Ever wanted to adopt Jennifer Aniston‘s workout routine? Or Gwyneth Paltrow‘s culinary skills?
Chicago author Rachel Bertsche attempts those things and much more for her new book, “Jennifer, Gwyneth and Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time.”
Bertsche, a one-time MIB contributor and author of the bestselling 2011 book “MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend,” is addicted to celebrity gossip rags, so she had plenty of information to guide her on her quest to emulate her favorite celebs. In addition to Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow chapters, she attempts to emulate Sarah Jessica Parker‘s style, Tina Fey‘s work ethic,Jennifer Garner‘s marriage, Julia Roberts‘ serenity, Jessica Alba‘s pregnancy and basically everything about Beyonce. But not everything in her life goes smoothly: While documenting her self-improvement, she also writes about struggling to get pregnant for the first time.
We sat down with the new mom to find out what lessons we can all learn from Hollywood’s elite.
Make It Better: How did you come up with the idea for this book?
Rachel Bertsche: It started with Jennifer Aniston. One day, I was looking at pictures, and I was thinking I should change my workout routine to be more like hers. Then, I thought, what if I did a whole book about trying to be like Jennifer Aniston? Then I thought, maybe not just Jennifer Aniston, but a bunch of celebrities. I’m always looking at these pictures, I’m always inspired by these stars and the lives they lead, and I’m always taking on self-improvement projects. My husband makes fun of me, because I’m always onto my next kick, my next project. But it occurred to me that I’m probably not the only one reading Us Weekly and comparing myself to the stars.
Which celeb was the hardest to emulate?
Trying to cook like Gwyneth Paltrow was pretty hard. It takes a lot of time and money to do the things she does. Like, she has two pizza ovens. The ingredients she uses, like vegan mayo, you can’t find at a regular grocery store. And even though I like to cook, I had to build that time into my day. Cooking a meal was not as addictive as working out, for instance. And celebrities have help that we regular folk just don’t have, which is clearly true in the case of Gwyneth.
Did you like her recipes?
Her recipes are wonderful, but some of them will not work on a weeknight for a woman on the go. Chinese roasted duck was wonderful, but it took two or three days of prep. I also liked her 10-hour chicken. For weeknights, I’d recommend thechicken Milanese or the fish tacos.
So, which celeb was the most fun to emulate?
Many of the chapters were really fun. Trying to work out like Jennifer Aniston changed my life in a really positive way. It helped me get back into working out and come to it with new inspiration. I went to my class every morning and was done by 9:30, and it improved my whole day.
But, I have to say, the most fun part was trying to be like Sarah Jessica Parker and up my clothing game. I work from home, so it’s so easy to just wear sweats and a T-shirt. Having the incentive to put on an outfit—a tutu or something fashionable—was really fun. It made my day a little bit.
The Jennifer Garner chapter was also fun for me. It gave me and my husband new things to do together, like watching the Patriots. It jolted us out of our routine.
What did you learn from this experience, overall?
This project was one way for me to strive to be the best version of myself. I tried to improve in some small way the aspects of my life that were less than what I wanted them to be.
I anticipated the end result would be, “We’re all perfect the way we are, and we shouldn’t use these role models, it’s bad for us,” but I actually found the opposite. Role models are a good, healthy thing. If your role model is Gwyneth Paltrow or Jennifer Aniston or Tina Fey, that’s great, and if your role model is someone else, that’s fine, too.
People are down on women who look up to celebrities, because, yes, they have help, and sometimes they’re Photoshopped, and we don’t always get the full story from the magazines. But if you have a healthy sense of distance and you look at these celebrities in a realistic way, they’re good people to look up to, if that’s someone who’s going to inspire you to be a better version of yourself.
How are you different now as a result of the project?
Nobody is looking at me and saying, “You look just like Jennifer Aniston!” But I did feel better from working out, being productive with my work, etc. In the aftermath, when I feel kind of lethargic and messy, and I recall these things and can give myself a quick pick-me-up with a cute outfit or a run.
Did you think about incorporating some charitable aspect—perhaps inspired by Angelina Jolie?
I actually didn’t, because that was one area of my life I felt like I already had under control. My husband and I are volunteers with Big Brothers Big Sisters. We do a couple’s match with a young boy on Chicago’s West Side, and we see him almost every weekend that we’re home. So with my own means—both in time and money—I felt like I was already my best self in that area. It would have been nice to ratchet that up a notch, à la Angelina, but, it would have been hard for me to execute charitable work at a level similar to hers.
Your daughter, Maggie, is 11 months old now, and you write about trying to have a baby, and ultimately doing IVF. Was that cathartic to write about?
Definitely. I realized a lot of women have these kinds of struggles, and it’s something we don’t really talk about, because it seems like a failure at first. I felt like I would be judged. I was trying to find control in all these different aspects of my life and make it exactly what I wanted it to be, and that was the one aspect that I had no control over. The one thing I wanted the most totally eluded me. It was really hard. But I realized there are so many issues people go through when trying to have a baby. In the end, I was lucky. There are many people who have much more difficult struggles.
How has the project influenced your new life as a parent?
Well, with a newborn, everything kind of goes out the window, you’re just in survival mode. But I think the project set me up to fall less far. Things are falling back into place now, and I have something to fall back on. I probably won’t be the Gwyneth Paltrow of motherhood, but it’s nice to see how she does things, and how other people do things. Like everything else, you do the best you can and find the things that work for you.