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Who is Blake Lively, anyway?
You might recognize her as that chick who stole Ryan Reynolds from you. Or, you might know Blake Lively from Gossip Girl, one of the first TV shows intended for teenagers that hit its popularity being devoured by women who were, in fact, long out of high school. (Don't lie. You know you loved it.) Lively has also appeared in movies over her career, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and most recently, in Savages, a crime thriller about pot growers who go head to head with the Mexican cartel. Lively plays the kidnapped girlfriend... shocker.
Preserve, Blake Lively's newest venture, shows us an entirely fresh side of this celebrity. Tagged as a "lifestyle website" by the media, the focus of Preserve seems to be less on how to recreate Lively's no-doubt amazing life for yourself, as the media lets on, but more on featuring — and selling — carefully curated goods that, apparently, they've sourced from around America. Think Robert Redford's Sundance Catalog, but for hipsters. A story behind everything and everything with a story, and with a full line of products to bring it all to life.
There is a bit of a lifestyle element that holds Preserve together, including a "Letter from the Editor," where Blake Lively writes, "So here at Preserve there are people, stories, essays, videos and goods which hopefully inspire your home, your style, your tongue. There's expensive stuff. Inexpensive stuff. And everything in between. But their value is up to you. We may romanticize it, calling it treasure. What we're really saying is, we see worth on every level."
The last piece of Preserve is philanthropic, donating a portion of all proceeds to feed and clothe children in the U.S. Nothing to criticize there.
Haters, haters, everywhere
The media coverage on Preserve, and Blake Lively's involvement in the site, has been killer this week. It's come across my news feed over and over again, without a kind word in sight. In fact, everyone seems to hate Blake Lively's new website and they aren't afraid to show it. They slam her for trying to replicate Gwyneth Paltrow's goop and slam her for not being enough like it. They slam her for trying to sell semi-ridiculous items for semi-ridiculous prices. They slam her for trying to be the next Martha Stewart. They pretty much slam her, and Preserve, for everything that is remotely non-generic.
I mean, let's be honest. There's no way in hell that Blake Lively, herself, wrote anything on this website, with the possible exception of the previously mentioned letter, but, there's nothing claiming that she did. Lively never actually claims that she is promoting her own lifestyle on Preserve. In fact, she plainly states that "'Preserve' isn't me. It's a handful of the most dedicated, soulful, wise, patient people I've ever had the honor of working alongside." In addition, the content on Preserve isn't written by Lively, nor does it claim to be. Furthermore, this is not a website filled with life and style that is only accessible to celebrities or the uber-elite. There is not a designer handbag or shoe to be found and the products that they source and sell have careful links and connections to their designers and creators, who have obviously signed off on their products being featured and sold on Preserve.
Here's the thing. If the media coverage hadn't been so insanely bitter about the launch of Preserve, I would have never even known it existed. And unless you are some superfan of Blake Lively, it's likely that you wouldn't have either. The media led us to Lively's new site, putting it on the radar of every lifestyle brand-loving (and hating) reader they had, when their intention, based on their reviews, was obviously to do the exact opposite. Love or hate it, when you actually click through from the ranting articles to the site itself, you did click through, and that alone gives Team Lively and Preserve the match point.
A life of lifestyles
We live in a life that is filled with other people's lifestyles.
Take a look at your Pinterest account and I promise that you'll find the irony. I know I did in mine. Because, the fact of the matter is that Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds aren't whipping up these Kick Ass Baby Back Pork Ribs on a Friday night, kicking back with their buddies drinking Budweiser Tallboys, any more than I'm making votive candles from my kids' broken Crayons. (Yes, I actually pinned that.)
That's the thing about lifestyle websites, of which there are many. They are creating a lifestyle that, in real life, doesn't actually exist. And that's why we love them, right? Because they are pin-worthy and because you want to make that flag cake with fresh berries (that you grew yourself, obviously) on 4th of July and bring it to a party, just so that you can post a picture of it on Instagram. And, we don't hate these websites for creating these unobtainable lifestyles, do we? No, we devour them from our phones late at night before we fall asleep like the guilty pleasures that they are. We recreate the pieces of them that we know we can actually have some hope of achieving and, in doing so, we create our own lifestyle without even realizing it.
Blake Lively's website, Preserve, isn't any different. It's all just as unobtainable as the lives on the blogs we read, the crafts and recipes we pin to our Pinterest accounts and the photos that we obsess over on Instagram. Sure, Preserve is a little headier than most and there's a big dose of "we're all in this together" that comes across as fake and pretentious, since obviously we're not having ribs and beers with Blake and Ryan anytime soon, but how can you criticize Preserve for suggesting you buy $25 bottles of BBQ sauce (Source: New York Post) or a handcrafted artisan butcher block cutting board (Source: Slate) when moms are buying moccasins for their babies at $60 a pop, just because everyone else on Instagram is doing the same?
Don't hate Blake Lively because she may have been part of creating this website, which is pretty sweet and well-designed, all things considered. Make fun of her for not having a successful starring role since she walked off the Upper East Side set of Gossip Girl or the fact that she is her husband's rebound girl after Scarlett Johansson.
But, for this website? I don't think so.