Sep. 10, 2013 at 2:17 PM ET
It is common knowledge that Gwyneth Paltrow is perfect. She is flawlessly beautiful, cooks her own organic vegan meals, has a solid marriage, and has been perched at the top of the Hollywood A-list for 15 years. So what is she trying to hide from Vanity Fair?
This week, a New York Times story revealed that Paltrow, 40, sent out a private email urging her friends not to speak to the high-profile magazine.
"Vanity Fair is threatening to put me on the cover of their magazine," Paltrow reportedly wrote in May. "If you are asked for quotes or comments, please decline. Also, I recommend you all never do this magazine again."
Harsh words, considering that Paltrow has already graced the cover of Vanity Fair several times. So what changed? Well, the magazine, for one thing. The Times describes how Vanity Fair has recently "toughened its coverage of Hollywood." The paper gives two examples: that jaw-dropping story about Tom Cruise "auditioning" wives at the Scientology center, and a recent article about the production problems plaguing Brad Pitt's film World War Z. Neither of these stories sat well with the Hollywood elite, who have come to expect that Vanity Fair will make them look flawless, rather than exposing their flaws.
As we have noted, though, Paltrow doesn't have any flaws. Okay, obviously, she's only human and probably gets stomach aches sometimes and maybe even a pimple. But she has spent the last few years inviting fans into her private world, via her newsletter GOOP, her cookbooks, and her Twitter page. Every once in a while, she confesses a dirty secret, like that time she ate fried chicken. (That's about as dirty as it gets.) She seems like a woman who has it all, to the point that it's often really annoying.
So then there are two reasons that Paltrow might not want Vanity Fair poking into her life. One is that she's taking a stand, on behalf of Cruise and Pitt and any other celebrities who have been burned by the magazine. She's trying to send the magazine a message that they can't publish that kind of thing and get away with it. Or—and this is the more intriguing possibility—Paltrow has something she doesn't want Vanity Fair to know, and she's worried that it will be exposed.
We have no idea what Paltrow could be that desperate to keep secret. It can't be anywhere near as bad as the alleged wife-recruitment practices of Cruise.
Here's the thing, though: Gwyneth Paltrow is no longer just an actress. She's a lifestyle brand. And maybe it wouldn't take something so big to puncture her perfect image. If she has a private chef to cook her famous home-cooked meals, or she parks her kids in front of the TV all day, that could be enough. In the interest of protecting her brand, she has to appear better than most of us. Heaven forbid that we find out she's just a human being after all!
Donna Kaufman is a freelance writer and iVillage contributor—find her on Twitter.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.