Actress, model, entrepreneur and businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow joined Fashion@Brown’s Fashion Week as the fifteenth and final speaker of its series Monday evening.
She was introduced and interviewed by Fashion@Brown President Sasha Pinto ’21 who began the conversation by asking Paltrow’s thoughts on actors transitioning to entrepreneurship, which Paltrow believes to be a natural phenomenon.
Paltrow is known for acting as Viola de Lesseps in the historical romance “Shakespeare in Love,” which earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1998, Holly Holliday on the musical comedy-drama television series “Glee” which earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2011 and Pepper Potts in Marvel’s “Iron Man” franchise.
Beyond her acting career, Paltrow has made a foray into the wellness and lifestyle business by launching her company Goop, which she founded in 2008. Goop started as a weekly email newsletter, and in 2011, the company transformed into an official e-commerce brand. Paltrow describes the company’s mission as connecting people to tools that can better their life experiences. To do so, Goop produces health-related editorial content and sells lifestyle products including home decor, clothing, makeup and even sex toys.
“All artists are at heart entrepreneurs,” Paltrow said. “There’s so many parallels between what it takes to create and to have insane self-belief.”
Growing up, Paltrow watched her mother (actress Blythe Danner Paltrow) act in various productions, which sparked her own interest in pursuing the same career path. As far as entrepreneurship, she attributes her longstanding interest in the field to reading the business section of the New York Times as a child.
According to Paltrow, Goop has become a “trailblazing member of culture” because it is “not afraid to ask questions” or receive backlash. From its beginnings, Goop has promoted concepts like acupuncture and gluten-free eating that have since become more mainstream. In sharing her ideas and questions, Paltrow is prepared for any response, and she gives credit to her editors for their important role in the editorial process, putting Goop “at the forefront in the wellness space.”
“What we always say is if we’re doing something in integrity, then we have the latitude to ask and write about whatever we want to explore,” she said.
Goop’s forward-thinking ideas gained the company notoriety — so, too, has its marketing strategy. The company has released various products with obscure names, such as a spray that is an essential oil blend of lavender, rosemary and juniper entitled “Psychic Vampire Repellent,” as well as a geranium and bergamot scented candle called “This Smells Like My Vagina.” The latter attracted widespread media attention, showcased on the likes of Jimmy Kimmel Live and Harper’s Bazaar. But pop-cultural buzz was not Paltrow’s initial intention. She credits this branding to her “irreverent” sense of humor.
“I think humor is a great way to connect to a customer and for them to understand … that you have a relaxed open approach in your marketing,” Paltrow said.
Without a business school background, Paltrow said that she has made “many” mistakes with Goop and continues to learn on the job. Goop has come under scrutiny multiple times, including in April 2015, when Paltrow and her staff failed to follow Goop’s nutritional recommendations while only using food stamps, according to the Washington Post. In September 2018, Goop paid $145,000 to settle a lawsuit where the company claimed its “Jade Egg” had vaginal health benefits despite the lack of a scientific basis and received criticism from gynecologists.
“I’ve learned so much not only about what not to do again but how to examine the thinking behind why I made the wrong decision,” Paltrow said. “I would say always challenge the way that you see something and always challenge the way that you think something through.”
In response to the pandemic, Goop has seen a shift from consumer interest in its skincare line to greater desire for kitchen and home items such as pots, pans, cookbooks, pillows and candles. Paltrow has also recently entered the fast-meal market by creating a “Goop Ghost Kitchen,” a delivery-only health food restaurant based in Santa Monica, California. Paltrow is looking to expand this venture throughout California, and, one day, all across the country.
The conversation then opened up to audience questions, one of which came from a Duke University student, who asked Paltrow about her leadership style.
“For a long time women in executive positions were approximating the more male archetype in trying to be a boss, and I don't do that,” Paltrow said. “I am trying to uncover what it means to lead from the feminine (perspective) — to embrace my femininity, to find the strength through that femininity, as opposed to trying to act like a man.”
In closing out the discussion, Paltrow offered some words of advice to listeners.
“The more that you can act in accordance with your truest self and have the courage to speak from that place and really be in integrity … you will find happiness quicker,” Paltrow said. “Life is challenging and laden with disappointment, but if you go through the process with integrity and saying what you mean and listening to yourself, I think that's the quickest way to experience peace and … success.”
Rebecca Carcieri is an arts & culture editor. She is a senior from Warwick, Rhode Island studying political science.