Regular gals

Poor Gwyneth Paltrow—I’m convinced she’s the most despised female celebrity in America.

At the very least, she’s one of its most polarizing.

This month’s announcement that Paltrow is the new face of Coach only seemed to deepen the public’s hate affair with her.

But is it fair?

Certainly, the 38-year-old actress embodies the word privileged. The daughter of producer Bruce Paltrow and actress Blythe Danner, she was born into wealth and privilege and in the years since has snagged an Oscar; launched Goop, a Web-based lifestyle newsletter; released fitness DVDs; delved into a country-music career; sung and danced on Glee and, in April, published a cookbook, My Father’s Daughter, with recipes from and inspired by her father.

She acts, she sings, she dances, she writes, she cooks, she models—she annoys the hell out of us.

Oh yeah, and she’s married to a rock star and named her children Apple and Moses, fer chrissakes.

Really, it’s no wonder people react to Paltrow as if she were a cracked-out Martha Stewart, a Hamptons-bred Oprah Winfrey—if Oprah were thin, white and Madonna’s erstwhile BFF.

She is seemingly recession-proof and hyper-unaware about what it means to live on a budget that does not allow for nannies, personal trainers and cooking tours of Spain.

Gwyneth Paltrow is, in many ways, deeply unlikable and, I’ll admit, I used to find her extremely irritating.

But when I finally stopped rolling my eyes enough to actually pay attention to what she was doing, that annoyance gave way to grudging admiration.

She’s accomplished and very good at what she does. Watch The Talented Mr. Ripley or The Royal Tenenbaums or her kicky turn on Glee, and it’s hard not to admit that beneath that Upper East Side ice-princess demeanor beats the heart of a talented actress who also seems to have a bit of a sense of humor.

She’s also unapologetic.

“I recently saw a shot of myself in Barbados and was, like, all my hard work paid off!” she explains in this month’s issue of Self magazine. “I’m 38, I have two kids and I feel good.”

Paltrow’s enthusiastic self-acceptance (at least publicly) comes in stark contrast to many female celebrities who try to exude an air of regular gal humility in hopes that such an attitude will increase their appeal to all the real regular gals out there.

Take, for example, Tina Fey. My love for Fey is boundless—she’s incredibly smart, bitingly funny and beautiful.

But reading Fey’s new memoir, Bossypants, what you find is not a woman who embraces her talents and good looks (at least not on paper), but rather a self-effacing schlump who feels compelled to devote an entire chapter to how she required the wonders of Photoshop to be made suitable for the cover of Vogue magazine.

I laughed and nodded knowingly as I read that chapter.

Right! Totally! I can relate!

Then I closed the book and looked at the cover image of Fey, smiling wryly into the camera.

Bitch, please.

Fey is naturally gorgeous—Photoshop may enhance that, but it didn’t create it.

But Fey, unlike Paltrow, doesn’t feel comfortable owning that self-perception. At least not publicly.

And neither do many American women. Even as self-help books preach self-acceptance and assertiveness, social reinforcements and catty Internet gossip boards teach us to act as though we could never be good enough.

We’re taught to project a humble, modest and unassuming sense of identity at all costs.

Anything more will earn you Gwyneth Paltrow-worthy disdain and aversion.