Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Carole Caplin and the WI

October meeting of the Fulham WI and a room full of women are greeting each other and catching up on a months worth of gossip. It is always a rewarding and interesting experience, the monthly WI meeting; the speakers are informative and it is always great to meet new people, especially such interesting and diverse women that comprise Fulham WI. But I digress. Last night, one of the two speakers was Carole Caplin.

Immaculately groomed and well made up, with long dark hair worn loose over a brown fitted jersey cardigan and a pair of brown jogging bottoms (which were more flattering than they sound) with pockets that she spent much time pushing her hands in and out of, she paced and gestured to the room. On her feet, a pair of those MBT trainers which help posture and burn calories when you walk. She looked as you might expect; a well-groomed, good looking, fitness and lifestyle advisor. A little too perfect perhaps: she appeared to have had a nose job and perhaps botox and must have been wearing an excellent bra...

And so she began, explaining the ethos of her company, Lifesmart, describing the background to her extensive career and why she was so passionate about what she does. She starts work at 7am and clearly works very hard. She mentioned her mother's experiences in setting up some of the first public dance studios when she was a teen and how this had fueled her interest in fitness and health. Very open, very friendly. But also very evasive. She deflected questions seamlessly and answered others not asked. But she was strangely compelling, charismatic and charming. She stressed the importance of a holistic attitude towards health: there is no one answer or cure, that all aspects and angles need consideration. The orthodox way should not be discounted out of hand; it is a useful diagnostic tool. But so too is questioning oneself honestly and openly and starting with the basics. Enough water, enough sleep, the right diet for you, correct breathing and the right exercises. This is the Lifesmart promise.

And it does sound compelling. The idea of someone guiding all aspects of your life and looking so good whilst doing so is certainly appealing. But something didn't sit quite right with me last night. I felt almost that I needed to remain cynical so as not to be taken in; that if I admitted that she was making some valid points I would be seduced by her claims and would end up parting with vast sums of cash to be told some things I probably could work our for myself.

And finally, she was asked about the 'Downing Street Debacle' (her words). She explained some of the background and told a few 'antidotes' (again, her words. I think she meant anecdotes). Obviously this being her life, she knew more about it than I did. But she told her point of view in such a fashion it seemed she expected we would have known every aspect of it already. People were mentioned by first name only, dates were vague and issues glossed over. She mentioned, several times, that a £1 million book deal had been turned down many time, as too appearances on celebrity reality television. And then moved on, as swiftly as she turned to the subject, outlining her plans to take her 'blueprint' of Lifesmart to other walks of life. Starting with school children. To which it was suggested she should combine forces with Jamie Oliver(!).

I left not really knowing any more than I did to start with. Is she what she seems, a charismatic, compelling, well presented woman with a genuine desire to improve people's lives, who found herself in a situation which became too big for her - or is she a social climber with a desire for fame, making the most of her friendships and the situation (after all, she now writes a column for the newspaper which exposed her)? So I did some research on the Internet. Is she a lifestyle guru on whom successful and independent women find themselves reliant, or, is she just someone you can't help but find yourself liking?

Or, as my friend C puts it: "(meeting Carole and seeing her charisma) makes it much less easy to dismiss her out of hand... I don't think Cherie Blair is an idiot by any means and she seems to have been drawn to her quite strongly...".

1 comment:

marmaladya.com said...

I was there too so its realy interesting to read your thoughts on Carole's talk. I have to say that before i ever met her i had read her book, Lifesmart and it had really helped me with loads of lifestyle and health things, so I was keen to meet the lady behind it. I htought she was great, really friendly and fun and compassionate. She must be doing someting right too cos she looked so well and healthy...fabulous skin. As to the nose job, maybe maybe not, but I think plastic surgery is great for certain people. If i coudlafford it I would get bits of me done in a flash... anyway interesting article Rachel although mine would have been much gushier. I LOVE Carole!!! I must be her number two fan (only second to Cherie)