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In this fun little book (easily read in one sitting if you feel like it), New York journalist Rebecca Harrington tries out the diets of the rich and famous to see if they are really sustainable and if they actually work. The full list of celebrity diets she follows is:

Gwyneth Paltrow; Liz Taylor; Karl Lagerfeld; Marilyn Monroe; Cameron Diaz; Madonna; Greta Garbo; Victoria Beckham; Beyonce; Jackie Kennedy; Sophia Loren; Pippa Middleton; Carmelo Anthony; Dolly Parton; Miranda Kerr; Elizabeth Hurley.

Make no mistake – this is not intended to be a serious examination of how dieting works. Most diets are tried for only a few days (some of which I don’t know how anyone could actually do for more than a couple of days without passing out anyway). Each chapter focuses on a new celebrity diet, and they are choppy and short chapters, which make for a quick read.

I really enjoyed this book actually. Harrington is self-deprecating, witty and engaging. The book had me giggling to myself several times and I would certainly read more by this author.

However, it did make me think about celebrity diets and how they are sold to the gullible public – if I thought about it very deeply I would actually get quite angry. Most of the diets feature famous faces with no qualifications in nutrition whatsoever, peddling their wares to their fans and making money off people’s desire to be thinner. Miranda Kerr might be a lovely person but my goodness her lifestyle regime sounds utterly pretentious and completely unrealistic for those of us with actual jobs, budgets and time constraints. Victoria Beckham’s diet was inspired by the diet Tom Hanks followed to lose a ton of weight when filming Cast Away. In other words, she followed the diet that he used to make himself look starved! What kind of messed up is this?!

However, as mentioned above this book is not a commentary on the morality or otherwise of celebrities making money from their diets, but basically an undemanding fun read and a nice way to round off my reading for 2022.

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If you have ever felt that celebrities are given far too many privileges, or that they very often tend to expound enthusiastically – and with such conviction of their authority on the subject – on matters of national import, then you would probably enjoy this book.  If you’ve ever wondered at the cruelty of the press in reporting on celebrity lifestyles, this book would probably strike a chord.

Marina Hyde manages to be extremely funny, while making some very serious points.  Certain celebrities come in for more exposure than others – such as Tom Cruise, Sharon Stone, Angelina Jolie and Britney Spears (in Britney’s case, Hyde discusses the relentless and disgraceful hounding of the star when she was in the midst of a breakdown – and recalls instances such as when a paparazzi photographer put a camera up Britney’s skirt and photographed the menstrual blood on her knickers, subsequently printing same as evidence that she wasn’t pregnant).  She is withering towards Jolie, citing the time when Angelina and Brad decided to have their first biological child in Namibia.  What wasn’t widely reported at the time was how journalists wishing to enter the country during the couple’s stay were told that they would need to seek written permission from Angelina and Brad before entering.  How on earth did we get to the stage where two film stars are allowed to dictate who enters a country?  And how was it ever allowed for civilians in that country to have their homes searched for evidence of photographs of the couple?

Why does Elmo from Sesame Street get invited to speak at the UN Congress?  Yes, Elmo is a puppet.  Who got invited to speak at UN Congress!  If this happened in a satirical novel, the reader would probably dismiss it as a stupid storyline, but it actually happened.

Hyde also discusses the dangers of celebrities wading into areas of which they have little knowledge (witness Sharon Stone talking about how she beat cancer through lifestyle alone – a dangerous message to send to other cancer sufferers), and how the rise in celebrity adoptions from developing countries (as in the cases of Angelina Jolie and Madonna) have actually led to more children being left in orphanages in such countries.

My favourite chapter was the one about ‘celebrity’ magazines – I have a personal dislike of such publications as Closer, Reveal, New, etc. as they seem fixated on celebrities’ weight, and love to speculate wildly and without any basis in fact about the lives of people in the public eye.

Despite all this, the book remains full of humour and made me laugh out loud on a number of occasions, and I would absolutely recommend it.

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