For over a decade, Gwyneth Paltrow has been the spokeswoman for ‘wellness’ at the helm of her $250 million dollar empire - Goop.
However she regularly finds herself under accusations of monetising pseudoscience, misinformation and quackery. Recent controversies, including the ‘Almond mum’ backlash, and ‘ski trial of the century’, have reignited these conversations
So what is wellness? Is it empowering or exploitative? And where does Goop fall on this spectrum?
Join us on a journey through $2000 rainbow healing mats, the "that girl phenomenon," and whether Gwyneth Paltrow's constant scrutiny is justified or a modern-day witch trial.
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This series is produced by Emily Crosby Media.
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Speakers- Lisa & Sarah
Lisa 00:06 This week Gwyneth Paltrow has found herself in court in what they're calling the ski trial of the century with over 30 million people watching it across YouTube and social media. Sarah 00:15 And this comes on the heels of the ‘Almond Mom’ backlash after she was deemed to be promoting eating disorders under the guise of wellness Lisa 00:22 For over a decade now, Gwyneth Paltrow has been the spokeswoman for wellness at the helm of her $250 million empire, Goop. However, she regularly finds herself under accusations of monetizing pseudoscience, misinformation and quackery. Sarah 00:37 In today's show, we'll be asking, what is wellness? Why is it everywhere? How do we differentiate between wellness and quackery? And where does Goop sit on the spectrum? Lisa 00:47 Okay, let's jump straight to the comments. Sarah 00:51 So Lisa, I'm pretty sure everyone knows this already. But let's kick it off with who is Gwyneth Paltrow and what is Goop? Lisa 00:57 Yes, Gwyneth Paltrow. She's an Oscar winning actress. For many of us growing up in the 90s, she was a bit of an ‘it girl’, you know, she is the quintessential Hollywood ideal of beauty. She's blonde, wealthy, thin, and she also dated Brad Pitt at one point, and well over the years, she's transformed herself, you know, from a Hollywood A Lister, to the founder, CEO, and face of her lifestyle brand, Goop. Right now, you know, she's been in the news for being an ‘almond mum’, they're calling it. And also, as we mentioned, the ski trial of the century. And it's sort of when you go online and you read articles about her and comments, she seems to occupy this strange space in the psyche. You know, one week Style magazine labelled her the most hated person in the world. And then People magazine called her the most beautiful person in the world. So it seems to me that people seem to love and hate her. But recently, the hate has reached a fever pitch. Sarah 01:49 It really has, and there's a lot of hate in the comments online. For example, “please, with this clueless out of touch, deeply feckless person suffering from too rich too privileged syndrome”. And another one that said, “I don't feel sorry for her as her Goop brand is monetizing this as a healthy way to live your life. She is like the wellness Jim Jones for a certain subset of wealthy American women.” Lisa 02:11 But a lot of the commentators have been really attacking her on her appearance. There was a sort of Mail Online comment that said, “Oh my God, Gwyneth without the filters in court looks unhealthy and gaunt and clearly older than her age. Anyone taking beauty tips from her is nuts.” And I just wanted to talk to you starting with, like we have done a lot on this podcast, why are we attacking a woman for how she looks? Sarah 02:34 It's so interesting, isn't it, because that's the first go-to: age, weight, or appearance. I think that's just what people think is going to hurt the most when they go for a woman. But on top of that, I suppose is an element that, because she runs her lifestyle brand, she runs a beauty and wellness brand, she's supposed to be promoting beauty. And so I guess that's another reason why they go we're gonna go straight for that. But there's a sort of hypocrisy there because they accuse her of making other women feel not good enough, and then they go - well, I'm gonna go straight for your appearance. So yeah, it does seem to be the go-to. Lisa 03:08 Yes. I mean, what, when it originally started with was just a newsletter. I mean, I remember I used to get it, I think back in 2008. And it was just quite simple. It's like my favourite mascara. Here's me making a banana nut muffin, gluten free. And I think it was just like, quite sort of homely in a way, but like, yes, it's still an A lister writing it. But it was not what it's become now. And she said originally, that she started it because she was starting something and doing it from a very, very real honest place, which is literally her creating lists when when she had been filming, and where to get the best ice cream in Italy, where to get the best bikini wax in Paris, which we all need to know. So it started from there, and then I think when she reached 150,000 subscribers, she says, someone advised her and said - look, you need to be thinking about making money out of this and monetizing it. And that's when she started right, building her website. And I think what really is the heart of Goop. And I think what the secret to her success is is that she's created a lot of content or editorial around wellness and lifestyle and mixed in very much with a lot of product selling and a lot of upselling. So you’re kind of reading the content and then it's like a link here, let's go off and look at this product and look at that product. And so it's, you know, I mean it's everywhere ecommerce, but she really has mastered it. What's interesting when you go and look on their ‘about us' section in there, and sort of how they started, you know, the outline about the newsletter and how they got to where they are. But they've got like a mission statement that says, ‘We operate from a place of curiosity and non judgement. And we start hard conversations, crack open taboos, and look for connection and resonance everywhere we can find it. We don't mind being the tip of the spear. In short, we go first so you don't have to.’ Sarah 04:48 That just reminds me of Madonna's Instagram post after the Grammys. Lisa Yes, exactly. Sarah When she was saying, I’m the trailblazer and I'll take all the heat to blaze the way so that you, it'll be easier for you after me. And that's such an interesting approach to take because it feels very ego driven. Sort of, Oh, I'm so further ahead, that's why you don't understand me. And also I'm really doing you a favour. I'm doing this not just for me, but for you. And sometimes that can be true. But it's also a great defence against taking any accountability. The reason you don't like me is you haven't caught up with me yet, and I'm actually doing this for you. Lisa 05:24 Well, if you really look at the website and look at what they're selling, it's a quite a wide range of products, ranging from sort of the superpower nutritional powders, and there's fashion jewellery, there's a psychic vampire repellent spray, a rainbow yoga mat for nearly $2,000. Sarah What? Lisa Yeah, it’s insane. Sarah 05:41 That better be made of rainbows. Lisa 05:44 Yeah. And, and then a winter recovery skin kit for $600. And look, she doesn't hide the fact that she says, you know, she knows her audience, Gwyneth, she is going for that aspirational, high price point. She said it isn't for everybody. But in the nutshell, the New York Times described Goop’s success being that people are fascinated with her rarefied lifestyle. A business analyst said “it's because Goop is setting the trends and not following them. Goop entered the clean beauty market early. There was a big white space for luxury, clean skincare for women. Gwyneth said I'd really love a great moisturiser that doesn't have antifreeze in it.” And I think that she does really own that kind of like, I remember, I know Jessica Alba has done Honest as well about clean products, but she does really own that feeling of like, oh, that's toxic, or that's toxic, both internally and externally. So yes, her success has been paved with a lot of online backlash and accusations of quackery and charlatanism. Sarah 06:42 You know, there are many practices that are accepted now, that historically were considered quackery. So there is a history of that. And I do agree with encouraging women to challenge social norms and to break shame and taboos. I'm a big fan of Brene Brown, and as she says, ‘shame derives its power from being unspeakable’. So encouraging us to speak about things, I believe, is only a positive. However, I mean, my main question is, why does it cost so much then? And also, is she essentially shaming those who can't afford to aspire to her type of luxury wellness? And that's the issue, is she creating a new form of shame in her approach? Lisa 07:22 Well, I think Gwyneth started this whole trend, I mean, a lot of celebrities are now starting their own lifestyle and wellness brands. For example, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore, Reese Witherspoon, they've all got successful brands. And it makes me wonder if part of this trend is related to women and ageing. You know, as we touched on our Madonna and ageing episode, many Hollywood actresses struggle to find roles as they get older. And I think maybe this is a way of future proofing themselves and taking back control in a way. Sarah 07:51 Yeah, like, like she almost preempted what might have been a decline, which we can't know for sure. But it's so interesting, because I think back to the Golden Era, when starlets had this sort of set amount of time, they had the set amount of time where they were going to be at the height of their fame. And they could go to all these parties. And that's when they were supposed to try and bag a millionaire or a billionaire to set themselves up once their looks started to fade and they wouldn't be able to get those roles anymore. Joan Crawford actually married the CEO of Pepsi Cola, she inherited shares in it even after he passed. Grace Kelly, of course, became Princess Grace of Monaco. So that was definitely, this seems like a in a in a way a more preferable approach. You're not having to sleep with anyone, or marry someone you might not be that into, in order to secure a lifestyle for your older age. Lisa 08:42 What's really interesting you say that and in terms of celebrities, having lifestyle and merchandising brands, Gwyneth was one of the first to fully claim what we call ‘wellness’. In a New York Times article in 2018. She was already admitting to public displays of ostentatious sort of wellness. Do you remember when she showed up at a movie premieres, you had those cupping marks on her back? Sarah 09:04 I actually really do remember that. And the photo sparked a lot of interest at the time. It was it was just a few things, but it was such a huge story. And the wellness industry has really taken off in recent years. For example, the global wellness industry is supposedly worth around 3.6 trillion pounds. It's estimated that figures will be pushing 5.75 trillion pounds by 2025. And it's all over the social media feeds, #wellness has been used on over 61 million Instagram posts. And it has 8.5 billion views on tick tock. I mean, that's just astronomical. Lisa 09:39 It is. it feels like it's just everywhere, and it's just the world we're living in now. I feel like for us in the 80s and 90s it was all about fitness videos. And like Cher, Jane Fonda, Cindy Crawford even came out with a fitness video. And you know, and it was all about being on the stairmaster while maybe reading the newspaper at the same time. And you know, there was the leg warmers and the headbands, but it was really much more about the external physique. Sarah 10:05 I actually did. I had the Rosemary Connelly one and the Mr. motivator who were big over here. And I remember doing it in my front room, and Mr. motivator was always like, really, really pumped. Lisa Yeah, Sarah Yeah. Like you said it was fitness, or it was maybe just the face of a beauty brand that existed, you know, like Chanel, or et cetera, et cetera. But in the fitness videos, they always actually had a trainer with them that they were just doing the front of. They never claimed that they were creating the exercises, they never claimed that they were creating the beauty products or the creams. They were just the face of it. And that seems to be the shift now, where it's the source is the celebrity. We definitely didn't have the specific language of wellness back then. But I will say that for me, in my teens, which would have been the late 90s, early noughties, I was really into Oprah and so was my mom. And we used to watch her and she would have a lot of self help gurus on, there was a lot of spirit, alternative spirituality, new age. And that was way before Gwyneth. But the difference is, there was no they were never really selling a product. The only product was usually the book itself, the self help book, you just had to buy one book, and then go away and do the rest yourself. It wasn't an endless supply of products and upselling. So there is a sort of, I would say in a way, Oprah was kind of a predecessor. She hadn't commercialised it to the same extent. But these concepts, that's what's so interesting is Goop presents them as if they're on the cutting edge. A lot of these things aren't new. I mean, you had a lot of the Flower Power and the alternative spirituality that came out with the hippies in the 70s. Before that, even in the 20s and the 30s, you had people like Aldous Huxley trying out mescaline. He wrote The Doors of Perception. And even before that indigenous cultures have been doing these for sometimes millennia. So it's so interesting how they've been twisted and marketed as if they're completely new. I was always aware of some of these things. My family were open to alternative stuff, I wouldn't call them hippies at all. We were introduced to homoeopathy because my mum tried it as a sort of Hail Mary when she was going to be forced to have a hysterectomy. And she had a week to turn it around and she just went to a Homoeopath. She was like, I'll try anything. And she actually did get better and didn't have to have the hysterectomy and she actually credits homoeopathy, with doing that so we were always open to that kind of stuff. But why do you think wellness has taken off to such a great extent in specifically the last decade? Lisa 12:34 Well, just to firstly say that I'm, I'm with you, I think I said to you that I used to go down to my local alternative sort of shop called Enigma. And they sold all these dreamcatchers and crystals and it smelt lovely of all these essential oils, and there was something super relaxing about just walking into them. And they were also a bit knick-knacky, you know, like everything was a bit cheap, so even though I was like 16 or 17, I could just buy a crystal and wrap it up in a little paper bag and take it home and feel like I had something special for a couple of pounds. And also I, I've dabbled in different things over the years, and I really like to be open to trying different things. I even went to a Face Reader once who looked at my face and told me what I needed in my diet. And I followed it religiously. And I think it worked. But I think it was just a new way of telling me things I probably already knew, like maybe don’t drink so much coffee, you've got baggy eyes. But you're absolutely right and when we did the research, and we looked into why wellness has really taken off in the last few years. You know, going back to the New York Times who've written a lot about Goop. They wrote in an article in 2018. They explained it as “the minute the phrase having-it-all lost favour among women, wellness came in to pick up the pieces. It was a way to re-orientate ourselves. We were not in service to anyone else. And we were worthy subjects of our own care. It wasn't about achieving, it was about putting ourselves at the top of the list that we hadn't even previously been on. Wellness was maybe a result of too much of having-it-all, too much pursuit, yoo many boxes that we've seen our exhausted mothers fall into bed without checking off. Wellness arrived because it was gravely needed.” So essentially, the writer is saying that she sees it as a response to the cosmopolitan sort of Superwoman articles that we grew up with, from the 80s and 90s. Simply just about having-it-all. Do you remember that phase? Sarah 14:18 I mean, I do remember the whole Superwoman thing. I do remember the having-it-all. That was a huge thing that came in. And it really felt like the materialism, yuppie of the 80s had combined with the resurgence of radical feminism in the 70s and had a baby. And it led to this idea that women, they can have it all, but almost aggressively so. Almost there was that assumption that if you didn't have it all, what, why weren't you having it all, you should be trying harder. You know, there was a lot of criticism of people who maybe just wanted one thing instead of all of it. But I mean, there are others that really believe that there's, that one of the huge drivers of the rise of wellness, are that there are a lot of failures in our social systems. Social pressures, the rising cost of living, the lack of mental and physical support. And for example, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, practising psychiatrist and author of the book, Real Self Care. She said, “The premise is that if you partake of one of these many commodified wellness activities, you will feel better. But you can't meditate your way out of a 40 hour workweek without childcare. Our social systems have failed us. And the onus has been put on us to fix ourselves.” And Rina Raphael, who's the author of The Gospel of Wellness, she says that “modern life is becoming harder and harder, we are working longer hours, money is tighter, and our medical systems aren't reliable. And this industry dangle solutions in front of us - we’ll take care of your stress, loneliness, sleep, etc. People feel helpless, and they're searching for meaning and magic pills to fix things”. And I think that's such a good point, because I do notice as well, we're used to having things so much quicker. We have, you know, Amazon Prime, it's here tomorrow, you could even get it here today, if you really want. And we just don't have patience anymore. And that's understandable when we're facing a problem that's quite debilitating or depressing. But we're always looking for these, like quick fixes and magic potions. And I don't think this is necessarily a new thing to humans. I mean, they had the whole snake oil, you know, actual magic potions back in the day. Lisa Yeah. Sarah But it does seem to be coming out in this, specifically. I remember, you know, growing up with the, we grew up with a lot of sci fi growing up. But this idea from Star Trek and everything, that in the future, in the not too distant future, there would be, science would be able to solve all our problems, we’d be able to live forever, we would look young forever, we'd be able to heal all these things. And I think that we're a whole generation of people who grew up with that, and expected that there would be some magic fix by science. And so now all these products are coming out saying, Oh, we can fix you with science, we can talk about, you know, they'll just use sciency terms to feed into that idea that there is this magic wand. Lisa Exactly. Sarah I mean, as we've said before, there's, there's been a massive backlash to this. And I mean, it's been going on against her for many years now, hasn't it? Lisa 17:15 Oh, yeah, absolutely. And the thing is, is that I did try one of Gwyneth’s cleanses in her early newsletters. I did the sort of five day New Year cleanse, and I did feel quite good on it. And I think it's just that she does kind of have quite common sense things but packaged up. It is a bit extreme. I think I was on about 600 calories a day, but I've done juices as well by Jason Vale. So you could say, well, he he's also advocating the same thing. But there is something about Gwyneth where for years, I've seen that she's been doing cleanses and detoxes. And like someone said, online - Well, she has been detoxing for 24 years, like, when is enough enough? And I think so recently, you know, she was labelled the ‘Almond mom’, because she described on a podcast she was interviewed on, about a day in the life of what she ate, which was, you know, very limited, I think, no breakfast, a bone broth for lunch, and a limited sort of paleo dinner. But the thing is, is that, that's nothing new. I think what shocked people was that it had video on this podcast, and she looked very white and gaunt. And I still think Gwyneth is a beautiful woman, but it's just that she didn't look well. And a lot of people sort of said, well look at Nigella in comparison. Or some, you know, women her age, back to our our comparison episode that we did about women ageing, and sort of saying, well look at Gwyneth, look at the state of her and then there's also been the backlash around the products she sold sort of I won't go into too much detail, but there's the vaginal steaming, which was, I still can't get wrap my head around. And then those Yoni eggs which she then also I believe she had a legal case against her, she had to actually I think she talked about quite a lot of money because she doesn't have disclaimers on any of these products are not FDA approved. So like I said, she seems to be almost monetizing the backlash now. And she told a class at Harvard Business School in 2018, I can then monetize those eyeballs. But why do you think there is such a backlash against her? Sarah 19:11 I mean, I think there are lots of different reasons and we're gonna go through a few of them. So we'll start with the biggest one that people throw at her is the accusations of pseudoscience. So specifically from the scientific and medical communities. For example, Steven Pinker, who's an experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science writer. I mean, he's even referred to it. He's given it a whole term. He's called it Paltrovian Quackery, which sounds quite nice, to be honest, I love that phrase. Lisa 19:39 And this is interesting because we look this up and he was actually on her Goop podcast the year before he wrote this. So I'm like, hmmm, but he's happy to be on her podcast. Sarah Yeah Lisa Like the rest of them. They all want to be associated with her, you know, and get the coverage. Sarah 19:55 Absolutely. I mean, sometimes just just calling someone out raises your profile. But for example, Rina Raphael, who's the author of the Gospel of Wellness, she also says, “so much of this industry is based on belief and placebo, which isn't all bad, of course. If you believe something is making you feel better mentally or physically, that's obviously a good thing. And so much of it is highly subjective. A bubble bath can help one person escape a deep mental funk, to another it's just a wash. What we should be wary of is putting too much faith in wellness promises. Brands will use words like boost, promotes, and aids, but not fixes and cures, because they can't claim to do that. No amount of deep breathing or potato lattes will help to cure the mind of entrenched negative thought patterns or deep rooted trauma.” And she's got a really good point there. And I say this myself, you know, we've talked about, I am open to a lot of alternative practices. But whenever people question me about those, I say, I can't prove it. I'm not trying to prove it. I'm not trying to convince anyone. They make me feel better. It could be the placebo effect. And that's absolutely fine. Because if it is, it's still an effect, isn't it? I mean, it's been scientifically proved that the placebo effect is an effect. If it's my mind doing it rather than another pathway. As long as I have the outcome, and there's no negative side effects, then I'm quite happy to take it to be honest. And that's, that's sort of the approach I take. Lisa 21:23 But this is where it's, it gets a bit serious about Gwyneth Paltrow because this is aYo uTube comment, I found your response to a Vogue video of her talking about skincare. “My husband and his brother are both skin cancer survivors. One lost an eye to melanoma. I have a friend who has not used sunscreen because of all the incorrect, very dangerous rhetoric about sunscreens being toxic. Vogue, please write a retraction to the misinformation in this video, you could be responsible for someone getting skin cancer”. And then the Atlantic wrote in 2019 about Goop, “wellness companies can feel predatory. Even those not making Gwyneth Paltrow richer. It's largely an unregulated industry, and it operates in an environment of open desperation. Many women justifiably mistrust the ways that conventional doctors address their concerns and treat their pain.” But that Goop’s coming in to sort of fill that gap. Sarah 22:17 Yeah, definitely. You can look at it from that perspective. You can also say, are the women sick and tired of not being heard? Or are they just being convinced that they're not good enough as they are? And they need to be optimised? Which is a term they use a lot? Yes, you can definitely achieve it if you have a $2,000 yoga mat. You know, it's a difficult thing really. Lisa Yeah, Sarah There is a big difference between saying, I've tried this, and I like it, and it does make me feel a bit better. If you're interested, you can try it too. And when you're actively saying this will heal all your problems. And we have to say, that seems to be something that has changed over the years with Goop, mainly because of the lawsuits. Where they now do have a disclaimer right at the bottom saying, whatever we've said that the benefits are, this can't be used in place of medicine, and we can't promise anything. Which, they've got that disclaimer, but a lot of the other stuff is suggesting, oh, we can heal all these problems. So it's a bit of a sort of caveat that feels a bit like protecting themselves from lawsuits. Lisa 23:19 And it's in very small print, like when you get a mortgage. Sarah 23:22 Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I mean, they have got into legal trouble from this, as we've just said. The California officials, they even sued Goop claiming that it made unfounded health claims about three products on its website. And in 2018, they agreed to pay $145,000 to settle a false advertising law lawsuit, which I suppose in the scheme of what they're worth isn't actually that much money. Lisa No. Sarah And in 2021 Goop was hit with a class action lawsuit after at least two people reported that ‘This smells like my vagina’ candles exploded and caused fires. And on top of that, a lot of medical professionals have called Gwyneth Paltrow out, you know, and they've said that what she's selling is not just ineffective and pointless, but actually possibly dangerous. Lisa 24:07 But can I just say, you know, I grew up with very strict rules about having no candles in your bedroom. So if someone was trying to have a romantic night with This smells like my vagina candle and then your house burnt down, I am sorry for them. But that's, Gwyneth, I mean, can she be up for blaming for even candles? I think the main thing that gets quite serious about Gwyneth is, and Goop, is that the is the lack of scientific research and evidence to back up their claims. And when I was researching to try and find reviews of all those nutritional supplements that I discussed earlier, I mean, they've got like over 60 products, again, all very alluring, like candies and all packaged so pretty. The pharmacist.org, a leading site in the US for pharmacists, you know, they tried to sort of do a review on them and find reviews that customers have done, and they said, “Goop offers no customer reviews on their website, which we find problematic. Finding reliable customers’ reviews for their products was a real challenge. In summary, they said the products are way overpriced, and that you're paying more for the brand and star power”. I don't think there's any surprises but I actually struggled to find any reviews of their supplements. It was just, there was nothing. And what's interesting is they're like around $60 a packet, and then you get put on an automatic or like, they try and encourage you to take it as a subscription monthly. So gosh, it's so expensive, right? Sarah Yeah. Lisa And one of the YouTube comments was, “every time Gwyneth Paltrow shares her beauty or wellness secrets, or scientists dies on the inside. Today, it's a dermatologist.” And I think, I think one of the biggest critics of her has been Professor Tim Caulfield. He's a professor of Health and Law and Science Policy at the University of Alberta. And he wrote a book called is Gwyneth Paltrow wrong about everything? How the famous sell us elixirs of health, beauty and happiness. And he discusses, you know, how the marketing is working. “These companies are pushing fear often, you know, they're fear mongering, they're pushing pseudoscience that sounds compelling. I call it science-ploitation. You know, they’ll often use terminology that sounds very sciency. They talk about micro biome, they'll talk about quantum physics, and the research tells us that can really work.” And just to say, to be fair, a lot of brands do use that sciency vibe because do you remember when Jennifer Aniston did “And here comes the science”, when she did those. Sarah 26:22 Oh, yeah, I remember that. Yeah, Lisa 26:25 That’s definitely a branding technique that a lot of shampoos and beauty products do to sort of give it that medical vibe, you know what I mean? Sarah 26:31 Yeah.And it's quite difficult to differentiate what's true science, and what's sort of pseudoscience. It's almost like you need a PhD in chemistry before you can differentiate whether you, which products you should be buying. And they've always loved buzzwords in the beauty industry, you know, these days, it'd be hyaluronic acid, or et cetera, et cetera. But it's the same in nutritional supplements. I have a friend who actually does have a PhD in chemistry. And she was saying, when it comes to vitamins, it's not just about what the vitamins are, but whether they're bioavailable, otherwise all you're doing is making very expensive pee. And that's not to say that you should never use supplements. But some of them basically do nothing. You need to do a lot of research to understand which which is going to work for you. I mean, we've talked about the accusations of pseudoscience, but I think another main cause of the backlash is this sense that she's monetizing other cultures and wellness, but at extortionate prices. So, I mean, a lot of these practices that she touches on, they're not inherently new. I mean, the use of crystals and energy healing have been around for a very long time. For example, it's thought the first historical references to using crystals come from the ancient Sumerians, which is the fourth millennium BC. They included crystals in the magic formulas. And the crystals were and still are used for healing and traditional Chinese medicine, which dates back to at least 5000 years. But the difference is, historically, they came across things in nature and used what they found, but Goop has stopped crystal water bottles for $80. She's got crystal eggs for $66. And as I've said before, full disclosure, I personally believe in a lot of alternative stuff, you know, meditation, but I'm also very happy to use Western medicine. And I'm fascinated by science. So I don't think you have to choose one or the other, in my opinion. What I believe based on my experiences is if you take the true feeling and the intention away from the practices, the underlying soul of it, so to speak, they sort of become meaningless. And indigenous cultures that used a lot of these practices or these practices came from, it was a very natural practice. It wasn't a practice that only applied to the rich and you weren't stuck on just one single product. It wasn't like if you didn't have this very special crystal, you couldn't do the meditation. My dad was a farmer and inventor and he loved Engineering and Mechanics. He wasn't a hippie at all, if you'd met him, he was just this old school farmer who came from Pendle Hill, which is where the witches were in Lancashire. So I don't know if that had a role. But he used to do divining. And I mean, he was even, people used to come to him and ask for help. It was just sort of like word of mouth. People knew. He didn't take money for it. And he didn't advertise it. But he used to make his own divining rods out of old welding rods. I don't even know how much that cost, but basically nothing. You know, you could use all pieces of metal. It wasn't about the accoutrements, it was about being centred and just sort of like connecting and it also wasn't, he would have said anyone can do it. He'd showed other people too. And I think that makes a big difference because there's a sense with these kind of high end spiritual wellness companies that we’re letting you in on a special secret but you can only really access it if you can afford to buy all the all the accoutrements, and the more expensive the accoutrements, the more aligned and the better effect you'll have, you know. Yes, yoga is good for you, but if you get the rainbow yoga mat that also has the crystals, it'll just take you to that next level. And then I'm sure there's something else, magic stardust, will take you to the next level, but that'll be twice as expensive. And the reality is, if you just do that, and you're connected, and you work on it, and you practise it, that's how you get the effect. Not buying all the, the the accessories, so to speak. Lisa 30:28 Yeah, I just love what you said then. I think we all know that money and wealth seem to play a large role in the hate towards Gwyneth and Goop. And I think that, you know, the sense of unfairness and the sense that the rich can buy health and happiness. You know, there was a great quote in the Financial Times and they said about Goop, “this kind of place is for the stupid, the rich to feel a rush of novelty through a smorgasbord of snake oil tricks, or through legitimate treatments presented as some kind of premium secret”. And Gwyneth has said herself, “it's crucial to me that we remain aspirational. Not in price point, because content is always free. The things we're making the clothing, yes, but also the creams and oils couldn't be made cheaply. Our stuff is beautiful.” She said, “the ingredients are beautiful. You can't get that at a lower price point. You can't make these things mass market.” Sarah 31:15 Well, it's interesting, bringing up about the whole content is always free, because there was this other comment that said, “when people charge Goop with classism, or elitism, Paltrow frequently reminds them that it's recommendations, product listings, and information about fringe health services, such as vaginal steaming, are free, and always have been. I'm not sure how much information on vaginal steaming anyone really needs. It's pretty much what it sounds like.” Which is quite funny. Lisa 31:43 Has she ever had a hot bath in England? Sarah 31:46 Yeah, there's a big difference between, yes, this free information. But like you said that there are adverts and automatic links trying to upsell you the whole time. Lisa 31:58 But do you think like we've gone through all the main sort of accusations that have been levelled at her. But let's get to the psychology part. Is this just shadow and envy about Gwyneth, let's be honest? Sarah 32:11 Well, you know, I think it's a really interesting thing to explore. And I think one of the things we have to bear in mind is that multiple things can be going on at once. You can have legitimate complaints and also be, have a bias against her out of envy. So it doesn't have to be either or. There was this New York Times comment that said, “Why do women think they need to compare themselves to her, and then when they come up lacking make it her fault? Because someone has a fabulous life does not mean yours is lacking? She was born into amazing privilege. Of course, she has had an amazing life. We can't all be so lucky. Get over it. I personally have benefited from the philosophy she talked about with smoking. This may not work for everyone. But can’t we all agree that not everyone is the same. If some people are helped by her, why can't those that aren't, just leave her alone. Be happy with yourself and stop the comparison game. There will always be someone with more than you.” And I think there is an element. Yes, she's beautiful and rich, and I think for some people that does trigger something in them, maybe a jealousy maybe because we are as women, it feels like we're constantly being forced to compare ourselves and consider ourselves less than if we don't measure up. But one of the things that seems to come across or seem, people seem to talk about is this idea that she is perceived as someone who's not just beautiful and rich, but that she would judge you too for not being beautiful. And there's a big difference. And, and not just not being beautiful, but not being perfect. There's, people talk a lot about perfection in relation to her. And it's very hard to know whether it's coming from her, or whether she's just been made the poster child for this. I mean, there was a quote in the Atlantic that said, “the company's products embrace one of America's oldest health myths, that physical beauty is proof not only of a person's health, but of her essential righteousness. If the outside is perfect, the inside must be too. It's a retrograde vision of womanhood for a company that so frequently deploys the word empowerment.” And there is something that comes across and like you said, it's not just the spiritual principles, but the but the packaging has to be beautiful. It has to be aspirational. It has to be perfect. Lisa Yeah. Sarah And it gives this sense. There's always a sense that people who are so obsessed with perfection, that they've got a sort of mean girl sense to them, and that they're going to be judgmental of you if you're not perfect. And I think that's something that comes up for people when we talk about this topic. Lisa 34:39 Yeah, yeah, I definitely think so. And I think that this sort of haughtiness that you pick up, especially during the trial is a lot of content around her coming off aloof, elite, when you know, haughty you know. This is not something new, like over the years, she’s said some really things that like, I don't know how to put them, but they're just, she's been really called out for what she said in the past. So here's some really, I think quite funny Paltrovians. “I'd rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a tin.” “I'd rather die than let my kids eat a Cup-a-soup”. “It's much harder for me - I think to have a regular job and be a mum, it's not as if, of course, there are challenges, but it's not like being on set.” Sarah 35:23 Wow. And I want to say as well as an aside, the problem with quotes of celebrities is you don't know how accurate they are, and how much they've been taken out of context. But if we, for example, assume that she has said these things in the way that they sound like they've been said, there is a sense that there's a sort of lack of compassion for people who have different lifestyles. That there's, there's a correct way of doing things, for example, you know, it's not just that I choose not to eat cheese, and it's not and I find it isn't good for me. But that cheese is bad. And people who eat cheese are bad and don't care about themselves, and are somehow less than, they’re making a bad choice. You know, that's the sense that people are getting from some of these things. And that comes across in the online comments. There's a sort of recurring theme that she's cold, she's haughty like you said. I mean, it came out during the skiing trial, there was a Daily Mail comment that said, “I don't envy her or aspire to be her in the slightest, she looks devoid of joy. A stuck-up so and so seems an accurate description”. Another one said, “watching the ski collision trial and intensely hateful fervour that Gwyneth Paltrow has instructed her attorney to unleash on the elderly defendant is nothing short of appalling. She is the epitome of an ungracious witch obsessed with her own wealth as she pedals phoney products like a modern-day snake oil salesman at ludicrous prices. If only that $30 psychic vampire repellent mist she sells through goop really worked, I would recommend it to anyone in her vicinity.” Lisa Ouch. Sarah But the difficulty is, is this real? Is it real? Or is it projected? I mean, does she just remind us of the kind of beautiful, thin, privileged popular girls that we all knew at school? Lisa Oh, yeah. Sarah And we experienced judgement and bullying from. Has she now become an archetype rather than an individual, especially after she won an Oscar at 26. And, you know, she's, she's blonde. She's that sort of Hitchcock blonde. I do think none of us came away from school unscathed by the hierarchy and the pecking order. And if someone reminds you of those kind of girls that you really felt would judge you, we're already going to have our back up a bit. But that's not to say that they're not necessarily picking on something, picking up on something that isn't there, it's quite difficult to know the difference sometimes, or you know. And she even talked to herself, I remember seeing on Graham Norton and she shared this story where she had won an Oscar. And she said, “a lot of obstacles have been taken out of my way”. And she said, “her dad, who was a director, took her aside at that time and said, you know, you're kind of becoming an asshole.” And so I always felt like that story that she shared, there was a sort of sense of self awareness and reflection, the fact that she could laugh about that and share the story. And along sort of similar lines, there was a comment on Mumsnet that said, “I think she looks incredible, although not in that particular podcast. And her cookbooks are actually really good. At least she's honest about what she does in terms of injectables and lasers, etc. And the work she puts into maintaining her body. I also don't think she takes herself that seriously.” Lisa 38:30 But one of the areas we've never gone into before is actually looking behind the gloss of the brand. What's it like to really work there and to hear from the people directly themselves who work for Gwyneth and in goop. So I went onto glassdoor.com, which is like this sort of big site where you can leave reviews if you've worked somewhere. And some of the quotes are, “this is a mean exclusive Mean Girls vibe. They may be fooling customers, readers and listeners there, they're not fooling many employees. This is a toxic, cruel, controlling fake place to work.” And then another comment “for a company that preaches holistic wellness and transparency. I've never felt more diminished or gaslighted by a company in my entire career. Ever. Trust me this insidious toxicity and secrecy at goop is not worth experiencing just to be associated with Gwyneth Paltrow, and the brand name. Your physical and mental health are infinitely more valuable than these factors.” And then someone said, and just said, “this is basically a cult with a gift shop.” Sarah 39:29 Yeah, I wish all my cults had gift shops. That's my favourite part of a museum. I'm like, Yeah, we can't miss the gift shop. Lisa 39:35 But but like I said, it's sort of like quite interesting to look under the, under the hood so to say. Like, are they practising what they preach? Sarah 39:43 Absolutely. Yeah. And I think that's a really big thing because that's where Integrity and Authenticity comes from, which is, I think the most important thing when you're talking about the spirituality and wellness, those are the factors that matter the most. The thing is, though, say these things are true? Does it really then justify the level of intensity of vitriol that is actually thrown at her? Even if she's a bit mean herself or it's a toxic workplace or she's misguided or whatever, does that really give us the right to be quite so vitriolic to her? And I'm not talking about not calling her out, or saying I think what you're selling isn't good, or I think what you’re selling is dangerous and think it's overpriced, but the level of personal attack that seems to come. You know, the fact that she's multiple times come up on Google search of - is Gwyneth Paltrow the most hated person in the world? - I mean, that's quite hardcore. She hasn't actually technically killed anyone. But so for example, there was a comment that said, “it's interesting to see the special level of vitriol piled on a woman. Did anyone think Air Jordans really made you a better basketball player maybe capable of flying into the NBA and monstrously huge compensation packages, because that's what Michael Jordan and Nike suggested, and folks paid obscene amounts of money for them. The snake oil promise of celebrity-like perfection comes from many sources. And yet with all these choices, we use a woman led brand as the pinata”. And there was another defence, Goop did a Netflix series and Jennifer Block and Elisa Albert wrote an entire article titled, Who's afraid of Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop - the long history of hating on Woo. And in that they said, “throughout history, women in particular have been mocked, reviled and murdered for maintaining knowledge and practices that frightened, confused and confounded the authorities, namely the church and later medicine. Criticism of Goop is founded, at least in part, upon deeply ingrained reserves of fear, loathing and ignorance about things we cannot see, touch, authenticate, prove, own or quantify. It is emblematic of a cultural insistence that we quash intuitive measures and other ways of knowing - the sort handed down via oral tradition, which for most women throughout history was the only way of knowing. In other words, it's classic patriarchal devaluation”. And I do agree in part with this. I mean, I'm a very big fan of, I do think intuition is important. But it's not quite so simple. And I do think that one of the areas that Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop have shown their light is sexuality. And that is also a good thing. Because, as we said before, shame isn't a good thing. It does seem to be aimed particularly towards women, they are shamed much more. And it's not a healthy thing for us living in this society. And I do think there could be a reaction to this element that's playing out at times. It can be many things happening at once. There could be legitimate complaints and bias happening at the same time. So this is not a full defence of that, as she says herself, “if people who know me and love me have a criticism then I really want to hear it, but if not, it's just a projection, like I'm a screen, and it's not about me, so I don't absorb it.” And it also seems like she might be deliberately provoking in order to get some of these responses. So there was another quote where she said, “You have to push, you have to go too far. You have to have a what WAP song or a Smells like my vagina candle, so people are like, what is this and they freak out, then the centre moves a little bit more this way. It's a process that happens over time.” And that suggests that there's a level of self awareness going on, and that maybe the shock element is there for a bigger purpose. So I do find that quite interesting. I mean, do you think she is an inspiring female leader? Lisa 43:18 Not really, to be honest. Initially, I liked her newsletter when it started out. And you know, it felt quite low key and affordable. And genuinely, I felt it had good intentions around wellness, but where it is now, it's so super commercial. So there's two things really, I don't really gel with. It's one - it's the perfectionism. You're never done. You always have to optimise yourself. And number two - it's the super consumerism, you know, I think in the world we're living in now we can really do with cutting back on the amount of stuff we have. I know I'm not her target market, but I do push back on the amount she's selling and like, when's enough enough? The Girlboss trend morphed into the “That Girl” phenomenon which I looked up, it was all on Tik Tok a couple of years ago, or maybe a year ago. And it's all made me think of Gwyneth, you know, “she wakes up at 7am, cooks and eats a plant based breakfast journals her thoughts in a neatly section day planner, chants affirmations, works out in a cute coordinated outfit. gulps down green juices is productive, professionally successful, and somehow still finds time for skincare, meditation and taking Pinterest perfect photos of all the above.” Actually, I think that a lot of people online have mixed reactions to this. “That girl is the attainable adult Barbie”. It's interesting to see how that has manifested. And then someone else said “That Girl perception is different for different people. It also motivates one to work towards the best version of themselves.” And then there's this quote lastly. “That girl is still about aesthetics and how other people see you, which isn't true self care. Self care isn't about telling everyone how great you are, and making sure they see you as perfect through external success.” So I don't blame Gwyneth for all of this. There are others, but I think the sort of predominant preoccupation with how you look over business. I mean, I get that this might be her market ,beauty. It still bothers me a little bit. But I do respect that on some level, you know, she is handling all this hate. I mean, like she said, she's turning it into business. But I think on some level, it does feel very American as well. But you'll never really, like I said, you're always being productive. You're always hustling. And it's quite exhausting. And like a lot of people mentioned online that they felt burnt out from it. And they actually had a backlash. There's actually this trend now of girl failure and of being a bit of a hot mess. Sarah 45:36 Yeah. But I think the Brits have always been a bit more on that trend. You know, I do feel that there is a difference between America and England because we've always loved a bit of an underdog or a bit of an antihero, particularly a lot of my comedy favourites, like Miranda and stuff, and Bridget Jones's Diary. We just embrace the whole - Yeah, let's be a bit rubbish. It's okay. And it's quite funny and quite endearing. And it's human. Lisa 45:59 And then you always had that perfect girl, didn't you? Sarah 46:03 Yeah. And she was always, we never, you know, it's like we never really liked, we weren't supposed to like her in that show. I do get that it can also be really unhealthy. I think more as a teen I really aspired to that sort of Vogue perfection and was trying to become something that it wasn't possible for me to become. But because I was so far away from that potential perfection, there was a point at which you have to give up trying. I was never going to look like her, that wasn't possible. And at a certain point, you start embracing what you are, and embrace all the mistakes and the imperfections because they make you who you are. And you just go - Well, if I can achieve this, that's great. I don't need to achieve everything. It's so dangerous, trying to achieve everything. Lisa 46:47 I think one of the reasons Gwyneth does really well and someone said gives it legitimacy, and so much and she's so potent for a lot of us, you know, for a lot of wealthy women in America is that she got that Californian cool, mixed in with that sort of East Coast privilege. You know, she's very aspirational. She's got that sort of weird DNA mix. She's not just the Woo. So we've gone through quite a lot of comments. And we've looked at all the accusations levelled at Gwyneth. What are your final thoughts, Sarah? Sarah 47:19 So one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s breakout roles was actually playing Jane Austen's Emma, which is a character described as beautiful, wealthy and smart, while also spoiled, meddlesome and self deluded. And similar to Emma, Gwyneth Paltrow was born into a life of privilege. She's tall, blonde, thin, beautiful and rich. I mean, she's quintessentially the Queen Bee archetype. She's even previously been described as glowing like a radioactive swan. This, I think, can make her the target for a lot of envy and projection. And she very much reminds us of the popular girl at school, the one who was more beautiful than we could ever hope to be, who appeared to float through life effortlessly, and unfairly advantaged by her privilege, and who judged and dismissed those with less privilege. What's really difficult is differentiating where the anger is based on her individual behaviour, and where it's anger towards a perceived type, and a defence against the judgement we believe they will feel towards ourselves who are just the mere mortals. And when it comes to Goop, I mean, it's very difficult to tease out the parts that are wellness and when it becomes quackery. As I've said, I myself do subscribe to some alternative health practices, and I incorporate what might be called alternative spirituality into my life. So I can't just dismiss it all as complete hogwash, as some scientists do. But that said, what she seems to have done is taken out the soul from these practices and turned it into a commercialised money making machine, which is, in my belief, the opposite of what these practices are about. The idea that we're not enough, we're not well enough, we're not happy enough, unless we are constantly optimising ourselves is a really dangerous one. And she doesn't just promote possible practices for support. But she seems to suggest that if you do anything else, like eat gluten, then you are bad, and you will become ill. For me, this is where it becomes problematic. In today's internet driven world, there is so much potential misinformation at our fingers. It's sometimes really hard to tell what's just challenging the orthodoxy and dismissed as dangerous, and what is genuinely incorrect. And that's where choice comes in. We each have to choose what we believe is not just right, but right for ourselves. And also ask ourselves, are we just looking for a quick fix or a magic potion for a much bigger underlying issue, like not feeling good enough? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that. Lisa 49:47 I think you've encapsulated a lot of the ideas of what we've seen in the comments. So my final quote is and I found this on a business site, “there is something very sad in the notion that just because you can afford to pay for supremely expensive holidays, you will live longer. A worn pair of sneakers, fresh country air and a walk with a friend will do just the trick”. Thank you for listening. Sarah 50:09 Thank you. Lisa 50:11 Thank you to our lovely producer Emily. If you enjoy today's episode, please don't forget to leave a review and subscribe. It really does help us in reaching more people. Sarah 50:20 Also, you can follow us on Instagram at straight to the comments podcast. Our handle is @s2tcpodcast and join us next week where we'll be diving headfirst straight to the comments. See you there. This podcast has been produced by Emily Crosby media.