Intense criticism of Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness empire goop hasn’t slowed its growth. The brand launched in 2008 — cast as an experimental newsletter “out of Gwyneth Paltrow’s kitchen” — and quickly expanded into a lifestyle website chock full of tips for travel and style, and pseudo-scientific solutions to the unique malaise of having too much money to know what to do with. This month, the inaugural issue of goop magazine, a glossy guide to Paltrow-approved life choices, hit newsstands at a cool $17, plus tax, a pop. It will be published quarterly by Conde Nast.
In her editor’s note, Paltrow wrote that the focus of the first issue was wellness (defined as “a state of curiosity and what that curiosity might lead to”), but the publication pays a fair amount of attention to food, style, travel and fitness. Sparse ads, heavy card stock and absolutely gorgeous visuals make it fun to flip through, but what are the takeaways for your average human reader? Here’s what I learned after spending a weekend with goop‘s 96 pages:
1. Gwyneth understands her brand — and is self-aware enough to poke fun at it.
The issue is bookended by two little jokes: Paltrow appearing on the cover nearly nude, bathing in some sort of restorative mud with with a headline “Earth to Gwyneth” splashed across her body, and the very last page is a quiz to help readers measure “how goopy” they are (where’s the seventh chakra? which of these is not a goop wellness protocol?). Well-played, GP.
2. Goop = Gwyneth
There are no fewer than five full-page images of Paltrow in the magazine, which accompany the glowing profile of her written by Sarah Mesle. But she’s not just the face of the brand — she is the brand. This is her quarterly manifesto on how a certain type of bi-coastal blonde lady should be well in today’s world.
3. Paltrow is not too fussed about criticisms from the medical community of the unproven wellness trends that she helps to create.
In her profile, Paltrow responds to critics who say goop makes unsubstantiated claims: “For me, when I take off my shoes and walk in the grass, it’s so healing,” she said. “It’s hard to find scientific evidence for the idea ‘I feel good.'” Ergo… if it feels good to stick a jade egg where the sun doesn’t shine, have at it.
4. For the uninitiated, the magazine is a beginner’s guide to goop.
Erring on the side of caution, the first issue focuses on refreshing knowledge of well-worn goop-y territory: a guide to crystals (“what do they help us with again?”), reiki (where the “godfather” of reiki is recast as an “Original Goopster”), quick lunch #inspo and celeb trainer Tracy Anderson doling out workout tips.
5. It’s for ladies who want — and can afford — luxury.
Which can be said about any and every mainstream women’s magazine, but this lives in another stratosphere at its price point: $17 plus tax. This is pretty consistent with who the website reaches, which Adweek tells us is women who are 34 on average with a household income over $100,000.
6. I need to be healed — in a lot of different ways.
After reading this mag cover to cover, I learned that I don’t have the right crystals, my energy needs to be fixed, I’m disconnected from my primal female urge to nourish others and my pelvic floor is likely a disaster.
7. Luckily, I can release my pelvic floor for $5,000.
For 10 sessions, it’s pretty much a steal.
8. I should probably also sign up for a weekend workshop to get in touch with the wild woman in me.
Tantra is what’s necessary to “find your inner sex goddess,” and the woman who helps with this is Michaela Boehm, a white American who teaches this “ancient spiritual movement” rooted in northern India. (She also helpfully implies feminism is ruining our sex lives, because you know, “extreme self-reliance” is just not that attractive.)
9. I can be surprised by how predictable content can be.
Stripped down, goop is like any other women’s magazine, repackaging familiar style, food, travel, fitness sections into Do, Make, Get, Go, Be (no, seriously, these are the section names). It features a decent mix of stories, touching everything from motherhood to “detoxing,” complete with a clichéd tight shot of the flesh of a grapefruit to accompanying the feature on how to fix your vag.
And then there’s this rich white lady gaze that is so familiar and so incredibly uncomfortable. The main travel story, “Passage Through India,” encourages readers to go to the “dazzling East,” to go beyond their basic knowledge of India learned in “Art 101 of Hindu god with a disturbing number of arms” (um, holy crap, that’s offensive), to go on a spiritual journey. But of course it also includes spots that will ensure “your Instagram feed will never look better” (because why go on vacation if you can’t make people insanely jealous by flooding their phones with Travel and Leisure–worthy shots?).
10. A wellness magazine can make you feel really bad about yourself.
I don’t even have the time to dream up the kinds of problems goop wants to solve, let alone the money it would require to solve them.