As someone more into pizza than probiotics, I've never given the Goop lifestyle much thought. Well, I have — but I've perused the site just long enough to deduce that it was not for me. In fact, if you told me just a month ago that I would be spending my Saturday at Gwyneth Paltrow's wellness retreat, aptly named In Goop Health, I may have laughed. (Or at least asked you where I got the extra $500 (£400) to spend on the day-long event.) Alas, my Saturday was spent blending in as best as possible with the healthy (and likely hella wealthy) Goop worshippers — and it was completely surreal.
I have lived in the capital of juice cleanses and $45 spin classes — a.k.a. Los Angeles — for about three years now, but I've somehow been able to avoid the major lifestyle overhaul that so many L.A. transplants so often dish about on Instagram. Paltrow herself was once one of those people. During one of the many panels the Iron Man actress moderated over the course of the day, she shared that she aligned herself with healthier living following her father's cancer diagnosis. It inspired her to put down the Camel Reds (which she admitted more than once she'll pick up at the occasional party because, hey, who's perfect?) and pick up the gluten-free, dairy-free zucchini bread. (Her father told her it was like "biting into the New York Times.")
Today, Paltrow's lifestyle blog Goop boasts articles like "Is Your Clothing Toxic?" and "12 (More) Reasons To Start A Jade Egg Practice." It's not hard to see why the actress has been criticised for promoting pseudo-science — some would even say misinformation — leading to online articles like "Don't Take Medical Advice From Gwyneth Paltrow" and "Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?" Yet for all the jokes that the media has made at the star's expense (some earned, many not) she has legions of fans — ones so loyal they shelled out either $500, $1,000, or $1,500 to participate in Saturday's festivities.
Much of the crowd that gathered at 3Labs, a super-chic warehouse space in Culver City, California, looked a lot like Paltrow herself: trendy blondes with either amazing genetics and/or a fantastic skincare regimen. The latter you could score yourself, if you've got a few hundred dollars to drop: The event contained the "Goop Hall," a place to purchase many of the products featured on the blog, as well as the company's own Goop line of clean beauty products. I was afraid to touch the $110 bottles of moisturiser.
Along the edges of the space were food vendors from a variety of Los Angeles restaurants, which quickly became my favourite part of the day. I started the day with a cup of iced matcha before moving on to some overnight oats and ginger shots. By lunch, I was ready to feast. Why, yes, I would like a second KyeRito. Raspberry vegan ice cream with cinnamon roll chunks? Don't mind if I do. A Sweetgreen salad to hold me over until the next panel? Hand me that Goop-branded wooden fork, because I'm digging in.
As a member of the Lapis clan — the cheapest ticket one could buy, or, in this case, acquire a press pass for — I had the opportunity to enjoy a plethora of activities. Technically, I could take part in so-Goopy-it-could-be-a-joke activities like a vitamin I.V. drip — which involved spending 15 minutes with a needle in your arm — a crystal reading, and even aura photography. Sadly, Paltrow had created the Disneyland of wellness summits: While the activities were enticing, the lines were too long to really want to wait for any of them. I really did want to see if I felt more energised with some extra pumps of vitamin whatever coursing through my veins — but I knew I would feel a lot worse if I missed an entire panel while waiting on my drip.
Okay, really, I didn't want to miss the 10-minute facelift, a small surgical procedure that was performed in front of hundreds of eager Goop fanatics. The facelift — done on a Goop employee whose face was pre-numbed before hopping up on stage — involved a doctor sticking a needle and thread through a woman's cheek in order to pull the sugar-molecule thread through her skin. The result? A tighter appearance, and at least a few nauseous members of the audience. It was, apparently, Paltrow's idea.
Fortunately, no other panel involved plastic surgery — no matter how non-invasive. The panels, which were spread out throughout the roughly nine-hour day, were, at least for me, hit or miss. Though Paltrow gushed about Dr. Habib Sadeghi, the first speaker of the day and the cofounder of Be Hive of Healing, he lost me pretty much immediately. I tried to keep up with his buzzwords and explanation for how our minds can manifest illness in our body, but eventually I settled for clapping politely. That's not to say that the man who coined the term "conscious uncoupling" — the explanation for which was the only part of his speech that I truly felt like I understood — didn't have a good chunk of the audience enthralled. Perhaps I needed to spend a little more time on Goop prior to the event. I felt like I had missed a homework assignment everyone else was clued into weeks ago.
The panel on sexuality included some authentic, hilarious commentary from panelists like Jenni Konner, executive producer of HBO's Girls. A second, about how our relationship with our mothers can affect us in our adult lives, was moving and not quite as lofty as the concept originally sounded. Eventually, I realised that I could get on board with panels that were more focused on mental and spiritual health than, say, ones about the physical body. I know for a fact that I am not going to remove the seeds from my tomatoes before eating them, or stop popping the occasional ibuprofen, as the doctors speaking at the "Gut Check" panel implored. But forgiving yourself for making mistakes, as the authors of The Tools suggested during their speech? That's advice I'll gladly take.
While I probably wouldn't have shelled out $500 for it, I did love watching Paltrow, Cameron Diaz, Nicole Richie, Tory Burch, and Miranda Kerr talk about their career goals, relationships, and unapologetic feminism, even if the panel was awkwardly named "Balls In The Air." Fashion designer Burch got real about how she was afraid of the word "ambition" when she was launching her now-empire. Richie — who is Diaz's sister-in-law, just in case you forgot that their partners are the twins from Good Charlotte — discussed moving on from being a stay-at-home mom to launching her own uber-successful career.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Goop event without the celebrities revealing the Goopiest shit that they do. Kerr talked about how her husband, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel, inspired her to launch her own skincare line — then admitted that she had just received a leech facial, which, yes, is exactly what it sounds like. Kerr, bless her heart, took the leeches home in order to save them from being murdered by her aesthetician.
"And I thought I was batshit crazy," Paltrow mused following Kerr's admission.
The event concluded at around 6:30 p.m., in which Team Lapis was sent home with a goodie bag worth over $200. It was a damn good goodie bag: I scored two books from speakers of the evening, plus condoms, lubricant, a hair towel, towelettes, two bracelets, an oil-pulling kit, probiotics, natural deodorant, lip balm, and awesome moisturiser. One thing I'm not a fan of? The gigantic can of powdered collagen, designed to make my skin prettier upon mixing in water. (As a vegetarian, and also not as a vegetarian, hard pass.)
So, while I may not consider myself a card-carrying Goopie, spending the day in Paltrow's zone wasn't nearly as outrageous as I expected. At the end of the day, I left with a stomach full of veggies, a swag bag of useful stuff, and images of Miranda Kerr with a face covered leeches. No one made me eat clay either, so all in all, I'm considering the event a raging success.