64 Comments
May 22Liked by Sara Petersen

Nara has vocalized many times that she is not a trad wife. That she and her husband split household labor evenly. And that she enjoys cooking as a hobby. She also does not show her children, at all. Much of the very bad faith critique comes from being uncomfortable that a Black woman is living the good life with a teen heartthrob.

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As a biracial stay-at-home mom I can attest and confirm this commentary, thank you anonymous. The white feminist gaze on homemaking often tells on itself.

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Also maybe she's not a tradwife, maybe she's just ~european~

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Oh no, I called her a trad wife in my comment, because that is how I see her content described.

I wasn't aware of bad faith critique of her (though believe you that it exists)- I find her content fascinating in a "why do I find it fascinating?" way and that's the main discourse I've seen too. I think it's the artistry of it- her make up, clothing, posing and taking up space, so incongruous while cooking family food at home.

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No, totally didn't mean that in response to your comment but rather that she has directly replied to the tradwife critique and stated that she is not a tradwife in any way and her family doesnt ascribe to traditional gender roles. Her videos are a schtick just like most things on Tiktok. I don't spend a lot of time watching her, because she moves so slow, but I am extra sensitive to how cruel people are to her despite her constant pushing back on assumptions and categorizations.

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yes exactly this

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I follow Nara and have seen a lot of her videos over the last few months. I feel torn about her. On the one hand, I do enjoy (the obvious facade) of the easy, smooth, luxurious handmadeness of it all. The fancy outfits, the low unaffected voice "then you just fold it in until it looks right" the long nails that never get dough under them, the lack of children yelling in the background, the ridiculousness of "my kids wanted cereal so I decided to make them some" and then CRAFTING CEREAL DOUGH and making it for hours??? It feels so so luxury and out of reach.

It scratches an itch I think the Kardashians were supposed to, but for some reason, they never hit like that for me. It's that aspirational, "I could never but I enjoy watching you experience it", sort of thing.

On the other hand, some days the "my kids aren't big snackers but they wanted Cheezits so I decided to make them some" sounds like such an obvious click baity thing, that it just turns me off. Maybe it was the "my kids aren't big snackers". I don't even have kids but the mom-superiority in that line like raises my hackles. I also sometimes wish she'd drop the curtain and say haha yeah when I make a video of cereal for breakfast, my kids eat a different breakfast while they wait. Like acknowledge that. It feels like uncanny valley at times.

The vibe with her and her husband is at times cute, at times a little weird. He is kind of objectifying about her- nearly every time I see them on screen together he slaps her ass or eyes her or something that makes me uncomfortable. I get it you're attracted to her, but if my husband did that to me on camera filming my video, I'd be upset. But everyone's different.

But even if the aesthetic isn't mine, I do love it. It's cozy yet minimalist yet fancy. Like I said- it's what the Kardashians were trying to be in the culture for me, but failed at. Nara is doing it for me. I can't look away, even when I'm irritated.

And the ppl who say she's a trad wife- she is a trad wife in the sense that Kim K was a trad wife. Which is to say... not at all lol. There is zero faith based content, it's all very glamourous and opulent and "don't you wish you could murmur instructions into a beater bowl of homemade cookies n cream ice cream at midnight that you made for yourself as a snack". No work no effort, just princess mode, while doing silly amounts of work to recreate the wheel aka literally making homemade Oreos or moisturizer or whatever she will make next. The homemade moisturizer isn't because she doesn't like the chemicals from Big Pharma or something. It's for the homemade aesthetic. Homemade as in handsewn couture- not as in Betty from Farmville. It's like if Ballerina Farm made more ballet content. Something about it is touched in old luxury and THAT's the point, not the stay at home wifeyness of it all. It's more like a Madame entertaining callers in the 1800s in her parlor. Gilded Age.

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Oh wow this reference to the Gilded Age is ON POINT for me!

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The video that lives rent-free in my head is Nara narrating a trip to an Asian grocery store. and among her purchases is pre-pealed garlic cloves. This is a woman who scratch makes the oreos for her scratch-made cookies and cream ice cream! Is garlic pealing a bridge too far? Does it reveal a gap between her life and her public persona? I have spent way too much time thinking about that garlic.

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I love Nara. Its ASMR and pretty eyecandy entertainment at its finest. I think people forget that Social media has always been aspirational and that 90% of it is not real. WE ONLY KNOW WHAT THEY SHOW US. That is true if you are a trad wife, a working mom who gets it all done, an influencer influencing or just someone who uses it as a creative outlet. Now, she IS most likely cooking all of those things. It's most likely done over a period of time rather than all at once like the videos make it seem. Yes Lucky seems to loves her, he's affectionate and I have heard some folks are uncomfortable with it and that blows my mind but thats a convo for another day. She like many women I know may actually LIKE to get dressed up even though they aren't leaving the house.For some of us, that makes us feel good. Even with a newborn. Yes she is capitalizing on the trad wife trend without being an actual trad wife. Posting these videos to TikTok may be her way of bringing in income to her family. Ok all that to say, I enjoy seeing what she's going to cook next, or what she's wearing or where she's shopping. Its fun

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Yes! It's sort of surprising to me the obvious ASMR and the luxuriating in aesthetics isn't more of a focus when it comes to media coverage of her.

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May 22Liked by Sara Petersen

I started seeing her content in my FYP around when I started reading your newsletter this spring, and for the first week or two I thought she was parodying trad wives. Ultimately, to me, how she wants to raise her kids and feed her family is up to her and not my business to judge. I really enjoy watching her cook!

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May 22Liked by Sara Petersen

I find it interesting that someone who does not identify as Black, has Blackness projected on them as a shield of protection. Nara’s content is very slick rage baiting, that relies heavy on aesthetics to obscure the trad wife politic. Aside from whiteness, Nara supremely checks off all the boxes for proper Mormon trad wife, and in my opinion does a better job then most convincing a diverse audience to buy into that lifestyle. That sort of content is VERY tedious and laborious to produce; definitely have to have a team behind them. But the viewer is transfixed on the beauty, purity, the wealth and supposed ease that they should attempt to mirror in their lives. This is the type of motherhood and feminity one should strive for.

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Your point about obscuring the trad wife politic is so interesting! AS IS your point about maybe drawing in a more diverse audience to what are ultimately retrograde ideals that rely on privilege.

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Nara has never stated she does not identify as Black. That's a wildly incendiary comment.

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She’s never identified her self as Black. Idk who you are bc you’re anonymous, but as a Black woman and historian, I’m not having this convo with an anonymous person.

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Well then don't comment your opinions on the internet, that's ridiculous. I'm also a Black woman. She has not made a single video about how she categorizes herself, but she has made videos about how people falsely assume she wants to distance herself from Blackness due to how she wears her hair. Claiming that Blackness is a "shield" for her in a community dominated by white women is certainly an interesting choice.

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Mmkay. We can’t verify your racial identity. And you seem to lack an understanding of how the constructs of race work, as you make up things. Enjoy your day.

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Lol at you getting nasty and short for no reason. Thank you for the well wishes, my day is great already and will continue to be. I wish the same for you!

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May 22Liked by Sara Petersen

I don't mind Nara. I also want to name that I think many people are extra critical of Nara because she is a woman of color.

I was GOOPED by her homemade bubblegum video. She made this a home??!?! I think I'm most curious about the 'how' behind these mom-fluencers. How do they have the time? Where are the kids? What is her grocery list like?

I think it says a lot about our culture that this type of motherhood is what we are all watching right now. Elaborate meals, made by a traditionally attractive woman with an ASMR like tone in her beautiful home. I watch these videos and think what is so different between the two of us. Is Nara more patient? Am I not maximizing the hours I have in a day? Is this what mothers are expected to aspire to or perform as? Many questions and so few answers.

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So interesting Keilah, and I agree re: the targeted criticism. I don't find myself wondering about the differences lol - mostly because I KNOW I'm not very patient and I KNOW I wouldn't be able to commit as much time as she does to cooking, you know? Also I missed the homemade bubble gum video! Mind blown.

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May 22Liked by Sara Petersen

I like her. She’s talented and cool. She taught herself to cook really delicious looking things that inspire me. Obviously there’s aspects that are performative for social but I find her to be genuine and just enjoying doing her thing.

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I think she's clever, basically. It's fascinating; if you scroll back just 1 year her videos were so stylistically different and she was cooking with tinned soup, pre packaged spices, but she's pushed the aesthetic around being a trad wife in a new direction that clearly people find fascinating!

I do think it is much easier to separate the Instagram Nara from real life Nara in a way that Ballerina Farm makes more difficult, because "my kids are hungry so I baked them breakfast from scratch in a silent kitchen wearing white silk slip, it took 3 hours" is so obviously just a narrative for a video, so I suppose people are less likely to feel as though they're not "meeting the standard" when Nara clearly isnt defining it.

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RIGHT! Yeah her stuff is SO polished and ASMR-y and all the things.

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omg just commented a version of this! The narrative is the thing that really gets on my nerves!

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Jun 5Liked by Sara Petersen

In case you didn’t hear this, I think there’s a TON of great stuff here that overlaps with your work:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/youre-wrong-about/id1380008439?i=1000657221736

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ah YES i love you're wrong about SO MUCH

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This trad wife ep really got me.

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May 26Liked by Sara Petersen

It me it's the performance of trad wife as easy and effortless that turns me off. It's so hard staying at home and society is kind of starting to believe us that we need so much more support. But I fear influencers like Nara Smith and Ballerina Farm display our work as easy. In reality what they are doing is taking a massive amount of time, money, and work.

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For me Nara Smith is:

1. The internet’s most talented content creator

2. The internet's biggest troll

The two are connected (and both complimentary), let me explain...

Nara has shown us that she's an absurdly talented cook, beautiful, keeps a stunning home, has a hot husband, a gorgeous gaggle of kids and is blessed with the perfect voice for our ASMR-obsessed times. She's also shown us that she knows better than most how to make incredibly compelling videos that are optimised for TikTok.

Nara seems to understand in her bones what will get engagement on the platform. I'm sure some of it comes naturally to her but I also get the impression that she's taken a leaf out of (YouTube king) MrBeast's book and that she studies the performance analytics of her videos, the TikTok platform and figures out exactly what works, what doesn't and is constantly figuring out ways to maximise engagement.

The formula that she's landed on (that supersizes her videos views, time spent and comments) relies on her behaving like a troll. When I say troll I really don’t mean that she hurls insults or bullies people, I mean it in the way that she seems to intentionally set out to get engagement by offending sensibilities. To me her schtick is to consciously induce outrage from viewers by being provocative. If this is not the case then are we to believe that her kids were hungry but then waited seven business days for a grilled cheese? That she really makes meals in evening wear? That her husband makes his own moisturiser when he runs out? That she thinks she's bad at baking? That she considered calling her youngest child Tank?

I think she knows exactly what she's doing and she's a master at it. I love her for it!

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Seven business days for grilled cheese 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

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I just don’t get it. I’ve watched a couple videos to see what all the fuss is about and I just don’t get it. Like if I never see another video by her, I’d be A-ok. But I feel like I’m missing something because so many other people are liking and commenting. Generally, I don’t voluntarily watch things with people who are super polished/dressed in a way that is unrealistic because it does tend to make me feel bad about myself, so I just avoid it on principle. But this is different. There is an element of that, although it’s not the main thing. I guess I’m not sure if I should take it seriously or like parody. And her monotone voice overs. I can only take those if they’re supposed to be funny (like in a completely different context), and since that is not their purpose, I can’t deal with them.

To your point though, I’m sure this says more about me than her. I am a person who does not enjoy people who take themselves too seriously and can’t break the fourth wall (both on insta and in real life) and call out the bull shit in and around themselves. This probably stems from my constant feeling that everyone else is able to do this whole life thing in a seamless/easy way and I’m the only one who finds it hard. When people (friends and influencers) recognize the hard parts of life, whether seriously or with humor, I feel less alone. So those are the kind of people I seek, and I don’t really give time to others who don’t.

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Breaking the fourth wall: yes! You just put into words one of the things that bug me about these type of videos. Like, I'm here for the laughs and the not-so-serious takes. I'm going to be thinking about this all day now!

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I'm ready to fight (with my words) anyone who says Nara Smith is a trad wife. She's not!!! Enjoying cooking does not make someone a tradwife. Being a mormon (which it's debatable whether or not she is or are we just ASSUMING it because her husband is) does not make someone a tradwife. Having children young does not make someone a tradwife. A tradwife by definition is someone who ascribes to and is pushing for a return to traditional gender roles, which she has repeatedly shown and said she does not. Can we just let this beautiful woman cook, I beg.

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A younger friend of mine (a 20-something male, white, single, gay grad student…for reference!) first showed me one of her videos. I had never heard of her. He was appalled that I didn’t know who she was! Haha. He showed me a video of her making grilled cheese for her hungry kids. Like, okay, cool! Talented at making things from scratch! But clearly this is not what you gave your hungry kids. Because they were hungry THEN and this took several hours, plus filming and editing.

I kind of rolled my eyes and said I didn’t like videos like that and hate-watching those is one of the reasons I needed to get off of Instagram (12 months now without it!). He said, “Oh, because it makes you feel like you’re failing as a mom or something?” WHAT? No! I took that opportunity to school him on a few things. 😅 I may or may not have even cited this newsletter once or twice. ;)

NO, it’s not because it makes me feel like I’m failing. It’s because to me it feels like an utter waste of time. Why??? Why be performative in this way? Who is it serving? And are there moms out there who DO feel like a failure when watching these? If so, that makes me so sad. So why do videos and influencers like this even have to exist? Ya know? So that’s the real “me” of it all — I get existential about it real quick. I get mad at the system. I get mad at the algorithms and platforms and the things that occupy people’s time and space. I can’t control any of that and maybe that’s why it makes me mad.

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oh man this comment! I find myself feeling nothing about content like this simply because it's SO performative - I can see maybe people finding it soothing ie ASMR, but there's nothing about it that feels aspirational to me since it's so over the top performative, you know? but yes - WHY? is the question!

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also MASSIVE CONGRATS for 12 months off Insta!

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Thank you!!! So much of my brain space is freer. It’s truly amazing.

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Like most influencers with kids, it's the invisible labor required, while pretending there is no invisible labor, that gets me. Who is watching her kids for hours as she bakes cereal from scratch and films and edits? Is she doing the really heavy cooking in a t shirt and sweats and then changing into a glamorous outfit for the 'pretty' parts? And the rings on while baking, of course.

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I really liked what the "in Bed with the Right" podcast said about Nara and how she fits into the larger 'tradwife' online community which is that she seems to fulfill a different aspirational niche than other typical 'tradwifes.' Rather than homesteading and weaving your own clothes or whatever, you have a huge beautiful house (mansion?) with sweaters that cost thousands of dollars. Her content still revolves around the domestic sphere and domestic work, but with a different aesthetic. It's also interesting how a common denominator among 'tradwife' influencers is Mormonism.

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The main thing I find grating is the way she frames her videos. "My husband wanted an Oreo blizzard but I told him I would just make him one." *proceeds to make homemade Oreos and all* "My kids woke up asking for a PB&J so that's exactly what I did." *makes everything from scratch from the bread to the peanut butter to the jelly* The framing is crazy to me. I don't care if you want to make these things from scratch (I bet they're delicious!) but no toddler is waiting for bread to rise, etc. when they want a PBJ. Also her videos are clearly done in specific (read: very good) lighting, so it's not like she's just rolling out of bed to make these things, like she often claims.

I'm baffled that so many of the comments on her videos are some version of "I will never skip a Nara Smith video." Which: fine! Good for you! I actually kind of enjoy watching the food-making process. But the way she sets up the entire video bothers me, like she's untrustworthy or something. To me, it sounds like she's making up some false premise behind making her food...just tell us you wanted to make homemade Snickers bars, Nara!

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Another thing I've noticed her do lately is say things like "I'm not very good at baking" while she's making like, the most perfect-looking homemade croissants or whatever. I'm not sure if it's her trying to be relatable or what but it comes across just *off* to me.

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I do wonder if the "my husband asked for" and "my kid asked for" is actually parody or satire? Like - WE ALL know there's no hungry kid waiting more than 5 minutes for anything, you know?

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I've followed her for awhile and her posts have become so over the top but I almost feel like she's in on the joke? Like she understands that making homemade goldfish is ridiculous so why not get the views? I genuinely think she's impressive, both as a chef (and she's SO young!) and as a business-person. I'm not really into celebrity culture so God knows what she's actually like in person, but she sees very capable and sweet. I just desperately want to know their childcare situation. Does Lucky actually watch the kids himself the entire time she cooks? Do they have a nanny or two? Totally fine if they do, I just wish she'd acknowledge it! Her entire lifestyle is very emblematic of the idea that true luxury in 2024 is about having the free time and resources to invest in wellness. I don't begrudge her any of it, especially as a WOC, but I just want more details about what makes this life possible.

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This is the comment thread I was looking for! I love cooking. I would love to spend a day meal prepping for the week and, you know, I could even get sold on making cheese its if I had time, that sounds like a delicious creative exploration. But what is so hard is the logistics of how it works. Where are the kids for a whole day? How is she pregnant and her joints not aching? How many assistants and nannies are there? Between working a different schedule as my partner and my low back issues, it’s hard to imagine I could cook all day and not be sweating to death in the kitchen with the oven and the crockpot and the skillet. But whether she is “in” on it or not, the internet can’t handle nuance and now are moms going to be judged for not making gum?? But seriously Nara, teach us how you get these chunks of time alone in your home to pursue a hobby. 👀

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Just to add on to this, I'll echo a comment someone else said (Jenn) that the anxiety-inducing part isn't necessarily her content, but viewers taking it seriously as a daily journal as opposed to *content* and then having wildly unrealistic ideas of what motherhood and housekeeping should look like.

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I wouldn't say I have a strong love/hate opinion on her either way, but I'm FASCINATED by her. I think it's because I can't figure her out?? She must be in on the joke, but in her videos she acts like she's not, but then in the comments and replies of her videos she does?? She either has a great sense of humor or none at all, and I don't know which one it is! You also rarely see her kids and never any nannies/grandparents/childcare providers so her actual home life is kind of a mystery.

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I was going to comment something in the exact same vein, I think people have big feelings about her because she's such a blank slate!! You can kind of imagine whatever you want to be true and none of her content will ever directly refute it

My only actual dislike of her is the lobotomy-core voice she narrates all her videos with, it feels very put-on and unsettling to me but maybe she does just talk like that lol

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i love nara ! she has talked in a few videos about how she was having eczema problems so she started making her food from scratch and it helped her be able to eat things she loves again. she also is a literal model and often talks about how lucky cleans, takes care of the babies, etc and is transparent about how her parents help out when lucky travels for work and that she does not do everything herself! i think we all should let her make her silly lil videos in peace !

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I find her mind blowingly beautiful and was bowled over when I saw her content. All a performance complete with ASMR purr, dresses etc. (The post and pod ep by Tara McMullin about social content as performance helps me keep all this in perspective: https://www.whatworks.fyi/p/the-many-hats-of-leigh-stein?lli=1)

But vids of her sitting perfectly poised on the beach, peeling a mandarin whilst breastfeeding seemingly holding the whole baby in the crux of her arm with no leakage etc just felt like another piece of content in the 'perfect earthy cool mom' bucket.

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Just checked her out on TikTok and WHEW. The glamour! The youth! Literally a 23 year old model with a model husband and money and damn can she cook. I just consumed months of her content and feel…pleasantly bemused and envious? On the momfluencer wheel of feelings that’s not so bad! Profile her, I’d like to learn more!

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Ummm, Nara who?? lol (But then, I'm old!)

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I'd have to go look at her stuff to form an opinion

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She hasn’t popped up for me before. I watched the video linked here, and it made me feel tired just watching it. I wanted to roll up her sleeves. And her expression on her face was kind of blank; I don’t want to watch more of these.

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Her voice drives me insane. I just can’t watch her. I really don’t like ASMR and watching her is ASMR to the extreme combined with a weird cultish feel.

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The one thing that gets me with Nara Smiths videos is the extreme luxury she portrays by haven the time to cook and bake soooo slowly. She even talks provocatively slow and soft. It feels like the most extreme form of privilege in todays society so express that “my life has no stress in it!”. She always looks amazing. There are never any dishes or cleaning needing to be done. No kids screaming or fighting in the background. To me it is the illusion of social media to the extreme.

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I dislike her content on the rare occasion that I see it but only because I hate how slowly she talks (relatedly, I also hate ASMR content). I just want to yell “talk normally!!!”

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I don’t have a strong opinion about Nara Smith the person- but I do think the brand and idea and fame of Nara Smith is a fascinating spotlight on our culture’s pedestalization of beautiful, effortless homemakers.

I think she has to be in on the joke. I imagine her watching everyone go nuts commentating about how absurd it is to make bubble gum from scratch to satisfy your kids craving and laughing like a maniac as she rakes in thousands per video. Smart gal.

I would be happy to simply applaud the business-savvy queen if it weren’t for her connection to Mormonism- which as an ex-Mormon reeeeally complicates my simple enjoyment of her videos without wondering about the problematic ethos behind a woman beautifully, gleefully cooking for husband and kids.

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I love her recipes - I think she’s an excellent cook and I frequently feel inspired to make more creative things after watching her videos. I appreciate that what she makes (or chooses to show us she makes) seems focused on what she’s in the mood for or has a craving for rather than on the task of feeding her whole family. BF’s food content always seems kid / whole family focused and I don’t get that vibe from Nara. The food and cooking is what keeps me coming back.

Similar to BF in the beginning, I’m somehow tricked at times into forgetting that these two are very wealthy. Their shopping trip to the mall and a few other videos have helped remind me that this is a celebrity and his model wife I’m watching. There must be a ton of behind the scenes / out of the frame help in their home because I’m frequently wondering where the hell the kids are when she’s cooking these elaborate meals and I find it hard to believe Lucky is hanging with them for all that time.

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I don’t have strong opinions either way, although I do like that she deconstructs industrial food: the food industry has tricked all of us into thinking somethings are only available commercially produced on a huge scale. Mostly I think about her team of assistants lurking in the background. Then I feel annoyed at her choice of countertop material, which appears to be quartz with faux-marble veining. I hate that stuff! They obviously have means. Since aesthetics are so important to these types of videos, why didn’t they choose classic, natural marble instead?

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I'm not mad at her, also not a fan- just because I think she's making niche content now, and it's not my niche (cooking everything so from scratch that it takes hours to make breakfast cereal).

I don't even think that it affects her real life (except that it makes her money?)! I think she just does it as a stunt to Make Content. And the more ridiculous or convoluted the content, the more eyeballs. We may never know.

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I only know who this woman is because they’ve talked about her on Who? Weekly. What little I’ve seen of her seems like a straight-up parody of momfluencer stuff. I think if you read it that way it’s kind of brilliant?! But then there’s the Mormonism of it all and I don’t know what to think.

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I watched a couple videos. Her videos are obviously unrealistic (the whole, my kids are hungry so I’ll spend hours making pb&j from scratch is, as others have commented, insane) and it’s interesting in the newer ones that she has at least a moment of her holding the baby (so you know she’s somehow taking care of a baby in her fancy dress while cooking?). My problem is the comments section. Whether she intends it or not, people DO take her videos seriously. So many comments on what a good, wholesome mom she is. How people who don’t do this are lazy. And anyone earnestly asking if it’s a joke, or how is it possible she does this is attacked. This woman has better priorities, more time, isn’t lazy, must care more about her kids/family than you if you can’t do this. It’s totally possible! Making a focaccia and breaded chicken sandwich from scratch with your own condiments isn’t that hard. None of that takes very long. Anyone could do it if they cared to.

That’s the problematic part. And also her weird bubble looking plates with raised rounded sides? I hate them.

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Meh, I feel nothing. Have only watched a few videos, but her monotone voice is weird, otherwise evokes no strong opinions from me.

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