Gwyneth Paltrow was just another actress turned entrepreneur when she launched her wellness brand, Goop, to a nation of sceptics. Ten years later, it’s more successful – and more scrutinised – than anyone could have predicted. She invites Jane Mulkerrins into her Hamptons home to talk criticism, second marriages and building an empire.
Down a leafy, sun-dappled lane in the Hamptons – the sandy strip to the east of New York where America’s elite decamps for the summer – there’s one house that bucks the local fashion for low-key luxury. In place of the usual white picket fence, the residence is hidden from view by a high electric security version. It’s almost like a little slice of LA, which feels appropriate, given that the property belongs to Gwyneth Paltrow – the Hollywood-born, New York-raised Oscar-winning actress and now wellness entrepreneur.
I arrive at the imposing entrance on a humid August afternoon. Jeffrey, the “house manager”, buzzes me into the compound, greets me at the front door and ushers me into an airy, immaculate lounge filled with low, pale furniture, a grand piano and vast, muted works of modern art. There’s no twee beach chic here. Beyond the French doors, a huge lawn stretches away. Nicholas, another staff member, fetches me a giant goblet of iced water. The lady of the house (known to all as GP) arrives a moment later and brimming with questions: where have I travelled from today? Do I live in the US? Have I married an American yet? How do I find dating Americans? She is – to state the obvious – the walking, breathing embodiment of Goop, the wellness and lifestyle company she founded a little more than a decade ago. What began as a newsletter from her kitchen has since blossomed into a formidable (if controversial) phenomenon, with a podcast, glossy magazine and book imprint alongside its own beauty products, vitamins, clothes and annual wellness summit.
Barefoot, in a tiny pair of cut-off denim shorts and a black ruffled sleeveless blouse, she is make-up free, freckled and genuinely glowing. She has some teeny, tiny lines around her eyes – as befits a woman of 46 – but exudes youthfulness and health. As she sits cross-legged on the sofa beside me, it’s hard to stop staring at her perfectly tanned, toned limbs and I wonder if, with enough dry brushing, spirulina and daily Tracy Anderson workouts, I, too, could achieve legs like hers.
To mark Goop’s 10th anniversary, the burgeoning LA-based brand extended its shipping to Europe and also opened its first pop-up store in London’s Notting Hill in September. And while there’s no denying that the company – now worth an estimated $346 million – has been at the vanguard of the wellness trend, it has also been the target of derision for its more, well, fringe recommendations, such as vaginal steaming and $90 jade eggs to insert into one’s vagina to help “cultivate sexual energy”, apparently. Given that the British and Australians are eminently more sceptical than residents of Paltrow’s native California, the actress smiles wryly. “I remember when I started doing yoga and acupuncture, people thought it was outrageous. When I was photographed with cupping marks on my back, everyone went crazy. I’ve always been the person who introduces wellness ideas into the culture, and I can see by pattern recognition that people eventually come around,” she enthuses. Plus, she points out, Goop isn’t all shamans and chakras. “People love to talk about our ‘incendiary’ wellness content, but we’re a lifestyle brand, so we have gorgeous homeware and fashion. You’re not going into the store to have an exorcism or enema.” Although, we both agree it would make for a unique Halloween event, or, as she calls it, an “IRL activation”
GP 2.0 speaks not in the vernacular of acting but in that of start-ups. Her conversation is peppered with “modalities” and “verticals”, bumping up against the earnest discourse of the self-help industry. She’s the only non-therapist I have ever heard employ the phrase “family of origin”, and she refers to herself as “an integrity”. Her bedside table these days is home to a stack of leadership books. “That’s all I read. The psychology of this, the culture of influence that, and all these fucking business books,” she laughs. “If you saw my nightstand, you’d be like, ‘Where is the nerd?’” Two years ago, she stepped up to become CEO and has, she says, “a very regular working mum routine” when the family is home in LA. “I get my kids up, take them to school, exercise, then go to the office. I stay there all day.”
Midway through our time together, 14-year-old Apple, the elder of her two children with her ex-husband, Coldplay’s Chris Martin (Moses, their son, is 12), wanders in with a friend. All foal-like legs and pink hair, she collapses on the sofa beside her mother, before standing up again to come over, say hello and shake my hand. “Hi, sweet girls,” coos Paltrow. “What are you doing today?” They are, they tell us, currently discussing the rumoured relationship between a very famous pop star and the increasingly famous teenage o spring of a supermodel. “That’s a bit young,” comments Paltrow, furrowing her brow, as the girls disappear. “I would lose my mind. He’s a very sweet boy, but no.” Paltrow herself is now married to Brad Falchuk, a Hollywood producer she met when she guest- starred on Glee (which he co-created) in 2014. #TheFaltrows tied the knot here in the Hamptons on September 29 in front of friends Robert Downey Jr., Steven Spielberg and Cameron Diaz, and Paltrow describes it as “the best day of our lives”.
When I tell friends I’m interviewing the actress turned entrepreneur, the reactions are split. “I love her,” swoons one friend, who went to the same all-girls New York private school, The Spence School. “Tell her that her miso turnips changed my life,” gushes another, referring to a recipe from one of her four bestselling cookbooks (the latest, The Clean Plate, is due out in January). “OMG, OMG, OMG,” texts a friend from London, herself a cook and wellness guru of note. “Peddler of bullshit pseudoscience,” spits a less-approving friend over coffee. “Elitist charlatan,” texts another. But even those who accuse her and her brand of quackery also demand a download after I’ve met her. Public reactions to the well-known New York Times magazine profile of her last year were similarly mixed – some believing it was harsh while others, quite the opposite.
Paltrow herself posted an image of the cover on Instagram, with the caption, “A true watershed moment for us @goop. Thank you to the @nytimes”. She admits today that she didn’t read the piece word for word, but skimmed it. “I don’t like to read about myself; it’s none of my business what people think of me. Ultimately, it shows the strength of the business,” she adds. “There are Fortune 500 companies that aren’t in the NYT, ever. So, it means that we’re on the right track, we’re doing something important, we’re iconoclasts and trailblazers. You can love it or hate it, but we’re building something that’s changing the world, and it’s irrefutable that the world is coming along with us.” Even pre-Goop, Paltrow long provoked strong reactions. Yes, she comes from privilege – the daughter of film director Bruce Paltrow and Tony award-winning actress Blythe Danner – but few other A-list actresses are subjected to the sort of vitriol she’s received over everything from her emotional Oscars acceptance speech (for Shakespeare in Love) in 1999, to her “conscious uncoupling” from Martin in 2014. In person, I find her funny, warm, engaged and, save for her earnest phrasing at times, surprisingly self- deprecating. I mention her father taking her to one side, when she was about 27, and telling her that she was “becoming an asshole”.
“I was just believing my own hype, thinking that I was super-awesome. And he was like, ‘You’re getting weird – you’re acting like a dick,’” she laughs. “When you achieve the kind of fame that I did by the time I was 25 or 26, the world starts removing all your obstacles because you’re now a ‘special person’,” she continues, with a raised eyebrow. “You don’t have to wait in line at a restaurant, and if a car doesn’t show up, someone else gives you theirs,” she says. “There is nothing worse for the growth of a human being than not having obstacles and disappointments and things go wrong. All of my greatest achievements have come out of failure.” And, to Paltrow’s credit, she has long been open about her struggles and challenges – including the death of her father from cancer when she was 30, which propelled her towards a deeper interest in wellness, having watched him undergo radiation and being fed through a tube. She has also spoken about her enormous sense of failure when, having come from a “tribe of people who stayed married”, her own marriage to Martin ended.
That begs the question, I venture, why did she want to do it again? She takes a long pause. “I think that marriage is a really beautiful, noble and worthwhile institution, pursuit and endeavour,” she says, finally. “Because I don’t think you get married and that’s it – I think it’s the beginning. You create this third entity, this third being that you have to nourish and look after. For a while, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I’d ever do it again. I have my kids – what’s the point?’ And then I met this incredible man who made me think, ‘No, this person is worth making this commitment to.’ I’m very much the marrying kind,” she adds, looking at the gold band set with diamonds on her ring finger. “I love being a wife. I love making a home.”
Paltrow is also one of the highest- profile women to have alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, who produced many of her biggest films, including Sliding Doors and Shakespeare in Love. Weinstein has denied all allegations against him, insisting all relationships were consensual. In October 2017, she told The New York Times how, after signing her up for Emma – her first major role as a leading lady – Weinstein invited her to his hotel room and asked her to give him a massage. She refused and told her boyfriend at the time, Brad Pitt, who then confronted the film producer. “I am so grateful to Brad, because he leveraged his power and fame to protect me when I was no-one, and he scared Harvey,” she tells me. “If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know if I’d have gotten fired, or what. But instead, Harvey was like, ‘OK, let’s put it behind us.’ I think he wanted to keep Brad on side.” It was, she says, the only time she was ever harassed so overtly by anyone.
When I ask her what she misses about acting, she answers, “Nothing. It’s so weird. It was such a [big] part of my identity for so long.” Her husband recently persuaded her to return to the screen for a cameo in his new series for Netflix, The Politician, and Paltrow plays the mother of a high school student. “I went out to LA for a couple of days, and I actually didn’t hate it. But I just don’t miss it. The breadth of creativity that I have in this job is so bananas, and I’m very fulfilled.” There’s also plans to launch Goop TV this year, in a magazine-style format, looking at health, food and fashion – “stories across all the verticals”.
As Jeffrey appears, I realise we have run long over time and he says Paltrow has a call waiting. It’s 5pm on a Friday, but even in wellness there’s no knocking o early. I wander down to the beach to dip my feet in the ocean before heading back to the city. I’m never going to buy into shamanic energy practice (and I’m not stashing a jade egg anywhere), but when I get home I order a dry brush online. One way or another, even the most cynical of us can’t help but get a little Gooped.
This article appeared in this month's February issue of Marie Claire. On sale now.