- Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness company, Goop, worth an estimated $US250 million, released a six-part Netflix show on Friday, called “The Goop Lab.”
- The show introduces six areas of wellness, including psychics, psychedelic drug therapy, and an “energy healing” chiropractor.
- Paltrow feeds her critics, admitting she doesn’t know what “vagina” means, and promoting regular extreme diets.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more.
Just over a decade ago, Gwyneth Paltrow started sending out a newsletter of recommendations – restaurants, hair salons, recipes – to friends.
Those were the humble origins of Goop, the actress-turned-CEO’s controversial wellness brand, now worth a reported $US250 million.
Under the mentorship of a venture capitalist, Paltrow built her blog into a website that publishes articles from “wellness practitioners” on alternative therapies, diets, fitness, skincare and more. The company also sells things, like a hairdryer for $US249; a water bottle with a crystal in it for $US80; a $US1,590 dress; a $US250,000 ticket to space.
Now, Goop also runs annual wellness summits. For $US2,500, ticket-holders get access to two days of talks with Paltrow and other celebrities (Olivia Wilde, Jessica Alba, and Busy Philipps appeared last year), a market of luxury goods, wellness classes, and treatments such as facials and vitamin injections.
This year is a big one for the company, with the launch of Goop At Sea (a $US750 cruise across the Italian Riviera with hers truly) and a brick-and-mortar partnership with the make-up store Sephora. They’re all building blocks to cement Goop’s position as a major player in the $US4.2 trillion wellness industry.
But first: Netflix. The highly-anticipated behind-the-scenes series, “The Goop Lab,” hit screens today, and it is just as Goopy as fans and critics had hoped.
The six-part show introduces viewers to six different areas of wellness that Paltrow and her team test out.
There is plenty of fodder for Paltrow’s critics, who have accused the former film star of elitism, quackery, and ignorance.
The vast majority of her team’s experiences are only accessible to an elite crust of society (flying to Jamaica to take “magic” mushrooms; getting an “exorcism” from Julianne Hough’s chiropractor; the luxury of a tailor-made diet).
Each episode starts with a disclaimer that this is entertainment, not advice. Even Paltrow’s most vocal critics appreciated the gesture, but say a disclaimer is not enough to balance some of the more outlandish ideas, like extreme fasting and speaking to the dead.
In the first episode, Goop staffers go to a retreat in Jamaica to try “magic” mushroom therapy.
The team meet shamans who give them each large doses of psilocybin (“magic” mushrooms), and guide them through a trip.
Elise Loehnen, Goop’s chief content officer, giggles and writhes around while one of her colleagues goes through “five years of therapy in five hours.”
Paltrow, who stays home, says she has done MDMA once on vacation in Mexico, but suggests mushrooms might be a good way for her to tackle insecurities.
The shaman tells viewers that even celebrities like Paltrow struggle with mental health issues and feeling insecure.
“We’re all human.”
The second episode sees Goopers take a trip to snowy Lake Tahoe for “cold exposure therapy.”
Dutch “iceman” Wim Hof teaches a handful of Goop staffers different breathing techniques and exercises – first inside covered in blankets, then in the snow in their swimsuits.
Some of Hof’s techniques are accepted, but he’s come under fire for claiming he has trained his body to withstand cancer and E. coli.
Gwyneth stays home.
Paltrow admits she’s never heard the word “vulva.”
The third episode, The Pleasure Is Ours, focuses on female pleasure, a topic Goop has pitched itself as an authority on.
Paltrow is known for recommending controversial feminine treatments, from vaginal steaming to vaginal jade eggs (supposedly to be inserted into the vagina and left for hours to improve pelvic floor). Goop even released a scented candle called This Candle Smells Like My Vagina.
However, minutes into the episode, Paltrow admits she does not know what the vagina is.
She exclaims that, at Goop, they “love vaginas”. Betty Dodson corrects her: the vagina is the birth canal only. The vulva “is all that good stuff” that triggers sensation.
“Oh, see I’m getting an anatomy lesson,” Paltrow laughs.
The team strips off to feel more comfortable about their vulvas.
Legendary sex educator Betty Dodson, now 90 years old, tells Paltrow that porn actors often surgically enhance or bleach their vulvas, something Paltrow hadn’t heard before.
One team members also visits Dodson’s New York City office for a masturbation lesson. Others take erotic self portraits to feel more comfortable in their skin.
Paltrow gets a vampire facial and tries an extreme fasting diet for 5 days.
In the fourth episode, The Health Span, Paltrow, Loehnen, and Wendy Lauria, Goop’s VP of marketing, each try different diets.
They take it a step further by enlisting a Yale pathologist who claims she can measure their “biological age” (distinct from their chronological age), and see whether a diet can make them “younger.”
Paltrow is crowned the winner of the lifespan contest, shaving 1.7 years off her biological age, compared to Loehnen, who de-ages by a year on a pescatarian diet, and Lauria, whose vegan diet does nothing for her lifespan.
Paltrow also has a vampire facial, Loehnen gets 100 acupuncture needles in her face, and Lauria gets a “thread lift,” a procedure that costs $US1,500-$US4,500 – a relative bargain compared to $US10,000 face lifts. It involves getting sutures sewn into her face as an alternative to fillers.
During her treatment, Paltrow muses that all of these techniques are “a more natural way” to age gracefully.
Julianne Hough’s controversial ‘energy healer’ extracts childhood trauma from her foot.
The former Dancing With The Stars judge makes a cameo appearance in the fifth episode to introduce John Amaral, her controversial chiropractor who claims to use quantum physics to heal his patients.
Loehnen says, “I had an exorcism.” Another Goop staffer weeps silently on the operating table.
Paltrow has a private session, writhing and moaning as Amaral swishes his arms over her body.
Then they meet a psychic.
The final episode is the most controversial: Goop staffers meet Laura Lynn Jackson, a celebrity medium who communicates with the dead and teaches them how to “intuit” the origin of an object by touching it.
Dr Jen Gunter, a vocal critic of Goop, told Insider the episode was “disgusting and shameful,” adding: “The whole episode was a carnival side show.”
Experts warn psychics, in particular, have been known to take advantage of clients’ vulnerabilities, and it is hard to safeguard against fraud.
Loehnen routinely defends Goop’s promotion of alternative and controversial ideas by saying they are “just asking questions” – a defence, The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull says, is “frequently invoked by anti-vaxxers, 9/11 truthers, and eugenicists.”
In many ways, Goop’s success has been fuelled by its haters. Every time Goop suggests a new outlandish technique (famously, using vaginal eggs to improve pelvic floor), the internet erupts with fact-checks, complaints, ridicule – and more visitors to Goop’s website.
Paltrow invites it (“if you want to f–k with me, bring your A game,” is her mantra), and continues.