On Monday morning, Gwyneth Paltrow addressed a packed room at SXSW. The actor turned Goop CEO didn’t shy away from some of the more polarizing aspects of her business, going so far as to agree when CNN’s Poppy Harlow posited that Paltrow’s lifestyle brand often benefits from controversy.
“People love to talk about like, Goop is controversial,” Paltrow continued. “It’s like, really? Cause we’re talking about female sexual health?… Women’s empowerment, women’s sexual health, that’s where the sort of controversy lies a lot of the time, which I find really fascinating.” When Harlow pressed Paltrow on a settlement over Goop’s lack of “scientific backing” when advertising vaginal “yoni” eggs, as well as an oil blend that the company reportedly claimed “prevented depression,” Paltrow insisted that they never received any customer complaints about those products.
“We didn’t understand that you can’t make certain claims,” she admitted, recalling that “painful lesson.” “We just thought we were like, writing a blog.” Since, Paltrow continued, Goop has hired “a regulatory team and in-house scientists and lawyers, and we got all buttoned up.”
“I think we recognize that we are at the front of this, a lot of these topics,” Paltrow posited, “and we want to make and sell products that do what they say and that are efficacious and have the right claims behind them.”
“We know that at Goop we’ve written about some things that have seemed controversial at the time—but it’s interesting because by pattern recognition you see over time these things that were like shocking or controversial, you see being widely adopted in the culture. You see businesses popping up around these ideas.”
“We know, if we’re going to write about like a vaginal steam, that it’s funny,” Paltrow allowed. “But also at the same time we like to identify those things, like what are the next healing modalities, and we just like to ask questions about them.”
Harlow also brought up the price tags on Goop products, which are widely mocked as financially inaccessible. “It’s not only expensive things,” Paltrow insisted. “If you actually go to Goop, we have all different price points… It’s a little bit of a mischaracterization.” Some products currently for sale on Goop dot com include $1,081 mules, a $120 “Goop exclusive one-of-a-kind leather rugby ball” and a $85 “medicine bag” of eight crystals.
“When I talk about aspirational,” Paltrow continued, “I don’t mean necessarily price point, I mean aspiring to feeling better.”
Asked about her willingness to poke fun at these controversies and at her own public image, as she did during a recent SNL appearance, Paltrow beatifically responded, “Throughout this whole journey from the change of career and trying to build a company, I think it’s really important to always have a sense of humor about everything in life.”
“As they say in Buddhism, to live is to struggle, to suffer. And so I think you really have to have a sense of humor about it as you go through it.”
Paltrow also touched on Goop’s recently announced Netflix docuseries, assuring Harlow that she’ll appear in all six episodes of the project. “I think for us really, it’s just an opportunity to kind of do deeper dives into some of the subjects that we're really interested in, and kind of really get into it with some experts and do the experiments on TV,” she explained, joking, “We’re leaving the vagina out of it, don’t worry. It’s PG.”
The conversation often returned to Paltrow’s leadership style, her business savvy, and the many mentors she looks to for guidance. Harlow referenced a Wall Street Journal article in which Paltrow talked about cold-calling an unresponsive Jeff Bezos. “After that came out, I got an email and it said the subject was Jeff Bezos, and the sender was Jeff Bezos,” Paltrow exclaimed. “And the body of the email said, hi there Gwyneth, the Wall Street Journal told me you want to talk to me.”
“So I wrote back, and then he wrote me, and then I said, you know, I would die for the opportunity to sit down and ask you a bunch of questions… and he never wrote me back.” Paltrow allowed that, “He’s got a lot going on.” When Harlow followed up, asking Paltrow if she would consider selling Goop to Amazon, she responded, “Would I sell my company to Amazon? I mean, sure, why not?”
“I think he’s going to call you now,” Harlow laughed.
Paltrow concluded by sharing her own aspirations, explaining, “I’m really intentionally trying to build a business that's far bigger than I ever was as a celebrity.” She cited companies like Disney as inspiration. “Goop-land?” Harlow asked, with Paltrow retorting, “Yea, it’s got a good ring to it.” She did not take any questions from the audience.