I'll Just Have a Salad

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Or not:


Minka Kelly, the "sexiest woman alive," slides a fork into a tangle of spaghetti carbonara. Zoë Saldana has a basket of fried calamari. Jennifer Lawrence, an Oscar nominee for her leading role in "Winter's Bone," wants it known that a skimpy morning repast is not going to satisfy her. "I'm freakish about breakfast," she explains to an Esquire magazine writer there to interview her. "You're not gonna order, like, fruit or something, are you? Because I'm gonna eat." We then learn that Ms. Lawrence "orders the eggs Benedict without looking at the menu." 

For regular readers of glossy magazines -- which depend on interviews with famous people to generate chatter and goose newsstand sales -- such situations have become increasingly familiar. (Especially over the last year or so, and most persistently in Esquire, the source of the three preceding examples, as well as Ms. Kelly's November 2010 crown of sexiness.) A writer meets a starlet for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The starlet, usually of slim and gamine proportions, appears to thwart our expectations by ordering and consuming, with conspicuous relish, a meal that might satisfy a hungry dockworker.

On the journalism of this, first. The scene where the reporter and star eat together should be banished from all of magazines. I'm sure I've done it before, and it's not wrong if it serves some higher purpose, or if something interesting truly get says. But usually the point is to prove the star's accessibility, that they're--in fact--just like you. Which they are not. 

Anna Holmes gets it:

"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."

This of course would ruin the fantasy. On a deeper level, I'm never sure who this is for. Part of it is an appeal to young men, who want to fantasize about how Minka Kelly is really just a down to earth who will drink a beer with them. But it doesn't strike me as much different than the Kardashians "everygirl" appeal to young women. Every few months, one of them discovers a new "secret" to weight loss, because, you know, they love cookies and cream ice cream and kit-kats too.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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