerness to pay for enhancements, the eagerness to financially opt in to beauty, has created a new standard that dictates that the only way to attain wellness and beauty, indeed the only beauty worth attaining, is the kind one must be able to pay a pretty penny to acquire. 

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If I had the opportunity to interview Gwyneth Paltrow, instead of asking her about what she eats or her thoughts on dry-brushing, vitamin IV therapy, and “rectal ozone” therapy, I’d want to ask her how she feels about the fact that her 90s movie star image is part of the underpinning of unrealistic standards of beauty that even she must contend with to this day. I’d ask her if she has any interest in dismantling those standards as part of her mission to bring wellness to the masses, even though she has implicitly benefitted from them. I’d ask her if she feels there is any danger, as a public figure who many people look to for beauty/health guidance, in elevating forms of beauty and wellness that require vast amounts of money to obtain. I wouldn’t expect or even want any nice, pat answers–I’d want her to squirm a bit, and I’d want to squirm a bit with her, for us to sit in confronting silence. Maybe if we start asking better questions about what it means to be beautiful, what it means to be well, we can at least start to shift the pendulum in the other direction.