Making a meal of it
Why are the stars so keen to tell us about what they eat, asks Anna Coogan as she investigates the rise of the 'Dipe'
Cameron Diaz loves greasy treats - the What Happens in Vegas actress told Shape magazine, "I eat healthily but love my burgers, and if you put a bowl of fries near me, then it's over".
Drew Barrymore is another A-list actress who has gushed about her fondness for food. The Charlie's Angels actress told Harper's Bazaar: "I actually really love to lie in bed, watch TV, be a total sloth, and eat my favourite food which is Kraft macaroni and cheese."
Such declarations from skinny stars are widespread in magazine interviews. So much so that longtime American film publicist Jeremy Walker has coined a term for them: the documented instance of public eating, or DIPE.
And an instance of DIPE seems to be part and parcel of any celebrity interview these days. Consider, for example, Cate Blanchett ordering Parmesan-fried zucchini at a restaurant in London, and telling a writer from Vogue that she doesn’t intend to share: “I think we’d each better get our own, or things could get ugly.”
The implication is that Blanchett, and all the other food-adoring svelte stars, have huge appetites which they love to satisfy. And that not one of the slimmest Hollywood stars is anything close to being on a punitive diet.
Meanwhile, while playing Etta James in the movie Cadillac Records, Beyonce Knowles confessed that she relied on butter pecan ice-cream to sustain her energy. While Christina Hendricks, who is a little curvier than her co-horts, we'll admit, told Esquire magazine, "I only learned what guanciale is when I was in New Orleans. It's the pig jowl. I went to this butcher there and I came home with lots of sausages: a big andouille and a blood sausage".
New York Times journalist Jeff Gordinier believes that this fixation with what celebrities eat could be a result of the media having ever-decreasing access to the stars. He argues: "Publicists, wary of prying questions, have become skilled at compressing conversations with reporters to a bare minimum of minutes. Given such paltry resources, journalists who write about celebrities probably can't be blamed for succumbing to an amateur lesson in gastronomic semiotics -- one in which each bite is supposed to yield a tiny goldmine of insight."
Yet the topic of what beautiful women eat has long been something of an obsession with readers of celeb magazines. We look at photos of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker eating a pretzel while walking in New York City and ask ourselves if this is the limit of her calorie count for the day.
Bumble Ward is a former Hollywood publicist turned novelist, and she is sympathetic to the stars caught munching. “Don’t you feel awfully sorry for actresses? They’re so sure that people assume they have an eating disorder that they’re forced to wolf down caveman-like portions of ‘comfort food’ in order to appear normal. And, worse, they feel they have to comment on how much they’re enjoying themselves. Gone are the days of the black-coffee-and 10-Marlboro-Reds lunch.”
Meanwhile, restaurateur Sara Jenkins, who runs two restaurants popular with the stars in Manhattan, has told New York Times writer Jeff Gordinier, "I don't actually think that actresses eat -- I really don't. When I see them chowing down on fried chicken and hamburgers, I guess it is code for 'she's just a normal person'. But why do they have to be down-home, ordinary people? They're not, you know. They're glamorous."
For the rest of us, there is something annoying about ultra-slim stars stating that they can eat what they want and still stay slim. Whether it's a sincere or disingenuous sentiment, it frustrates the hell out of most women to think Diaz and Barrymore and their like can chow down on chips and still have a washboard tummy. So is this one of the reasons why we try to persuade ourselves that in real life they are surviving on a grape to remain so slim?
Anna Holmes is the founding editor of Jezebel, a no-nonsense website on fashion and celebrity aimed at savvy women, and she too is unconvinced by moments of documented pigging out by celebrities. She says she would like to see a celebrity come out and say it's hard to stay slim in the image-driven world of celebrity. She says: "We would all appreciate it if you had an interview with an actress who says: 'You know what? It's my job to be a certain size, and it takes a lot of work for me to do so. I tend to eat very healthy, small portions, but once in a while I splurge.' I would like to hear that. That it's not easy."