THE BRAZEN CAREERIST- Needing People: the glossy magazine, that is

If you don't read about celebrities, you're missing a big learning moment. Flipping through People magazine and US Weekly have relatively high payoffs. Here are some reasons I stop by the checkout counter:

1. Use celebrity messes to gauge how you're doing in your own failures.

One of my (many) past therapists told me that you can't really tell how well you're doing until something bad happens. Most of us manage ourselves fine when everything is going well. We discover our level of resilience only when things go poorly.

But how do you learn about this when most people hide themselves when things are bad? Most people hide and most people don't talk about what's truly sucking in their life, so we don't really see how their resilience is tested until their problems are so over the top that they're uncontrollably leaking into all aspects of life.

The best place to see people coping with the dark, dirty side of sunshine and roses is People magazine (or your favorite stand-in, like the Enquirer or, on an especially smutty week, New York magazine). This is where people can't hide their problems because they have made their lives public property to further their careers. We benefit because we see what people do to stay resilient.

Sure, you cannot compare yourself to a celebrity when they are dressing for the Oscars and you're going to a party, too. But you can compare when they are getting dumped by their lying boyfriend and you are in love with a liar as well.

2. Dress yourself like a celebrity by picking one to mimic.

If you live in NYC or LA, it's not that hard— most women there are good at dressing themselves. Looking good is super important because there's no shortage of competition. Not so true in the Midwest. (I would know— I'm there right now. ) Just as you get more happy being around happy people, you dress better being around good dressers.

People magazine is a way to compensate for a lack of role models in your town. Look for someone who has the same body type as you and start watching what they wear. It'll save you a lot of time and a lot of mistakes.

3. Know the rules to follow by noting the rules celebrities ignore.

The smaller our world, the more constrained we are by social norms. Sometimes that's good because being part of a community is important. But often it's mentally constraining. I like reading the perspectives of celebrities because they are exposed to a wide variety of things that I am not. So they have fresh perspectives on topics I am not as smart about.

Celebrities use a more diverse arsenal of tools than most of us do to manage our own brands, like marrying someone a lot older to look like a more serious actor. And celebrities feel less of a need to adhere to rules that do not help them to be their true selves, like, don't have six kids in four years or you'll go crazy. I like watching people make their own rules for themselves— not necessarily the choices I would make. But I like seeing what happens. 


Penelope Trunk has started several companies and worked for many more.