We could all roll our eyes at Rachel Bertsche for writing an entire book about her quest to emulate her favorite celebrities, but that would make many of us hypocrites.
I, for instance, often visit a website called “What Would Zooey Deschanel Wear?” so that I can buy the exact A-line dresses that seem to make the actress happy. Like Bertsche, I feel OK about splurging on Mexican food because I’ve read that Jennifer Aniston does it.
And I don’t think Bertsche and I are alone in this.
Bertsche, who chronicled her quest for platonic companionship in “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend,” traces her efforts to investigate and adopt the habits of all of her idols in her new book, “Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time.”
Devoting one chapter to each of her self-improvement projects, she begins by taking on Aniston’s exercise regimen. Then she tries Paltrow’s diet. From there, it’s Sarah Jessica Parker’s wardrobe, Tina Fey’s work ethic, Jennifer Garner’s marriage, and Beyoncé’s “whole package.”
Bertsche is not the first writer to try this gimmick. There was Julie Powell, the food blogger whose efforts to emulate Julia Child resulted in the movie “Julie & Julia.” And last year witty memoirist Jen Lancaster released “The Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING, or Why I’m Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog,” her attempt to be Martha Stewart.
Like Lancaster’s take on Stewart, Bertsche’s project, while contrived, results in some good humor. Her attempt to drink a Paltrow-endorsed cleansing smoothie is memorable (she says it tastes like “sweet earwax”), and her quest to be as good-natured as Garner is amusingly unnatural.
But it’s the sad paragraphs — the ones that expose Bertsche’s insecurities — that make the book a worthy narrative.
It becomes clear early on that “Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me” is less about celebrities than it is about what it’s like to be 30, semi-employed, and trying — unsuccessfully — to get pregnant. The writer discloses early on that she and her husband, Matt, are considering IVF because after almost a year of trying, nothing is happening. Meanwhile, everyone around her is announcing their bundles of joy.
Bertsche acknowledges that her situation could be worse — she has a supportive spouse, the right doctors, and a great community — but her fertility is out of her hands.
“It’s increasingly evident as I pursue my celeb-style life that what I crave is control. . . . I saw pictures of celebrities in magazines, and even sometimes regular women on the street, who projected an aura of having it all together — that certain brand of confidence that radiates from head to toe — and I wanted it for myself,” she writes.
In “Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me,” Bertsche learns an obvious lesson, but it’s validating to watch her get there. She’s self-aware throughout her journey — which, to some extent, makes the reader wonder why she’s bothering with such a silly project (she acknowledges halfway through the book that she’s striving for an unnatural “composite of perfection”) — but she becomes more and more honest about her needs as the story develops.
By the time we notice that there’s a chapter about Jessica Alba’s pregnancy, all we can do is wish and hope that Bertsche finally gets what she really wants.Meredith Goldstein writes about celebrities in the Names column. She can be reached at meredith