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Chrissy Teigen turned relatability into a brand

Her new cookware collaboration with Target matches her accessible-meets-aspirational image.

Chrissy Teigen and John Legend take a selfie at a fancy benefit dinner
Chrissy Teigen and John Legend capture a low-key social media moment.
Andrew Goodman/Getty Images

After months of speculation, it is finally here: Reigning domestic goddess Chrissy Teigen has launched a line of kitchen and cookware. Available at Target, the “Cravings by Chrissy Teigen” collection — which comes on the heels of her best-selling cookbook, Cravings, but in advance of her future-best-selling follow up, Cravings: Hungry for More — will include 44 Chrissy-approved items, priced between $13.99 and $139.99.

You can buy a 7-inch serrated santoku knife or green enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or a whole 12-piece set of aluminum cookware that comes in either minty green or muted gray. Everything is supposed to feel “unique and special,” she told Target, and, I don’t know — they’re nice! They’re fine! They are an extremely attainable level of cool, which is to say: not very. I am cool enough for this cookware. You are also cool enough for this cookware. That’s the point.

Chrissy Teigen got famous as a model, but became a cultural phenomenon as a Twitter personality and culinary enthusiast. And she’s great at those things. (Well, she’s great at Twitter. I have never eaten her food, but critic Paula Forbes gives her cookbook a strong “fine.”) More than that, she is near-universally appealing. I have tried to be cynical about her, and let me just say, it’s a difficult pose to maintain. That she now has a Target collection is only logical. It would be weirder, in some ways, if she didn’t. Target, in 2018, is the only brand as likeable as she is.

She’s a domestic goddess for the Twitter age

“Every era gets the domestic goddesses it deserves,” wrote Emily Gould at Eater in 2016, nominating Gwyneth Paltrow and “model/funny Twitter person Chrissy Teigen” for ours. This was two years ago, but while there have since been additions to the Olympus of domesticity, Paltrow and Teigen still reign.

The difference is that Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t want to be your friend, and she doesn’t pretend she does. “It’s crucial to me that we remain aspirational,” she said, explaining the meaning and purpose of GOOP to Taffy Brodesser-Akner at the New York Times. By most accounts, her latest cookbook, It’s All Easy, is both pretty good and mostly in touch with reality, but she’s not going to collaborate with Target. She’s not going to even pretend she goes to Target. (One time she did wear this vest from Target on Instagram, though.)

But Chrissy Teigen, she loves Target. Her first modeling gig, a decade before Sports Illustrated, was a 2000 swimsuit campaign for Target. “Our daughter, Luna, is a once-a-week Target shopper. Sometimes she is recognized in the store before we are!” she said, in conversation with her pal Target.

Teigen’s whole brand is that she is just like you, only better. She is a swimsuit model, yes, but she is a chill swimsuit model who also sometimes eats chicken wings and posts on Instagram about her stretch marks. She’s married to John Legend, but she makes fun of him on Twitter, in a way that makes it seem like it would be very fun to be married to her, or to be her. “She’s famous,” wrote Meghan McCarron at Eater, “for being a famous person who uses the internet the way you would use the internet if you were famous.”

Chrissy Teigen is aspirational — but not too aspirational

The Chrissy Teigen story goes like this: She was working in a surf shop in Huntington Beach, California. “I couldn’t believe how hot the girls all were!” she recalled to Vegas magazine. She didn’t see herself as a hot girl (an important trait of a nice hot girl), but a photographer did. Before she was discovered, she’d wanted to go to culinary school. She met John Legend in 2007, on the set of a music video, and married him in 2013. It’s not that she’s famous because she’s married to a famous person — she’s accomplished in her own right, as a model/cookbook author/Twitter person.

But it’s also true that being married to a famous person suits her extremely well. He’s serious and she’s zany, and on social media, she gives us tiny bits of access to their photogenic, politically engaged lives. John Legend isn’t going to tell us anything, because he’s a regular kind of celebrity. Our friend Chrissy Teigen, though — she’s going to tell us everything.

To be a domestic goddess, wrote Gould, “a certain sloppiness or silliness is required; a non-professional, self-taught, this-is-just-what-works for me vibe.” Teigen cultivates this not only in her book, which is full of approachable, comforting recipes described with lots of enthusiastic adjectives, but also online. Look at this kind of goopy-looking carrot cake she made! Here she is on a quest for overripe bananas! And it’s not just the food: She posts about nightmarish flights and about postpartum depression. The anti-Taylor Swift, she is open about her politics: Teigen has been expertly trolling Trump on Twitter since 2011.

Last December, Eater named her Food Person of the Year, in celebration of her unpretentious, “‘anything-goes’ approach to food.” This is true. But her truest gift is authenticity. She says things a lot of famous, beautiful people say; she is hardly the only celebrity to profess a passionate love for fast food. The difference is, we believe her. And that’s saying something: It is not every famous swimsuit model who can convincingly rep the McDonald’s dollar menu. (She is as aware of this contradiction as anyone.)

Target is an all-purpose home goods store, but it’s a fun all-purpose home goods store. It’s attainable in price, but aspirational in attitude. “There are lots of little touches that give it a hint of a hint of glamour,” wrote one fan. The chain has a long history of collaborations with both brands and celebrities: Marimekko had line at Target. Hunter has a line at Target. Chip and Joanna Gaines — patron saints of American home restoration — have a line of homewares exclusive to Target. Target isn’t luxury, but it’s carved out a niche as the big box store with taste.

As McCarron observed, Teigen’s appeal “extends across all sorts of keywords — motherhood, celebrity, beauty, food.” You know where all those things intersect? (It’s Target.) It is exactly the kind of thing Teigen reps, products that are “aspirational the way hitting snooze maybe only twice instead of three times is aspirational.” You can totally be a person who cooks in these pots.

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