Alison Roman Bashed Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, and It Did Not Spark Joy
The popular food columnist seems to have stumbled into a particularly frustrating and interminable discourse.
Alison Roman’s latest comments about Marie Kondo have not sparked joy.
In an interview with The New Consumer about her increased popularity and the avenues she might pursue to capitalize on it, the popular food columnist discussed her hesitance to put her name on a product line—citing the Japanese organization maven and Chrissy Teigen as examples of what she did not foresee in her own future.
“I have a collaboration coming out with [the cookware startup] Material, a capsule collection,” Roman said. “It’s limited edition, a few tools that I designed that are based on tools that I use that aren’t in production anywhere—vintage spoons and very specific things that are one-offs that I found at antique markets that they have made for me.”
Roman added later that she loves what she does “[b]ecause you’re making something, but it goes away.” Then came a massive pivot.
“Like the idea that when Marie Kondo decided to capitalize on her fame and make stuff that you can buy, that is completely antithetical to everything she’s ever taught you,” Roman said. “I’m like, damn, bitch, you fucking just sold out immediately! Someone’s like ‘you should make stuff,’ and she’s like, ‘okay, slap my name on it, I don’t give a shit!’”
Later on, Roman railed against Teigen’s business strategies as well. “She had a successful cookbook. And then it was like: Boom, line at Target. Boom, now she has an Instagram page that has over a million followers where it’s just, like, people running a content farm for her. That horrifies me and it’s not something that I ever want to do. I don’t aspire to that. But like, who’s laughing now? Because she’s making a ton of fucking money.”
Roman’s interview has received praise for its candor on social media, but critics have also chafed at her harsh judgments of Teigen and Kondo.
Writer Lauren Oyler tweeted, “I love when a slightly off center but nevertheless extremely popular social media figure declares she is not making much money right now and no one questions it. What was your book advance, what were your royalties, you sold a TV show, how much is your speaking fee?” In response to an accusation that she’s “embittered” because of Roman’s earnings, Oyler later added, “money is fine. a class of creatives has earned their money by branding themselves relatable and honest; now they're all (kinda desperately) misrepresenting their circumstances to further that image. manipulative, bc outsiders don't have the info to determine they're full of shit.”
Plus, as Tenderly founder Summer Anne Burton wrote, “To follow the announcement that you're partnering with a brand that makes $75 knife stands to recreate vintage cooking spoons and then on the NEXT question say ‘damn, bitch, you fucking just sold out immediately’ about Kondo having an online store.. yeesh.” Added Xtra community manager Michelle da Silva, “Alison Roman singles out Marie Kondo / Chrissy Teigen as sellouts, yet takes no issue w/ white women capitalizing on lifestyle content, asking ‘Does the world need another Goop?’ when reflecting on her own brand. Says a lot about who she thinks is allowed to build global empires.”
Roman initially responded to the backlash against her interview with a flippant remark: “when women bully other women for being honest about money and how much they do or do not make, well, thats amore.” Later on, she added, “Just wishing I had someone to hold my hand during baby’s first internet backlash.” And finally, her most recent comment on the matter: “I want to clarify, I am not coming for anyone who's successful, especially not women. I was trying to clarify that my business model does not include a product line, which work very well for some, but I don’t see working for me.”
Perhaps unwittingly, Roman has stumbled into a particularly noxious discourse that has plagued the Internet for years: The backlash against Marie Kondo for daring to try and start a business empire.
Some of the ire towards Kondo’s product lines stems from a misunderstanding of her philosophy. Some of it has been downright racist. Kondo’s organization methods have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, particularly after Netflix produced its Tidying Up series with her at its center. Thanks to memes and reductive interpretations of her work, many people seem to perceive Kondo’s philosophy as simple minimalism—when in reality, it’s more about growing attuned to the emotional and sentimental relationships many of us develop with our things. Within that context, it makes perfect sense for her to sell organizational tools to properly protect and store one’s belongings.
A lot of Roman’s critiques of Kondo and Teigen, and her New Consumer interview as a whole, center on the idea of authenticity and her fear of “selling out.” But “authenticity” has no value in and of itself; it only gains meaning when imbued with specifics, and its history is indelibly rooted in political discourse and class struggle. It’s also worth remembering that the wealthy and the white disproportionately get to decide the parameters of this supposed virtue—making it an unfortunate coincidence that both women Roman chose to critique happen to be women of color.
Why does Roman seem to have no ire towards Paltrow selling snake oil and vagina eggs? What about that is any less offensive than Marie Kondo selling fancy boxes? What makes Roman’s limited capsule collection based on vintage spoons any more “authentic” than Teigen’s Target line? In other words: What values, in particular, does Roman think Teigen and Kondo are betraying by building their empires—and who gets to decide when those values have been betrayed? For now, at least, it’s just another mess on Twitter.