She looks at the menu once more before announcing: “I can’t eat this shit. Let’s just go up to my suite and order room service ... ” Turns out the author of five cookbooks, including the about-to-be-released The Clean Plate, a collection of meal plans, detoxes and cleanses, quite fancies a club sandwich instead.
Minutes later, we step into an apartment-style penthouse overlooking Mayfair. It encapsulates the greige luxury one might find in a romantic comedy by Nancy Meyers. Better still, it’s toasty warm. “I mean, it seems kind of a shame not to make the most of it while I’m here, right?” she says. She kicks off her sneakers and starts sorting prototypes of clothes being developed for Goop’s range, G Plan. I wander into the living area to have a closer look at planet Goop. The dining table is spread with hair and make-up products, all waiting to get Paltrow photo-ready for the opening of a pop-up Goop store. Beside that sits a bouquet of white flowers. Its card reads: “Missing you. Your husband. x”.
The husband is Brad Falchuk, the scriptwriter and television producer Paltrow married 10 days earlier in Amagansett, New York. Paltrow has been enjoying something “vaguely” resembling a honeymoon ever since. Tomorrow she will travel back to the US and her children, Moses and Apple, from her previous marriage to the British pop star Chris Martin. The details of the ceremony are only made available a few days later via a post called The Wedding Party, on Goop.
From its launch in 2008, Goop was designed to be Paltrow’s own breaking news service. It is where, in 2014, she announced she and Martin were “consciously uncoupling” following 12 and a half years of marriage. And where she decided to go public with her engagement to Falchuk. But from being a “place to solve my own problems”, as she describes its early years, the business has since become a sprawling multi-category business with a staff of 220. It was given a valuation of $250m during its last round of funding last February.
Goopers still go to the site for advice on everything from “how to teach kids financial literacy” to the “merits of having a smart shoe wardrobe”. Some of the advice is fairly benign; other titbits, such as its advocation of coffee enemas or consulting a “shamanic energy medicine practitioner”, have invited widespread criticism and anger. But true Goopers aren’t deterred. They buy Goop-endorsed books, accessories, vitamin tablets, clothes, skincare products and sex aids. And increasingly, they meet other Goopers at Goop summits (the next will be in London this spring), where they pay up to $2,000 to take part in wellness workshops, yoga sessions and meditation classes. Not bad for an actress with little or no experience in internet publishing who conceived her business plan at her kitchen table in Belsize Park.
OK, so she wasn’t exactly an unknown when she decided to launch. Her brand was already global, she had more than a decade of magazine covers behind her, and when she talks about “seeing a marketing guy in New York who gave me the name [Goop], and hooked me up with a guy to get it going”, one must appreciate that hers is a circle that includes people like Steven Spielberg (who is her godfather) and Brian Chesky, the internet billionaire and co-founder of Airbnb, whom Paltrow still “calls up for advice”.
“It’s bizarre to think back on. I had such a different life then,” says Paltrow of the “life crisis” that precipitated Goop. “I was completely burned out. I had done 40 films in a decade, and even though there were aspects of it that were incredible, it was also pretty lonely. I was on the road alone a lot. And I had had my daughter and I thought, I don’t want to do that any more. And then I started to realise I was very interested in the digital space. I certainly had no idea what I was getting myself into,” she adds. “I was trying to figure out WordPress alone in my kitchen. It was ridiculous.”
We are waiting for the room service. Paltrow has ordered a club sandwich, fresh tomato soup and french fries; I have chosen a Niçoise salad and tomato soup, with tea. Is she on any diet right now? “It sort of goes in phases,” she says. “Right now I don’t know what I’m going for. I eat whatever I want and then I clean up my act for 10 days.” She sighs. “French fries are my favourite food. And I love alcohol. So it’s a balance. I’m a real person who wants to eat delicious stuff.”
Annoyingly, she has few of the physical flaws one might expect of a real 46-year-old. Yes, she has the faintest of crinkles around the eyes, and years of intense exercise have sculpted her physique from waifish fragility to svelte athleticism, but she looks pretty much the same as the woman who leapt to global fame in the 1995 thriller Se7en.
Not everyone was convinced by her early homilies to the benefits of skin cupping and juice fasts. But Paltrow, who first became interested in clean living while investigating alternative treatments following her father’s diagnosis with oral cancer in 1999, forged ahead. As a spokesperson for wellness, she was a pioneer, and considering that the market is now estimated by the Global Wellness Institute to be worth some $4.2tn, one imagines she feels quite smug.
“I started writing about this kind of stuff when it was ahead of the curve, and we are still ahead of the curve. Even when I started to do yoga, pre-internet, I remember there being very cynical articles about how yoga was culty and weird and for freaks. It’s been great watching the sea-change. I had this funny experience the other day where I went to a yoga studio in LA and the beautiful 22-year-old girl behind the counter was like, ‘Have you ever done yoga before?’ And I was like: ‘Bitch, you have this job because I’ve done yoga before.’ ”
It’s an anecdote I’ve read before. But I like it because it sums up precisely the kind of sororal candour that has won her both fans — and a good few detractors. No matter how real, hands-on and “Hey, let’s just order french fries” she may be, people take issue with her life of vitamin blasts and blithe entitlement.
“But this is bullshit,” she says of accusations that Goop represents privilege. “This idea that wellness is aspirational, and for rich people, it’s absolutely not true at all. At the crux of it, the true tenets of wellness — meditation, eating whole foods, drinking a lot of water, sleeping well, thinking good thoughts, trying to be optimistic — are all free.”
Paltrow doesn’t pretend that her lithe figure and glowy complexion are genetic gifts. But in sharing the extent of her exercises and skin-brushing techniques, she can seem quite extreme. “I think the reason why people get pissed off with me is because I’m like, ‘No, I actually work my ass off in all areas of my life,’ ” she says. “Some people are really inspired by that and some people are annoyed by it.”
Lunch is served, arranged prettily by two waiters who are quite giddy to be around her. The tomato soup is fresh and flavoursome. The club sandwich is a towering classic of the five-star-hotel school. Paltrow gets stuck in.