It’s time to call a halt to celebrity cupping

Gwyneth Paltrow has consciously uncoupled from her Goop lifestyle publication


I put a curse on Gwyneth Paltrow’s weekly lifestyle publication, Goop, when the actress wrote “I’d rather die than let my kids eat Cup-a-Soup”. The instant, affordable and nutritious (sort of) soup beverage has seen me through many a dark moment so it was with a sense of quiet pride that I noted in my diary last night: “Today, Gwyneth Paltrow consciously uncoupled from her Goop lifestyle publication” – followed by a smiley face.

The woman is clearly passionate about her beliefs. She wrote once on Goop: “I’d rather smoke crack than eat cheese out of a tin”. Gwyneth, love, I’ll eat cheese wherever I find it.

And I’ll pass on your alkaline superfoods, will not be advising any women I know to get their vaginas mugwort-steamed and even if I did use beauty products, I’d be scared stiff of using the beauty products with “healing chants” that you recommend.

Paltrow announced this week that “my dream is that one day no will remember that I had anything to do with Goop”. Not that she has returned to any working definition of sanity though, Gwyneth’s idea of bliss remains “whenever I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden”.

But over the last eight long years, Goop has been “nourishing the inner aspect” of millions worldwide. It’s one thing pushing lifestyle advice that most likely would have got you burnt as a witch not that many centuries ago, but quite another for a multi-millionaire to get her celebrity wattage to back light items on offer in Goop’s online shop: an ebonised oak high rim salad bowl for $525?

Ebonised just means black by the way, and a very similar salad bowl in Dunnes with “a tactile beaded design and a high-gloss finish” can be bought for €12.

But expensive celebrity-endorsed nonsense abhors a vacuum, so in to fill it is the most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps. The multitudes now hastily booking “cupping” treatments because Phelps has endorsed it, is of a concern far graver than mugwort-steaming.

Cupping is self-harm dressed up as a hip trend. Phelps has huge purple bruises all over his body because he regularly has heated glass cups placed on his skin which cause the blood vessels under the skin to break – with a cup-shaped bruise to show for it after.

People with no medical qualifications whatsoever will tell you that “cupping can influence the flow of ‘qi’ energy through the body”. Highly trained doctors will tell you: “Cupping has no benefit whatsoever and may well cause dangerous skin ulcerations”.

Cupping is cool though – they’re all at it in Rio – because it’s “Ancient Chinese therapy” and they’ve been doing it for centuries over there. But over here we used bloodletting for centuries – and in more recent history didn’t Hippocrates make the point that bodily diseases had physical causes that could be addressed and were not caused by Gods or evil spirits or “qi” energy flows.

But then again, a Dublin beauty salon is currently offering an “August special” on its cupping treatment. Its website notes that “Cupping massage is beneficial for many ailments including: muscle pain and stiffness, the common cold, high blood pressure, anxiety, headaches, fibromyalgia and cellulite”. I’ve more or less a full house there so €99 for a cupping session is quite the bargain. Must inform my GP he’s being undercut by the competition.

It’s of particular concern that one of the most famous athletes in the world is endorsing cupping. As with Goop, the not so bright on-trend lifestylers will be parting with large amounts of money for what is not just nonsense, but something that could cause skin ulcerations.

The drill here is simple: Never, ever part with your money, time or energy because a celebrity advises it. In his book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? (When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash) author Timothy Caulfield catalogues and debunks all the quack beauty and lifestyle recommendations offered up by celebrities – faecal facials and snail secretions included.

Caulfield’s point is that celebrities now have more power and reach than ever before due to social media and “how a single powerful anecdote can have more persuasive force than a mountain of statistics”. And what are Michael Phelps’s staggering 22 Olympic gold medals if not a single powerful anecdote for the quack therapy of cupping?

I once interviewed a world-famous figure from the music world who had just performed at a Free Tibet benefit concert. I asked him if playing the concert would have an adverse effect on his band’s plans to tour in China later that year. He replied: “China? I thought Tibet was in Africa”.

People who don’t have to work, have their clothes laid out for them, their food served to them, their every whim catered for and with multi-million euro bank accounts are not best placed to offer us advice on anything. From what we eat up to and including the flow of “qi” energy in our bodies.

Celebrities, sporting or otherwise, need to be put back in their box. They exist – and are very handsomely rewarded – for our fun and entertainment. In the cinema, on record, in our gossip columns, Netflix, TV – that’s where they belong. And where they should stay.

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