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  • Marisa Meltzer

Gwyneth Paltrow: "Don’t Put Me on Truth Serum"

Actress and Entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow knows she and her company are cultural lightning rods. By Marisa Meltzer. Photographs by Dana Scruggs.


Paltrow, an actress and the founder and CEO of Goop, was draped horizontally over a chair in the living room of her home in Amagansett, New York. “I think people think I’m the figurehead,” she said. “I definitely operate the company, but I’ve never been a person to try to correct public opinion or a misconception. I think it’s a bit of a fruitless exercise.”


She gestured with her hands while she talked and pointed and kicked her shoeless feet for emphasis.


October saw Goop celebrate its 15th anniversary. And Paltrow, 51, was feeling reflective, drinking tea and wearing a blue-and-white striped caftan she bought from a sponsored post on Instagram that had no tag other than a size medium.


Goop started in 2008 with a newsletter she wrote from her home in London, where she was living with her two young children — Apple, who is now 19, and Moses, 17 — and her first husband, Coldplay singer Chris Martin.


“I had a very small, nice life in North London with my mother, mummy friends and married to a rock star, which came with a set of complications,” she said. “If you’re married to someone who’s a touring musician, you’re home by yourself a lot. And so I was in this little bubble with my kids, and I obviously had not wanted to travel and work and be on a set.”


It had been about a decade since she won the Academy Award for best actress for “Shakespeare in Love”. “Hold on,” she said. “What year was it? I have it in the other room, I’ll go look what it says.” She jogged to an adjoining room to retrieve the Oscar statuette from 1998.


Her Amagansett home has a great deal of security, including a guard dog, a house manager and a room of security cameras. The interior smells aggressively of cedar and is decorated in neutral tones of cream, with Aesop hand soap and a digital scale in a guest bathroom. Outside, there are manicured lawns and a tub filled with flip-flops.



At first, Goop was mostly recommendations. “I always felt like I got the biggest buzz out of ‘I have the answer to your question,’ ” she said. “‘There’s a great reflexology place around the corner.’ ” Now, the company has 170 employees, Paltrow estimated, and encompasses a whole constellation of healthy-ish, wellness-flavoured brands.


There is the newsletter; a podcast with more than 100 million downloads; a line of beauty products called Goop Beauty; clothing — G. Label by Goop — made of soft fabrics in neutral shades; Goop Wellness, which sells vitamins and sexual aids; two shows on Netflix; five stores; a takeout chain in Southern California called Goop Kitchen; In Goop Health, a franchise of wellness summits; and a cruise that was the subject of a cover story for Harper’s Magazine.


Its anniversary products and services will include a two-bedroom Goop villa to stay in at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida, complete with Goop products in the bathrooms and Goop x Fromental wallpaper; a $3,900 limited-edition Lobmeyr crystal vase, designed in collaboration with the FoundRae jewellers; and products such as Goopglow Microderm Instant Glow Exfoliator in commemorative packaging.


“Goop is an irreplaceable provocateur in the cause for good” is a line from one of its own news releases. But whether that is true beyond its customers and fans remains to be seen. The brand is responsible for candles called This Smells Like My Vagina and This Smells Like My Orgasm. Her 2014 post on her divorce from Martin brought the phrase “conscious uncoupling” to the world.


“If history has shown me anything, it’s that I’m always looking back, going, ‘Wow, that was an interesting thing to experiment with,’ ” she said.


This year, Paltrow was roundly mocked online for a filmed interview in which she talked about intermittent fasting and her seemingly stringent diet.


“About the bone broth? Oh, my God,” Paltrow said. “Was I aware? Apple was like, ‘Mom, you’re on TikTok.’ ” Paltrow said she eats three meals a day and has a broad range of what she considers healthy.


“I think a European croissant is a superfood, by the way,” she said. “Today, I had a peanut butter smoothie. And for lunch we had a chopped Italian chicken salad.” (She married producer Brad Falchuk in 2018.)


Even if Paltrow has not had a starring role in many years, she is still an actress who, the Puck News journalist Lauren Sherman wrote, “can convincingly sell anything”.


That includes the clothing, mostly from Goop’s G. Label, she wore to testify in a trial in March for a 2016 skiing collision at Deer Valley Resort in Utah that injured a retired optometrist named Terry Sanderson. (The jury found her not at fault.) She may not have been consciously trying to sell her outfits, but spectators were taking note of every one she wore.


“I was just getting dressed and going to a pretty intense experience every day,” Paltrow said. “And the sartorial outcome was so weird to me. That whole thing was pretty weird. I don’t know that I’ve even processed it. It was something I felt like I survived. Sometimes in my life it takes me a long time to look back and process something and understand something.”


Paltrow has posted sponsored online content for a posture corrector. Last year, she publicly supported Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, a wealthy real estate developer and former Republican who changed his party affiliation before entering the race. “I think I’m open-minded about everybody,” she said. “I love to hear what people have to say.”


Recently she listened to an episode of the “All-In” podcast with presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr, whose anti-vaccine rhetoric and embrace of conspiracy theories have made him a controversial figure. “It was very interesting to hear his point of view,” she said. “Since then he’s said some things that I think are tricky, let’s put it that way.” (Later, a representative for Paltrow called me to express concerns that her political views would be a focus of this article and said that she is more of an “independent thinker”.)


As an entrepreneur, Paltrow may have more power to wield than she ever did when she was regularly acting. “I’ve thought about it in terms of my lived experience of being an actor who was told to be here at this time, to wear that and to stand there and to do it again,” she said. “So, you never feel on a movie set that you have power. It was hard for me to do what I’m told, but I also never had any desire to be a director or be behind the scenes in that industry at all. I feel like I was always tugging a little at the constraints of it.”


Her friend Brit Morin, founder of e-commerce site Brit + Co, said Paltrow’s cultural impact through Goop was different. “Although the win-loss rate of movies and startups is similar, the difference is there are outsize returns in venture capital in startups,” said Morin, whose site sometimes features Goop products. “You can get a 1,000-times return on investment, and a box office has never seen that. Entertaining is a short-term way to influence someone. She’s created products people have in their homes, are using on their faces, wearing, eating.”


Goop declined to give revenue or income figures for this interview and would not say if it is profitable.


Paltrow has been the CEO of Goop since 2017. “In terms of learning the lessons of how to be a leader, it took me a long time because I was learning on the job,” she said. “Especially on the people front. If you don’t come up through a corporate culture, it’s really hard to understand how to manage people and how to set good boundaries.”


She did not cite specific examples. But one increasingly high-profile former employee comes to mind: Elise Loehnen, who left the company in 2020 and wrote “On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good”, a New York Times bestseller. In August, Loehnen spoke to the New York Times about her departure from Goop. “My interests were moving out of this idea of self-optimisation,” she said. “I think what happens in the wellness world is this desire for control and certainty.”


Exactly what Goop’s strategy is for long-term growth, or an exit in the form of an acquisition or an initial public offering, remains to be seen. “If Gwyneth and team want to build the business with the scale and margin structure to be a large standalone as a public company or as part of a business, we are supportive,” said Tony Florence, of New Enterprise Associates, which has invested in the company. Dana Settle of Greycroft, another fund that has invested in Goop, said, “I would love for her to take this company public and have her do it as the CEO, but it’s her life.”


An event at Paltrow’s home in Amagansett, New York, to introduce Goopgenes Youth-Boost Peptide Serum. Photography by Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet.

Paltrow would say only: “The burden of taking money, I took that responsibility probably too seriously. And it was hard to be the person who was both trying to grow, but also being very conservative with company funding. I was kicking the horse and pulling on the reins at the same time. But I’m so grateful now when I look back that it’s taken its time to evolve into what it is and that we didn’t have this crazy meteoric rise.”


Goop’s beauty brands, which make up 60 per cent of its sales, are competing in a crowded market that includes a spate of celebrity brands. “We have so many other brands that are sort of like us now,” she said. “I feel good about it. Competition is what keeps everybody honest.” In September 2018, Goop settled a false-advertising lawsuit brought by district attorneys in California.


Even her ex-fiancé Brad Pitt has his own line of skincare products, called Le Domaine. He sent her some. “It’s good,” she said. “Yeah, it’s really beautiful.”


Don’t expect a tell-all memoir anytime soon. “You don’t want to index too much into the sort of love-affair part and expose people for that, so I don’t know,” Paltrow said, adding, “Don’t put me on truth serum.”


She talked about her future in a manner that doesn’t seem to involve Goop. The company has been approached for possible acquisitions, she said, but she has never felt it was the right time. “I don’t think I can have this job forever,” she said. “I think it would be nice to return my investors’ money, and I really want to do that. That’s important to me.”


As for a life post-Goop, she wants to embrace what she calls her “crone” years, “this very real sort of sweetness that I’m starting to feel about the back part of life”. She wants to cook, be in her garden and become a grandmother. “It can reveal itself,” she said.


She did remember one thing. “I mean, I did say to my mom” — actress Blythe Danner — “that I would do a play when I sell the company.” With Danner or solo? Broadway or a one-woman show?


“She just says I have to, and I have to keep my promise to her.” 


© The New York Times


This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our tenth edition, Page 22 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Don't Put Me on Truth Serum". Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  

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