You know what's more lucrative than being an actress in Hollywood? Being an actress with a lifestyle company. And it's not just because such ventures are good for said actress's wallet, but because it gives her something to do when her acting career has floundered.
This pattern is not only real, but it also shows how regressive Hollywood is, with Oscar-winning or otherwise successful female entertainers marketing themselves as mothers and domestic goddesses in order to keep public interest on them. After all, as those staged family photo ops show, the only thing more interesting about a woman in Hollywood than her primary career is how she conducts her upscale-yet-relatable home/family life. Monetizing that—whether or not at the expense of one's dignity—is just the natural end point.
Not convinced? Then just ask these five actresses how they've used the Celebrity Lifestyle Company to keep themselves in the spotlight after their last super major starring role.
Celebrity Lifestyle Company: GOOP of course, which she founded in 2008.
Last major starring role: Shakespeare in Love, for which she won an Academy Award in 1998.
People have been making fun of Gwyneth and her out-of-touch statements about macrobiotic diets and working motherhood for years, but at least in the 90s, they'd begrudgingly admit that she's a good actress as well. After Shakespeare in Love however, her have gotten smaller or easier to make fun of, starting with an ensemble part in the The Royal Tenenbaums, and cameos in Iron Man and Glee. It's telling that when she started approaching 40, the infamous age when roles for actresses are scarce, that she embraced her notoriety by building a business empire centered around overpriced monogrammed napkins. Nowadays, she gets more press, whether positive or negative, for that than for starring in a sex addiction movie with Mark Ruffalo.
Celebrity Lifestyle Company: The Honest Company, in 2012
Last major starring role: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer(2007)
As she passes the age of 30, Jessica Alba has started to age out of her own niche as sexy ingénue who can kick ass, or sexy ingénue who needs rescue. She's also failed to build a reputation a Serious Actress, though she tried in a role where she gets beaten to within an inch of her life in The Killer Inside Me (violence against women = prestige). Good thing Alba has organic baby products to fall back on, based on her own struggle to find bottles or diapers for her daughters that were toxin-free. Like Gwyneth, she can pass the time marketing an appealing picture of motherhood based on her own life, until called upon to do a bikini cover shoot for Sin City 2.
Celebrity Lifestyle Company: Lively announced her intention to launch a "life-curating" company in 2013.
Last major starring role: Gossip Girl (2007-2012)
Blake Lively might not seem like much of an actress from her mumbling, anemic turn in Gossip Girl, yet for a while there, she was getting prominent parts in prominent movies, and giving interviews about her method-like immersion in such parts. The jig was up by 2012 however, when a producer backed out of financing Stephen Soderbergh's Side Effects because of Lively's casting. Soon after, Rooney Mara replaced her.
It's no wonder that since then Lively has thrown herself into doing tasteful spreads for Martha Stewart Living about her wedding to Ryan Reynolds, showing off her egg-cracking skills for Vogue, and hinting at turning it all into a Martha-like empire. That Blake might not actually start this company is the best part! She knew how to keep herself relevant by pontificating about her yet-to-materialize lifestyle company, and how it would be "without a genre." She then got the starring role in The Age of Adaline.
Celebrity Lifestyle Company: Draper James, announced this past March.
Last major starring role: Walk the Line (2005), for which she also won an Oscar.
Like Gwyneth, Reese Witherspoon is an example of an acclaimed actress's career slowing down exponentially after winning an Academy Award. Given how good she has been in Walk the Line, Election and other worthy movies, it's hard to believe that she can only get work in shitty romantic comedies with Owen Wilson, or shitty movies about the circus with Robert Pattinson. But ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, that's Hollywood! Where the meaty parts go to actresses who are Jennifer Lawrence's age.
This is why Reese is wising up to her friend Gwyneth's success and launching an empire based on her own brand of southern hospitality (but not the kind that involves drunkenly harassing a police officer in a pronounced southern drawl). Witherspoon is also addressing her floundering career by producing movies that she can also star in, including Wild, based on Cheryl Strayed's acclaimed memoir. Maybe she can use her domestic bonafides to bolster her Oscar campaign for that role.
Celebrity Lifestyle Company: the Jessica Simpson Collection in 2006, a fashion line that's now worth $1 billion.
Last major starring role: The Dukes of Hazzard (2005); her last successful single was a cover of "These Boots Were Made for Walking" for the film soundtrack.
It's fascinating how Jessica Simpson has not only reinvented herself as a business mogul after her singing/acting/reality TV career ended, but how she has used her pregnancies, motherhood, and her weight struggles to make her fashion lines even more successful.
For example, a recent Forbes profile points out that the Jessica Simpson Collection did even better after she became a mother, a fact that she plays up by saying something like, ""When I'm in approval or inspiration meetings, I think of what I want my Nana to wear, and what my 2-year-old daughter Maxwell would look adorable in." Who can resist a celebrity clothing line that's family-oriented? Or one that's related to Simpson's "real woman" weight fluctuations? Speaking to that, Simpson makes a case for her brand's relatability: "I think I understand women. I've been every size on the planet, and I think beyond New York and LA."
The rest of us might judge Simpson on how she's made losing weight her bread and butter, but she's hit on a simple yet powerful reality: a lot of people struggle with their weight. If Simpson is using that experience to make women of all sizes in Middle America feel beautiful, then great! There might be something kind of progressive that comes out of being a woman in Hollywood with a Celebrity Lifestyle Company.
Though who else in Simpson's target audience would get paid millions of dollars to get their bikini body back? And who else would embrace this as their identity after vicious media attention over the fit of her jeans? Yeah, never mind—the Celebrity Lifestyle Company is not so progressive after all.