immersion journalism

My Week Living Like Shailene Woodley

Photo: George Pimentel/Getty Images

While the daily customs of most of our celebrities are cloaked in mystery, Shailene Woodley is extraordinarily public about her habits. It is the habits themselves that are extremely mysterious. In every interview, Woodley seems to mention a new and unusual habit, often intimidating in its earthliness. There’s clay eating. Oil pulling. Mushroom-tea slurping. Tanning one’s vagina. Et cetera. 

Who could learn of this litany of activities and resist this enchanted forest of fun? Not this girl. So for a week, I lived life according to the guidelines Woodley has outlined. For this whole week I feel excellent. My skin looks nice. My hair looks nice. My body feels nice to be in. I act nice. Nice, nice, nice. I am replete with gratitude and divine blessings. My chakras are both buzzing with life and calm with contentedness.

My week as a Woodley-inspired mountain sprite takes place during a trip to a wolf refuge in Colorado, that I sense would be a very “Shailene” place to be. As Shai described it in a tweet, this is what I was up to:

It’s a small, sustainable, ecologically conscious community. Like Shailene, I have no home and rely upon the kindness of others, albeit not Laura Dern. The creature comforts are limited and it’s powered by solar panels, which I help turn. I sleep in a tent by the wolf pens and a disturbingly medium-size anthill.

But not everything was sunshine and beet-stained lips and wildflowers and wolf-bonding (though most of it was!). As many times as the tasks were delightful, they were distressing. Organized by a rubric of difficulty, here follows the vibe-report on living the Woodley Wood-Sprite Lifestyle:

Stuff That Was a Sunshine Daydream:

• Foraging for wild raspberries. For every small scratch endured upon my arm, I felt that I was giving sustaining life force back to the berry bush providing me with such tangy nourishment.

•  Tanning nude (i.e., sunshine contacts a vagina). Friends: Just do it. It’s lovely and warm. Shailene promises this will guard you from yeast infections, and who is to say she’s wrong. I was lucky to be on this remote mountain, but I still got a chill buddy to guard. (My chill friend could not resist Vitamin D [as in dick] jokes, which was fun.) I nestled under some nice aspens, which provided flickering shade.

• Not washing my hair. Excuses to be dirty, masked as wholesomeness, are my favorite sort of excuses. Conditioning with olive oil has glossy results.

• Complimenting myself on laughing. Shailene says that laughing helps you age well. Hahahahahahaha!

• Affecting my speech by saying man a lot. I will do this for the rest of my life, man.

Stuff That Was Fine and Manageable, Thank Gaia: 

• Yoga before bed, followed by tea and reading poetry (and Anaïs Nin). My best self would do this. This is easy to do in the sense that this is so wonderful and I feel very deliberate in my actions (and it reminds me of the latter half of this Jewel song), but also a little guilt-making. What excuses do we have to simply flop into bed so unceremoniously each night? Why not treasure and cherish our tired little souls and lay them to sleep with stretching and comfort and love? I’m at a loss.

• Wearing all thrifted clothing. My wardrobe supports this, but I look at little goofy as the week wears on.

• Always carrying: a notebook (“to write during moments of feeling inspired”), a flashlight, a lighter, and a Mason jar with me. I try to get a bar to put beer in there and am ridiculed, rightly.

• Keeping a dream diary. Our brains do weird stuff, man. I admire my unique-snowflake subconscious, but am not totally down with digging. Let those sleeping dream-wolves lie, you know?

• Using clay-based makeup. Clay on my face, in my face, on my eyes, on my lips, in my mouth. My skin is stellar this week, perhaps in credit to this clay mask I made (Woodley’s recipe). The Tarte makeup brand (all natural, natch) is lovely stuff, and, I suppose, very gentle? Their faux-eyelash-dust stuff is glorious, and I feel like the most glamorous hippie that ever was.

• Hugging people I wouldn’t normally hug. This is not that weird. No one complains. People should hug more.

Stuff That Wasn’t Hard Enough to Complain About:

• Eating clay: I didn’t hate it! I used Living Clay and Redmond Clay, which are sold, comfortingly, at Whole Foods. Clay is a diet suppressant, which was surprising. I am confused at my stomach’s ability to chill out for a minute. I feel pretty healthful the whole week, but I must note that placebo effects work wonders on me.

• Contending with this mantra: Everything is sacred and nothing is sacred. Woodley says, “I say that to myself every day because it reminds me that life is beautiful and we should take it seriously, but then, on the other end of the spectrum, you can’t take everything so seriously that you’re ignoring the present moment.” I feel a little lost in the wish-wash of this, but its tautological emptiness also makes it difficult to argue with. 

• Clay toothpaste. Did that stuff work? I wonder, when I’m speaking to people. Wondering about whether your toothpaste works is one of the most unsettling minor anxieties.

Things That Pushed the Edges of My Hippie Soul:

• Oil pulling. I swished a tablespoon of coconut oil in my mouth for 20 minutes, to combat the toxins. The first 3 minutes were easy, then the next 3 minutes were excruciating, then it was just terrible and gross for the remaining 14. At the end I lost my mind and had to dance to Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” on repeat. I think you can’t be mad about your current problems when you’re listening to Nelly, so it really did help, if anyone wants Oil-Pulling Tips.

• Following this morning ritual, which truly confronted my cynicism about waking up:

The second I wake up, I scream very loudly [to the tune of ‘Good Morning’ from Singin’ in the Rain], ‘Good morning! Good morning!’ And then I scream out, ‘Exciting day! Exciting day!’ I feel like it completely sets the mood for the whole day.

• Similarly, using Gaia in a sentence proves nearly impossible.

• Being super into my period. Woodley is dedicated to “Womb Wisdom” (I like those sounds together!) and has lightly criticized people about their attitude toward “women’s menstrual cycles — we’ve lost touch with how beautiful they are, how they’re part of the process of life.” I mean … sure? This is a nice and grounded thought to have when you’re pondering the human body, but then when it comes down to the situation, fuck that shit, you know?

Stuff That Was Too Difficult to Actually Accomplish: 

• Allowing myself to be a stung by a stinging nettle. I couldn’t do it. This was particularly pathetic, because my CSA actually sent me stinging nettles the week before I went to Colorado. I failed and learned exactly where the limits of my hippy-spirit lay.

Gratitude and Conclusions:

So, what promises, bestowed upon me by the good Earth and delivered through the Earth’s most enthusiastic activist, were fulfilled? Did I have whiter teeth? A little! Was I saved from any yeast infections? None seemed to be approaching and none arrived, so sure, we can give a little credit to the sunshine. Was I likely lightly scented with B.O. for a week? Certainly (wolves don’t care). Did have a healthier, toxic-free constitution? Why not. Did I have natural outdoorsy-girl hair? I did. Was I now filled with enough quips about unusual habits to last a lifetime of late-night television interviews? Just try me.

My Week Living Like Shailene Woodley