Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Q&A with author Rachel Bertsche

Rachel Bertsche is the author of the new book Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time. She also has written the book MWF Seeking BFF, and her writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and Cosmopolitan. She is based in Chicago.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me?

A: This concept of "if only I were more like [INSERT CELEB NAME HERE], my life would be better/more fabulous/perfect/happier" is something that has haunted me (and probably so many women) for quite a while. It's hard to avoid if you are someone who, like me, enjoys the occasional escape into Us Weekly and People.

I do remember one moment, specifically, when I was standing in the shower, thinking "what if I did everything that Jennifer Aniston did--could I end up more like her? Could I write about it?"

Trying to live like Jennifer alone probably couldn't fill a whole book--but I quickly realized that I have this laundry list of celebs that inspire that same "if only" feeling... each for a different aspect of her life.

So while I'd love to emulate Jennifer Aniston's workout, I'd also like to have Sarah Jessica Parker's fashion prowess or Jennifer Garner's marriage or Julia Roberts's zen.

They all represent areas where I felt that my own life could use improving. I love reading books with a self-improvement slant, and I love reading about celebrities, so suddenly these came together in my head to make perfect sense.

Q: Which celebrity was the most difficult to emulate, and which seemed the easiest?

A: They were all certainly hard/easy in different ways, but I would probably say Gwyneth's lifestyle was the hardest for me to adopt.

The focus on her is cooking and life in the kitchen, and a lot of the "necessities" that I took from reading her website Goop.com and other interviews with her were very expensive or hard to find (they do not necessarily sell vegan mayo in the corner store) -- and other parts, like her 7-day cleanse, were just HARD. I'm not so good at subsisting on mostly liquid for days at a time.

As for the easiest, I guess I'd have to say Jennifer Garner. I tried to emulate her marriage, and I'm lucky to already be in a great relationship, so it was the aspect of my life I felt needed the least help.

Plus, the guidelines--watch football with my husband, say nice things about him, make time for friends--were easier to adhere to than, say, do a cardio workout six times a week.

Q: Looking back, how did your "pursuit of happiness" change you?

A: It gave me tools to rely on when I need a quick pick-me-up. While no one would confuse me for Jennifer Aniston or Beyonce, the lessons I was able to cull from studying them and others have created a sort of foundation for living fabulously.

Now, when I am having an especially severe case of the blahs, I know to start by getting dressed in an outfit that makes me feel good about myself, or go for a quick workout, or, if nothing else, sport a pair of sunglasses and some lip gloss (thanks, Beyonce).

These are fast and easy fallbacks that always lift my spirits a bit or make me feel better about myself. They are simple and small but they work.

Q: Why do you think so many people are obsessed with celebrities, and has this celebrity-worship increased in recent years?

A: It's almost impossible to avoid celebrity culture these days -- it's everywhere. In magazines, on TV, in the news, on social media... even in politics.

So how can people help but become a little obsessed, or at least let the celebrity images seep into their consciousness a little bit? When we're constantly presented with celebrity images, it's hard to turn a blind eye and not be influenced -- and the more we see something, very often the more interested we become.

So it's very chicken-or-the-egg: Are we obsessed with celebrities because they are constantly in the media, or are they constantly in the media because we are so obsessed? I'd say it's a little bit of both. But yes, I think celebrity-worship has increased and continues to increase.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I'm starting to think about another book, and I do a lot of magazine writing and other writing projects. Constantly trying to think of what I want to do next!

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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