Gwyneth the First
Remember that rumoured Vanity Fair “takedown” of Gwyneth we were all waiting for? It never materialized, obviously, with Graydon and Gwyneth making nice over a phone call and a jab at his weight. But it hasn’t been a stellar 2014 for Gwyneth, considering the conscious uncoupling and the disclosure of Goop’s shaky financials. But she’s still invited to the right parties (always), wearing the right designers (always) and “very good friends” with all the right people (always). She’s been increasingly saying that people who don’t like her just don’t get it – but does the New York Times get it?
This week’s piece, How Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Has Become a Role Model for Other Celebrities (why didn’t they call this “How To Get Away With Goop”), sounds like it will be an ass-kissy take on the life and lifestyle of Gwyneth, but it’s not. It’s not a takedown, but it is a sharp look at what celebrities can offer us and what role Gwyneth plays in the actress-turned-lifestyle expert eco-system.
Gwyneth is positioned as a WASP-y pioneer and the lifestyle brands (including Preserve, The Honest Co., Ellen DeGeneres’s E.D. On Air, Drew Barrymore’s Flower and Reese Witherspoon’s upcoming Draper James) that followed owe her a monogrammed thank you card. Not a bad place for Gwyneth to live. She even namedrops a thank-you from Drew Barrymore in case we needed a reminder of how much everyone in Hollywood loves her. But there is a sort of discomfort to the piece (they discuss Goop’s financial losses) and a feeling that lifestyle is a default, not a strength. But is it because a woman’s lifestyle is seen frivolous and materialistic?
G says that if Jay Z or Donald Trump or Justin Timberlake branch out, they aren’t criticized. She also mentioned that her fellow Oscar winners (love that she threw in Oscar winner, like we’ve forgotten) all have cosmetic contracts. I see her point, but Goop (and Preserve, and The Honest Co.) isn’t a celebrity side job. Considering how little Gwyneth and Blake and Jessica work in film, the side projects, whether by design or accident, seem to have co-opted their brand. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to imply that the criticism stems from people not wanting women to have it all is a little convenient.
Yes, Sandra Bullock and Halle Berry and Kate Winslet have modeled for brands, but they aren’t synonymous with this cosmetic or that fashion label. There is a difference, and I think Gwyneth and certainly her new CEO Lisa Gersh are savvy enough to know this.
Graydon Carter and Tom Ford weigh in as well – interesting that the reporter chose two very influential, connected and Gwyneth-adjacent men to speak about Goop. Graydon seems to think the sorry state of movies has pushed actresses into supplementing their income and their creativity (I would argue that they could do fantastic, fulfilling work on TV – and have a set schedule). Yet he also makes a salient, if often left unsaid, point – the financial lure is undeniable. Gwyneth calls her Goop pimping “contextual commerce” (Blake Lively is kicking herself for not thinking of that – she loves alliteration) but as anyone in publishing (digital or print) can tell you, what Gwyneth is doing is not groundbreaking, nor particularly lucrative. Many publications offer “contextual commerce” in the form of advertorial (advertising made to look like editorial), collaborations, sponsored stories, affiliate links (when you click and buy something, a commission is paid), exclusive products, contests, and editorial layout accompanied by products that support the story. It’s an exhausting way to try and make a buck.
It’s a long game, and for a lifestyle brand to have legs, its face has to constantly be hustling (on social media, on morning television, at book signings and personal appearances). And, as Graydon and Tom point out, with all of that comes the constant erosion of the mystery that sets us apart from them. And once that is gone, it can’t ever be regained.
Tom Ford wonders if any of this will last, or if we’re simply watching a pop culture footnote unfold. “It’s possible we will all be sitting around in 10 years and saying, ‘Hey, remember that moment everyone had a clothing line and a blog?’ ” Mr. Ford said. “The truth is, no one really knows where this will go.”
With Goop, Gwyneth certainly has the most to lose. If it fails, she will have failed. If it conquers the world, she does too.
Attached - Gwyneth heading to the gym the other day in Los Angeles.