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Gwyneth Paltrow is just like the rest of us. Yes, the same woman who sells $15,000 sex toys, psychic vampire repellant and candles that “smell like her vagina”. She may be inordinately well off (her net worth is estimated at $150m) and live in one of the plushest areas of Los Angeles with her award-winning producer husband, Brad Falchuk, but, seriously, she’s totally normal.
Not only does the actor-turned-entrepreneur wear SPF every day, she was also unlucky enough to catch Covid-19, something she thankfully recovered from (she says due to a “longer-term detox”). But the latest in Paltrow’s quest for relatability comes courtesy of how she spent lockdown. Appearing on the SmartLess podcast, the 48-year-old mother-of-two confessed she’d let healthy habits slip and embraced sheer, unmitigated indulgence.
But hold your “one of us” chants. To Paltrow, indulgence isn’t bathing in a sea of Celebrations and a 20 box of chicken McNuggets. No, it’s having two drinks a night, making pasta, and eating bread. “I went totally off the rails,” she said. As for her drink of choice? Jaeger Bombs? White Lightning? Nope. Paltrow was throwing back whiskey made from quinoa.
Of course we don’t recommend drinking more than the daily recommended units, but if you’re going to push the limits, doing so with a superfood spirit is hardly a Wednesday night out at the Slug & Lettuce. Likewise, while it’s not advisable to live exclusively on carbohydrates, it’s going to take more than buttering a slice of toast to convince us the Queen of new-age wellness has changed. Especially as her latest comments demonise what is a normal diet for most people.
Needless to say, social media had something to say about all this. “Hi if you could offer me a little extra support and love right now I just found out Gwyneth Paltrow ate bread,” tweeted one person. “Wish I loved anything as much as Gwyneth Paltrow loves being unrelatable,” added another. One even shared a photograph of a woman stuffing her face with a giant bread roll alongside the caption: “Retweet to scare Gwyneth Paltrow”.
And yet, can we really be surprised? To those accustomed with Paltrow’s crystal-clutching, jade-egg inserting, genital-candlemaking lifestyle, the fact that “going off the rails” means couscous cocktails will come as no surprise. This is, after all, someone whose personal brand is founded on being “well” in its purest and most capitalist form – Goop famously included a pair of $125,000 gold dumbbells in one of its Christmas gift guides.
Paltrow’s wellness empire has never been without controversy. Goop has been reported to both the National Trading Standards and Advertising Standards Authority in the UK for two of its products (“health-giving” stones and “detoxing” jade eggs). In California, Goop had to pay a settlement of £112,500 for making “unfounded” claims. The company was also criticised for promoting vaginal steaming, a treatment that left one woman with second-degree burns.
In January 2020, Paltrow’s Netflix series, In Goop Health, was panned by critics for peddling pseudoscience. The documentary about Paltrow and her staff promoted myriad new-age treatments, like hydrotherapy and energy healing. Scenes featured Paltrow trying a five-day fasting diet and undergoing a controversial vampire facial, while Goop staffers swam in sub-zero waters and took magic mushrooms in Jamaica. The standout scene for many, though, was one in which Paltrow, our gynaecological guru, revealed she didn’t know what a vagina is.
All things considered, it would be easy to just let Paltrow get on with it, if for nothing else than for our amusement. But in the last year, when the world has been ravaged by a global health crisis, Paltrow’s woo woo wellness feels more deserving of scrutiny than ever. Throughout the course of the pandemic, the actor has been the focus of various brouhahas, including criticism from dermatologists and others of her applying a feeble amount of SPF, giving little protection.
But potentially her most dangerous yet came when she claimed her recovery from Covid had been aided by an "intuitive fasting" regime, comprising a mostly ketogenic and plant-based diet with no sugar or alcohol. Her statement was deemed so strong it caused the national medical director for NHS England to say: "In the last few days I see Gwyneth Paltrow is unfortunately suffering from the effects of Covid. We wish her well, but some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS”. He continued: “We need to take long Covid seriously and apply serious science. All influencers who use social media have a duty of responsibility and a duty of care around that."
If there was ever a time for “serious science”, it is surely now, with the deaths of 150,000 people in the UK alone from Covid, and misinformation potentially preventing people from taking life-saving interventions like the vaccine. But it’s also, one would hope, a time for a personal sense-checking. The kind that makes A-list stars think twice about telling the world about their carbohydrate-fuelled breakdown. Paltrow’s shtick was funny for a time. But how many of us are still laughing?