The Goop scoop: Haters gonna hate

Gwyneth Pal­trow is un­apolo­getic about her life­style brand

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - BOOKS - By Matt Don­nelly

Be­tween a high-pro­file press tour, a vor­tex of on­line neg­a­tiv­ity and a rag­ing con­ver­sa­tion around fe­male gen­i­talia, it is likely you are aware that Gwyneth Pal­trow launched a do­cuseries on Netflix in late Jan­uary.

“The Goop Lab,” an­nounced ex­clu­sively by Va­ri­ety last year, is a six­episode man­i­fes­ta­tion of Pal­trow’s life­style brand Goop and its many con­tent ver­ti­cals, built around a cen­tral the­sis that the Os­car win­ner de­scribed as “op­ti­miza­tion of self.”

Re­sponse has played out across the nor­mal spec­trum on which Pal­trow and Goop are re­ceived: ado­ra­tion from like-minded seek­ers, in­ter­est from fash­ion and film fans, and in­vec­tive from trolls and pock­ets of the med­i­cal com­mu­nity. Dur­ing a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion at Netflix head­quar­ters in Los An­ge­les, Pal­trow had an easy smile for all of it. She’s been here be­fore.

“I will never un­der­stand the level of fas­ci­na­tion and pro­jec­tion. But we don’t want to not change the con­ver­sa­tion just to please every­body,” Pal­trow said. “We do what we do in to­tal in­tegrity, and we love what we do. It doesn’t even mat­ter, re­ally, that some are try­ing to get at­ten­tion for writ­ing about us.”

In­deed, in the days fol­low­ing Va­ri­ety’s ini­tial re­port last Fe­bru­ary, head­lines de­clared the part­ner­ship be­tween Pal­trow and the stream­ing gi­ant “a win for pseu­do­science.” The al­most-re­tired per­former and CEO chalks it up to click­bait.

“That kind of me­dia, a lot of it is dy­ing. The busi­ness model is fail­ing, and they’re turn­ing to the tabloidiza­tion to get the clicks. So it works, when they write about me, ap­par­ently. Be­cause they keep do­ing it,” she said. Pal­trow added she would be open to the crit­i­cism “if it was some­thing I could learn from.” But when it comes to Goopfriend­ly topics like en­ergy heal­ing?

“It might not be backed with dou­ble-blind stud­ies, but it’s been hap­pen­ing for thou­sands of years,” she said.

A lot of Goop’s ex­per­i­men­ta­tion in­volves al­ready­fa­mil­iar prac­tices, as il­lus­trated on the se­ries and ex­plored in-depth on Goop.com. Jump­ing into a freez­ing ocean to pro­long life and stave off anx­i­ety? Ex­per­i­ment­ing with psychedeli­cs to ease PTSD? Acupunc­ture for love? Goop is not re­spon­si­ble for in­tro­duc­ing any of these no­tions into the con­scious­ness. What’s new here, at least for Pal­trow, is the way she ap­proached the medium — as an un­scripted television pro­ducer, not a movie star.

“It’s so bizarre, and so dif­fer­ent. Nor­mally some­one hands me some­thing and tells me what I’m play­ing. This was from our imag­i­na­tions and what inspires us, and what we hope to learn more about. It’s been a pretty cool ex­pe­ri­ence,” Pal­trow said. “The most dif­fi­cult part was hon­ing down what the six sub­jects were go­ing to be. The trick was the process of dis­till­ing down our con­tent and have all the topics be dif­fer­ent enough.”

Out­side of scripted fea­tures and television, Pal­trow’s cred­its are lim­ited. She has ap­peared in doc­u­men­taries about makeup artist Kevyn Au­coin and de­signer Valentino Gar­a­vani, and more than a decade ago popped up on a PBS se­ries about Span­ish cook­ing.

“I’ve never done any­thing un­scripted — like, how does this work? How does it feel good? How does it not be …” Pal­trow asked, search­ing for the words.

Like “Jersey Shore,” we won­dered?

“Right. What is this world? What is the con­struct?” she said. “The most dif­fi­cult part was hon­ing down what the six episode sub­jects were go­ing to be. We wanted it to ap­peal to lots of dif­fer­ent peo­ple. You can get re­ally spe­cific on a sub­ject, and then it might not be as ap­peal­ing.”

For the past five years,

Pal­trow has done a del­i­cate dance with how much she will al­low her­self to be Goop’s pre­em­i­nent spokes­woman. She has re­peat­edly said that her ideal ver­sion of scale would be to grow Goop past the point of her own im­age. Cur­rently val­ued at $250 mil­lion with sev­eral rounds of ven­ture cap­i­tal in­vest­ment, her high-wire act is work­ing.

“For the show, I asked, ‘How can I be in it, but not too in it?’ It was im­por­tant for me that Goop staffers be the stars of the show. We have such in­cred­i­ble peo­ple at the com­pany. I thought there would be so much more im­pact to meet and love them, and watch them go through those things,” she said.

Go through it, they do. Goop em­ploy­ees ex­plore their pri­vate parts and sex­ual hang-ups, in­se­cu­ri­ties around ag­ing, parental trau­mas, and other topics that Goop Chief Con­tent Of­fi­cer Elise Loehnen jok­ingly said amounted to “an HR night­mare.”

Netflix has yet to an­nounce a pos­si­ble re­newal of “The Goop Lab,” but stream­ing or not, Goop will be there ask­ing the ques­tions, Pal­trow said.

“What I think is great is that we are a brand that peo­ple feel strongly about,” she con­cluded. “One way or the other.”

ADAM ROSE/NETFLIX

“I will never un­der­stand the level of fas­ci­na­tion and pro­jec­tion,” said Pal­trow about those who are skep­ti­cal of Goop.

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