There I was. Dragging my feet, barely stomaching a coffee, trailing through a crowded Indigo, desperately trying to distract myself from a brutal hangover. My boots were leaving muddy wet puddles with every step, my stained sweatpants clashing with my coat—I truly was a mess.
I looked up and in the middle of one of the displays, I saw a book. This was not your average book. It might have been my delusion but as I pushed past the crowd and found myself standing in front of said book, it floated into my hand. Sparkles were springing off it—the smell of lavender hitting my dry nose.
It’s All Easy, was the title.
I stared into Gwyneth Paltrow’s perfectly-shaped eyes. Did she just wink at me?
Her crinkly smile stretched across the cover. I opened the book—save me G.P! Clean my pores, strengthen my hair and make me look like Jennifer Aniston. Quick! I’m desperate and extremely dehydrated.
That day I wanted Gwyneth to change my life with a green juice or a quick and easy broccoli pie, but some days I roll my eyes at her as I see photos of her prancing around the beach in her white flowy pants. She’s ridiculously good looking, ridiculously rich and ridiculously unattainable. This isn’t new for Hollywood stars, but let’s examine what makes Paltrow specifically so frustrating.
It starts with a $250 million, four-letter-word—Goop.
According to their perfectly designed website, Goop started from Paltrow’s kitchen in 2008 as a weekly newsletter. Now, it has a beauty, fashion and famous “wellness” section.
Wellness. Alas—a word that I have been trying to figure out how to write about all week.
Defining wellness is no easy task. It’s a bit of a fluffy word, but it can be defined as, “the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort.”
Goop’s wellness section sells things like $50 eye masks, $48 altitude oils and a $75 travel diffuser kit. I don’t know what they mean, but I want them all.
The trouble with a wellness brand is the same with many brands these days. Wellness is a right—it should not be commodified. As soon as you start putting a price on wellness, you are saying that one person deserves it more than another. Even though Paltrow promotes inexpensive things like eating an apple, drinking water and going for a walk, it’s impossible not to want to be a part of the expensive version of wellness as well. That right there is a flawed system.
Is she evil? I don’t know. I do, however, think she has huge blindspots. She has created an inaccessible brand that only assists women (or mostly women) of privilege. And yet—through the mass amount of deflected criticism, she still ends up on top.
Paltrow lacks self-awareness. She told the New York Times in 2019, “The true tenets of wellness are all free. Being in nature, meditating, eating whole foods. If you told our grandparents that eating whole and natural foods was elitist, they would have thought you were crazy.”
You’re better than telling us that eating whole foods is free. Have you ever been to Whole Foods? That place ain’t free. Nine dollars for five organic rice cakes ain’t free. Let’s not get it twisted here, living this “wellness” life that we are all apparently destined to live is elitist, and it would be nice if she could admit that.
That, however, would not be good branding.
There are some good things that have come out of her business. Something that stuck out to me in her Netflix Special was the episode on female bodies and pleasure. The Goop team spoke about empowering and promoting healthy and approachable tips for women’s sexual experiences. Frankly, it was quite badass. I’m sure that Paltrow will continue to evolve, but it’s essential that we also continue to call her out. At the end of the day, she’s a great businesswoman that knows what she’s doing. I just wish she would do it with a little more integrity.
Who knows, maybe I’m just jealous that I’ll never be able to afford a $68 vital skin foundation stick.
Graphic by @justineprovost.design