Eating or acting?

I came across an article this afternoon in The New York Times, “For Actresses, Is a Big Appetite Part of the Show?” To date, I’ve never thought about the fact that most magazine interviews with female celebrities include a portion (!) about what the actress/model/singer/etc. ate during the interview. It’s hard to miss the fact that conversations between writers and famous women almost always seem to take place over breakfast, lunch or dinner. “She walked in breezily and sat down at a booth in the back.” (My own rendition of the opening paragraph.) I always thought it was done that way to make the celebrity seem more human. Two people talking over food, a scene we can all relate to. Rather than on the set of a movie or in hair and makeup. Until I read this article, I didn’t realize the glaring spotlight on the food. Now that the wheels are turning, I can remember reading an interview with Jessica Biel that struck me. She ordered copious amounts of food (a bunch of different appetizers or small plates) at a New York City restaurant and at the end of the interview mentioned that she would put in an extra long workout the next day. I had trouble picturing someone with a body like hers in the entertainment industry so carelessly overindulging. Check out these excerpts from magazine interviews. Documented instance of public eating, or DIPE, coined by publicist Jeremy Walker, is now used to describe the phenomenon. I guess magazine want celebrities to come off as human not only in the sense of talking over food, but also eating what and how readers eat. As a pretty healthy eater and someone who works out a lot, I find it hard to believe that there isn’t any staging involved. While it may not be the magazine telling the celebrity to order big, the publicists and PR people behind the celebrity may be giving instructions.

Ultimately, the DIPE is meant to convey the impression that a starlet is relaxed, approachable and game, but it’s hard to tell whether the strategy really works anymore. Anna Holmes, a founding (and former) editor of Jezebel, a culture-deconstructing Web site that singles out women, casts a cold eye on such moments of documented feasting. “I’m usually pretty cynical about it,” she said. “When the writer has made special mention of what the actress is eating, especially if it’s something incredibly high-calorie or fattening, I do roll my eyes. Because I assume that it’s planted.”

I have to say that I agree with the quote above. Women in Hollywood don’t eat like truckers. Well, maybe some do, but the majority don’t have the metabolisms to keep up with that kind of eating (I certainly don’t). Again, it seems like this is just another tactic to bring celebrities down to the level of everyone else. Not that these women aren’t human or don’t enjoy a greasy hamburger every once in a while. Who doesn’t? But, let’s be honest. Celebrities are paid for their looks. Firm thighs, six-pack abs, toned calves, buff shoulders. The list goes on and on. Rather than trying to convince people that celebrities really do eat french fries and macaroni and cheese, interviews should strive to share the struggles of making healthy choices in a world full of temptation. Now, that’s a story we could all sink our teeth into.

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