After All Those Years Of Being The Punchline Of The Joke, Gwyneth Paltrow Is Having The Last Laugh

Writer Laura Craik analyses why so many women have become converts to the cult of Gwyneth...

Gwyneth Paltrow

by Laura Craik |
Updated on

Question: imagine £1,000 fell from the sky and landed in your wallet. Would you spend it on a) a ticket to a music festival to see hundreds of bands while slowly getting drunk in a field or b) a ticket to a wellness festival to hear a bunch of wellness gurus preaching their philosophies while slowly feeling more and more inadequate?

There’s an irony that In Goop Health made its first appearance on British shores during the same weekend as Glastonbury. To say the two events are worlds apart is an understatement, given that the first is about hedonism and abandonment, and the second is about wellness and control. And there can be no more shining an example of wellness and control than Goop’s glowing blonde founder, Gwyneth Paltrow, a woman so skilled in the art of conscious uncoupling that she even made the hideous act of divorce look easy.

Whatever your personal feelings about Gwyneth Paltrow and her £35 Shhhowercaps (‘fits like a chic turban’), her £44 Fur Oil (as the site notes, ‘Yep, that fur’) and those £60 jade eggs (‘non- returnable’), few could deny that the 46-year-old mother, actress and founder of Goop has made an impact. Launched from her London living room as a newsletter for healthy products and recipes a decade ago, Goop has grown to become a key player in the multi-trillion pound wellness industry, a nebulous term that has come to encompass everything from mental health to physical fitness to preventative medicine.

The nonprofit Global Wellness Institute claims that the wellness industry was worth $4.2 trillion (£3.3 trillion) in 2018, with the most lucrative sector, ‘personal care, beauty and anti-ageing’, worth more than $1 trillion. The second most lucrative, ‘healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss’, is estimated to be worth $702 billion. That’s a lot of jade eggs. Given the jaw-dropping value of the market – which analysts agree is only set to rise – it’s no surprise that the world is fit to bursting with wellness gurus. You can’t move for Insta-friendly women in white vest tops and Lululemon leggings, their luminous skin and slightly crazed eyes (just me?) promising every stomach-flattening, wrinkle-busting, skin-smoothing, body-buffing, mind-soothing health benefit under the sun.

So why, even in the face of controversy (that $145,000 paid to settle allegations that Goop made unverified health claims, including that its fabled jade eggs ‘enhance sexual energy’ and that its drinkable Inner Judge Flower Essence Blend ‘prevented depression’) is the business still an ever-expanding, unstoppable force? Because in an overcrowded market, Gwyneth is cleaning up. The Goop website currently makes 70% of its total revenue through product sales, while its own-brand ranges, including Gwynnie’s G Label clothing range and Goop dietary supplements, are the company’s fastest growing categories. Revenue from wellness products and events, meanwhile, has nearly tripled in the last two years. No wonder, given that In Goop Health cost £1,000 for a Saturday ‘Summit Pass’ and £4,500 for a ‘Wellness Weekender’ ticket, which promised a ‘VIP Sunday workout with GP and Tracy Anderson’. (Those skipping the two-night stay at a luxury hotel – as mentioned previously – could bag that package for a mere £2,500.)

When you consider the nature of some of the products currently being sold on the Goop website, it’s tempting to think that Gwynnie could sell monogrammed ‘GP’ toilet paper for £100, and still customers would be queuing up for it. Is it because she is blonde, beautiful, called her daughter Apple and was once married to the bloke who wrote Yellow? Is it really so basic as to put her success down to classic Hollywood allure; a simple case of Wins An Oscar Once, Has Licence To Print Money? Because it seems more complicated than that. As Denise Leicester, a qualified nurse, aromatherapist, yoga teacher and founder of cult natural organic skincare range Ila Spa explains, Gwyneth has capitalised on an increasing dissatisfaction with traditional medicine, particularly in terms of women’s health. ‘The medical profession still holds rigidity, especially regarding women’s health,’ she says. ‘Often it offers limited solutions that may be based around strong medication or surgery, whereas alternative medicine looks more to supporting every aspect of a woman’s wellbeing, empowering change and solutions, rather than focusing on what went wrong.’

Given that public satisfaction in general practitioners’ services has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1983, this rings true. Factor in the growing suspicion that antidepressants are being handed out too freely (antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, with data from NHS Digital showing that a record 70.9m were given out in 2018), and it is no wonder that people are looking for alternative ways to feel better. As Gwyneth herself said recently: ‘I have friends with chronic issues that Western medicine isn’t healing.’ At the same time, like her BF Stella McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow is a compelling advertisement for her own brand, a woman with convictions, even if some of them are a bit wacky. In these godless, politically apocalyptic times, we’re all pretty susceptible to the allure of someone who seems to believe in themselves, be happy and be living their best life.

Yes, there’s a lot of baloney centred around the wellness industry (and more than a whiff of privilege), but at its heart is a desire for self-improvement –and who doesn’t want to self-improve? A £1,000 ticket to hang with Gwyneth and co may be out of reach for most of us, but most of us have been tempted by some unguent/scented candle/vitamin as a quick-fix means to feel better. And, granted, a £30 bag of Martini Emotional Detox Bath Soak is as likely to cure serious emotional issues as a slap in the face, but if it helps relax you after a hard day at the coalface, go for it.

As Gwyneth puts it, ‘Even walking to work, cutting out sugar or limiting alcohol are small things you can do. Breathing and meditation, too. It’s been incredible to see it go from this rarefied, bizarre concept of wellness to everybody in the world seems to understand you can take a small step towards something and feel much better.’ And so, after years of being the punchline to the joke, Gwyneth’s finally having the last laugh. Good luck to her.

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