Moneybox

How Chrissy Teigen Became the Anti–Gwyneth Paltrow

From her cookbooks to her dessert-themed lip gloss, Teigen’s been busy crafting her own lifestyle brand. Somehow, it’s not insufferable.

Chrissy Teigen, surrounded by products she endorses.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Glamour and Target.

“Face mask / heat pad / vagina steam,” Chrissy Teigen captioned an Instagram photo of herself this past June, sitting hunched, a white mask on her face, a gray pad on her neck, and her legs parted with a towel draped across her lap. “No I don’t know if any of this works but it can’t hurt right? *vagina dissolves*”

The genital “treatment” Teigen was attempting was popularized by Gwyneth Paltrow, who touts it as healthy for your uterus even though doctors advise against it. The process involves sitting on “what is essentially a mini-throne,” making it an apt metaphor for Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop. Her collection of advice and goods are both so quackish and elitist that she is not simply wrong, she places herself on a throne of wrongness.

Teigen, on the other hand, is crafting a lifestyle empire based on down-to-earth-ness. Her products are functional, and bear no fancy claims. Loosely titled “Cravings,” her brand includes a collection of kitchenware sold at Target, her very successful cookbooks, cosmetics, and a partnership with Pampers. She does not try to sell things by lending them deeper meaning. Her goods are ordinary with a little oomph—food that’s highly caloric, plates with gold accents, cream that glitters—and, unlike Paltrow’s, are not advertised alongside ridiculous claims or exorbitant price tags. Some of her stuff appears, at first glance, like it might cost more than many of the painfully plain offerings in the Goop store, but on balance, it’s cheaper. In capitalism, Teigen plays as fairly as one can—and the end result is that even while launching her version of a celebrity-bolstered lifestyle brand, she has positioned herself as the anti-Paltrow.

Take her partnership with Becca cosmetics. Teigen models for the brand and has a small Becca X Chrissy product line, some of which also bear the word cravings. While wearing her powders and shadows will definitely not turn you into a supermodel (the low-key implicit claim of any ad featuring a supermodel), close-ups of a woman with shiny skin are appropriate to pair with bottles of face glitter. Face glitter in various forms is Becca’s primary output, and as far as cosmetics go, it’s one of the better attractiveness equalizers the average person has available to them. Shimmery liquid can slightly contour your face with very little effort, giving you cheekbones and making you look glow-y in pictures. I personally can vouch for the Shimmering Skin Perfecter Liquid Highlighter being more pigmented than drugstore counterparts, worth the money if you can and do care about this kind of thing. In sum: The shiny stuff Teigen hawks will make you look shiny. Great!

The Goop makeup store has some items that seem functional—I am sure this lipstick works just fine, for example. But like so many things that Goop sells, it’s imbued with a larger story about health: It’s made with “organic oils” and “antioxidant green tea.” There are only so many benefits “antioxidant” and especially “organic” can actually bring to consumers in any medium, but in the context of a topical cream to apply in small quantities, they are mere buzzwords. Further, the general aesthetic offered by Goop makeup is a sheer, natural look, the kind that is most beneficial to people who are already conventionally gorgeous, like Paltrow, who sports the no-makeup-but-still-perfect look on the covers of her cookbooks.

Teigen also authors recipe books—she has two, Cravings and Cravings: Hungry for More. A recipe book called Cravings is a pretty explicit call to act on desire, and the recipes themselves deliver on delicious excess: “Cool Ranch Taco Salad,” “Blueberry Cream Cheese Pancakes,” “Actual Drunken Noodles,” “Sh*t on Toast.” She is unpretentious about her tastes (“airport food is the f*cking b*mb,” she notes in a prelude to a take on Wolfgang Puck Chinois Chicken Salad). “We have the brain of a stoner, basically,” she said in an interview, of her and her co-author, Adeena Sussman, and describes the nature of the recipes as “gooey-ooey.” In that same interview, she’s honest about the labor of writing a book, noting that her postpartum depression put the second text on hold for a while because “it’s pretty torturous to have to write recipes when you don’t have an appetite yourself.”

Where Teigen’s books are about pleasure, Paltrow’s are about using food to function better, both within yourself and with your loved ones. It is not a bad thing, per se, to eat to serve the needs of your body or to gather people together, but in Paltrow’s hands, it’s taken to an extreme. Like Teigen, Paltrow opens up about mental health, in the foreword of her second book (she has five) describing how a year of stress manifested into a searing pain in her head and trouble breathing one sunny afternoon. But where Teigen describes slowing down her schedule to cope, Paltrow blames french fries and aims to solve her issues by taking up an extreme diet regimen. Women are taught from a young age that we can make ourselves worthy and healthy through regulating what we put in our mouths (versus, say, advocating for humane boundaries in our work lives) and, moreover, that extreme control should be joyful in and of itself. The tagline for Paltrow’s It’s All Good is “delicious, easy recipes that will make you look good and feel great.” Food presented not as nourishment but as a solution.

None of this is to say that Teigen exists outside the typical bounds of being a famous pretty person. With her piles of caloric food and toned body, she at times frustratingly matches the definition of a cool girl. Cravings features a spread in which she’s lying poolside in a low-cut one-piece and perfectly applied red lipstick, eating a plate of chicken wings while her husband gazes at her. She Instagrams a photo of a pie she burnt (incapable of cooking sometimes, just like us!), but also of herself on the cover of Women’s Health pants-less and next to the cover line WOWZA LEGS! AMAZING BUTT! She may be an anti-Paltrow, but they still hurtle around in the same privileged orbit. But where Paltrow offers up eye-popping price points as a status symbol, Teigen publicly mocks the trappings of wealth that surround her. On an early date with her now-husband John Legend, she purchased a $40 margarita at a pricey restaurant, a move that she says drove her to spend more time cooking instead. She flies commercial and rolls her eyes at her use of the $16 Wi-Fi. She has a beautiful home, but she posts about it from the vantage point of being collapsed on the floor wasted, in what she deems a “drunklebrag.” Like a humble brag, but when you’re drunk.

Still, she displays a genuine understanding of those of us on the lower rungs. In June, she wielded her platform to raise money for the ACLU in honor of Donald Trump’s 72nd birthday. While her and Legend donated $72,000 four times over on behalf of their four-person family, she acknowledged that a donation of $72 is supremely generous for a lot of folks.

Teigen can speak to average Americans with ease, because she grew up as one. She’s the kid of a Thai immigrant and an electrician who, after a childhood of moving around, was discovered for her superlative looks by a photographer while she worked in a surf shop. Paltrow is the daughter of entertainment industry titans; she has enjoyed all the benefits of social status, whiteness, and money since birth. Teigen is a newcomer to most of those privileges—and for all the ease of her new life, she still has to directly contend with racism.

Given her empathy and overall style, it makes sense that one of Teigen’s latest brand moves was a line of kitchenware sold at Target, called Cravings after her cookbooks. The central brag about Target is how inexpensive cute things are there. “All of this was $115,” wrote one shopper on Instagram beneath a photo of a nonstick pan, two silicon-and-wood utensils, a serving plate, a sugar bowl, and three Dutch ovens. The reviews of the Cravings Target items are on par with what you’d expect from a big box store: mostly good, some complaining about cheap assembly. Consumers can decide if that’s the kind of stuff they want to spend money on, with no feelings of guilt over bodily toxins or exhaustion if they don’t buy in.

Teigen is just here to exchange your money for a holiday plate from her seasonal collection. It is roughly the same in function and price as other plates but with a little more shine.