Thanks either to telepathy or pure luck, Rachel Zoe's new daily newsletter, the Zoe Report — think of it as Beauty, Bling & Beyond — launched last week smack amid the summer hiatus of its closest competitor, Gwyneth Paltrow's infamous GOOP. Brilliant play, Zoe: Sneak into our lives just when we're going through celebrity-advice withdrawal, and replace one addiction for another. But aside from the obvious similarities (one is written by a tall, slim actress; the other, by a small, slim stylist who makes a living dressing tall, slim actresses), just how alike are GOOP and the Zoe Report, really? Is there room in your life for two missives from famous people who really want you to go shopping, or do you need to prune your in-box? Here's a breakdown.
Personality Quotient: GOOP is like reading an e-mail from that smug but well-meaning girl you knew in college: She just wants to help, but secretly she thinks you might be a little dim and deeply in need of her guiding hands — which, we imagine, is probably what it’s actually like if you’re acquainted with Gwyneth Paltrow. It's a matter of taste as to whether you appreciate this personality, but at least GOOP’s got one. The Zoe Report thus far lacks a real personal touch other than the occasional “I DIE,” which could've been typed by anyone who's seen five minutes of The Rachel Zoe Project. But in fact, Rachel’s show has taught us that she’s got her own unique charisma, and that's worth channeling online — so maybe it’s time for a better newsletter ghostwriter. Winner: GOOP.
Name-dropping: Considering her line of work, we expected more from Rachel. To date, the only celebrity she’s mentioned in any deliciously offhand way is Demi Moore; everyone else has been noted in the line of duty (like when she pimps “friend and footwear guru” Brian Atwood’s shoes). That's no fun. Thank God for Gwyneth's shamelessness: GOOP makes it sound like her klatch of flashy buddies are glued to her hip. She veers between being overly blasé about it — casually mentioning her friend "William Joel" popped by for supper; acting humbled by an invitation to Mario Batali's house even though they shot a whole travel show together — to thinking we may have forgotten who she is, as when she coyly explained via parenthetical that she's "going back to [her] day job (filming a movie)." What once seemed pretentious is now just charmingly weird. Winner: GOOP.
Literal Face Time: Gwynnie is a presence in GOOP, modeling pieces from her wardrobe we are meant to envy, or starring in a video cooking her version of fast food (roast chicken and potatoes), presumably just to prove she can. But the GOOP site itself is devoid of her image. By contrast, while the Zoe Report's e-mails lack how-to videos about, say, how to pick the most flattering sunglasses for your face shape, both the site and the newsletters are filled with her: Rachel looking pensive wrapped in her bedspread; Rachel looking wistful in white studded fingerless gloves; Rachel looking blasé about having her arms full of Chanel bags. This is on top of multiple ads for Zoe-related products, from her book to her Piperlime.com shoe picks to her Bravo show. Make no mistake, the Zoe Report sells Rachel herself as a product more than anything she recommends. Winner: Zoe.
Quality of Website: GOOP has the better slogan, "Nourish the inner aspect," because it's so easy to make cracks about how our inner aspects are too hungry to subsist on her juice fasts. But its web presence is spartan: Aside from a searchable archive, there's little but a couple of graphics, one of which, inexplicably, is a pen — as if Gwyneth sits in silence at an antique writing desk scrawling every missive in painstaking cursive. Zoe, however — clearly more accustomed to being a brand — has a logo using her actual initials, an "Ask Rachel" section, ways to follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and overall a lot more flash. On the web as in real life, we guess. Winner: Zoe.
Actual Usefulness: Compared with the $2,400 red cashmere poncho Zoe hawked, those $45 eye gels — used by her (disappointingly nameless) clients — are downright practical, and we appreciate that she usually tries to source a slightly less costly version of most of the items she’s hawking. Overall, though, both women seem to think "recession" refers only to someone's hairline and not our pocketbooks. At least Gwynnie's GOOP gives us recipes we can play along with at home; blowing our grocery money at Whole Foods is way less likely to result in us becoming homeless than maxing out our credit cards at Barneys. Winner: GOOP.
Hilariousness, Unintentional or Otherwise: From the aforementioned "William Joel" incident to exclaiming "This dressing is the jam!" to acting like slicing bread and drizzling it with olive oil is a breakthrough in haute cuisine, Gwyneth never fails to make us giggle — but rarely harder than the multiple installments that ended with, "Next week: [NEED TEXT FOR NEXT WEEK]." Zoe, we suspect, is working hard to ensure she is not so accidentally entertaining, because the Zoe Report offers zero laughs save for all those serious photos (amusing choice to pimp eye gel next to a picture in which 70 percent of your face is hidden by hair). Would it kill the girl to crack a joke or flub a post now and then? Tragic foibles only make us love you. Winner: GOOP.
The Verdict: It is hard to top GOOP, if only because a relatively aloof celeb like Gwyneth is the last person we'd expect to see trussing a chicken. But we see potential in the Zoe Report, because at the end of the day we love to ogle pretty things (even if the thought of paying for them makes us cry). And the lifestyle section, which just got its first installment Wednesday, hints that she's capable of more engaging musings. So while the oddball GOOP still has the edge, we're keeping subscriptions to both of them, if only in the hopes that Rachel starts sharing anecdotes while doling out recipes for Chicken à la Starbucks or Caffeine-Infused Rice. In fact, in a perfect world, they'd merge and play off each other. Let's hear it, folks: Anyone for Zoop?
Earlier: Why We're Addicted to Gwyneth's GOOP
For more of the Fug Girls, check out Go Fug Yourself.