Gwyneth Paltrow Is All Business

Here is David Gelles’ profile of Gwyneth Paltrow for The New York Times. To read the complete article and check out other resources, please click here.

Credit: Erik Tanner for The New York Times

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The Oscar winner says, “I was masquerading as an actor.” Now she’s focused on seeing what comes next for her lifestyle company, Goop. Maybe psychedelics?

As an actress, Gwyneth Paltrow was embraced by fans and critics, winning an Oscar for her leading role in “Shakespeare in Love.” As a businesswoman, Ms. Paltrow has received decidedly mixed reviews.

Many deride her lifestyle brand, Goop, as little more than an overhyped e-commerce platform peddling pseudoscience and baubles. California regulators secured a $145,000 settlement from Goop last year after suing the company for false advertising, including claims that a $66 vaginal jade egg could balance hormones, increase bladder control and regulate menstrual cycles.

Ms. Paltrow is unbowed. Goop is now worth some $250 million, revenues are growing and Ms. Paltrow is looking to Disney for inspiration, visualizing a company that makes money through online retail, offline experiences, ad partnerships and more.

Ms. Paltrow grew up around show business. Her father was the producer Bruce Paltrow, who died in 2002, and her mother is the actress Blythe Danner. This pedigree makes it all the harder for some people to accept that she is now a chief executive fully engaged in running her own business. Sometimes, she told me, people ask, “Who’s the silent male person who’s helping her?”

There is no secret man running Goop. Instead, Ms. Paltrow herself is fluent in the intricacies of her business, speaking in detail about the tech stacks, contextual commerce strategies and email service providers that power Goop.

And still, G.P. — as she is known to friends — remains every bit the celebrity. On the day we met, she started the day on “Good Morning America” promoting a new cookbook, and ended it singing karaoke on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon.

When our interview was over, she exited the building into a crush of paparazzi, before being whisked into a waiting black S.U.V. This interview, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was conducted in New York City.

What was it like growing up around show business?

I would see my mother on stage as a little girl, and she looked like a superhero. She looked like she was channeling the forces of the universe. And I just wanted to do that. So I followed in her footsteps. Acting is a very entrepreneurial career. You have to sort of connect to that level of self belief that entrepreneurs have to have. This abject, sometimes naïve, occasionally stupid amount of self belief.

How did your mom feel about you wanting to follow in her footsteps?

She always said, “Oh, please don’t be an actress.” She was pleading with me to leverage my intellectual self more than my artistic self, and I think she was just trying to protect me from a lot of rejection. It can be a heartbreaking career.

So what was it like trying to get started as an actor?

My first purview of management was on set, because — and I think other female actors would agree with me — part of your role is just to sort of maintain culture.

What do you mean?

We’re female. So we are kind of channeling the energy for the set and correcting imbalances. If there was ever any discord, especially between men, I felt it was my job to sort of balance the energy a little bit. Also, as in most industries, it’s predominantly male. Sometimes you would be the girl in a male cast, and could bring femininity and temper some of the male stuff.

Does that hold true in business as well? Is it the same at Goop?

Oh, completely. I think it’s both intentional and not intentional. The provenance of the company is such that when I went to go monetize it, the people who were drawn to it were not Silicon Valley males. So the great talent that I attracted was female.

O.K. Is there any analogy between either the producer role and the C.E.O. role?

My dad was a benevolent, tough Jewish boss. He was very loved for the most part, and he gave me a template for how one leads, consciously or unconsciously.

So what’s the balance that you try to strike as the leader of the company?

With every iteration of the company, I have to start completely at square one again.

How so?

When you’re in the family stage and your company has just nine people or whatever, it’s much different than trying to manage and maintain a culture of 250 people. I have no experience at this. It’s almost like I have to unlearn things, relearn things, start over.
“When a start-up starts, it’s full of feminine energy.” — Gwyneth Paltrow

What have you had to unlearn?

When a start-up starts, it’s full of feminine energy, even if it’s an all male start-up. Right? Because it’s collaborative, it’s emotional, it’s passionate, it’s instinctual. Those are all feminine qualities. And then as it scales, you have to put some rules in place. And so that’s where the masculine comes in. And you have compliance and H.R. and all these things that are putting structure to the business, which is super important. So unlearning some of the old kind of feminine ways, trying to apply the right kind of masculinity, and seeing if it’s possible to really still lead from that feminine place, is what I think about.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

David Gelles writes the Corner Office column and other features for The New York Times’s Sunday Business section, To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

To learn more about him and his work, please click here.

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