There's been a lot of Gwyneth Paltrow-hate around here -– and more generally, all throughout the GOOP-aware section of the internet –- but her newest interview in Vogue made me (gasp) kind of like her.
I mean, Gwyneth isn't exactly easy to love. Her GOOP newsletters are at best a little silly, and at worse incredibly tone-deaf. She is so famous for her diet, her workouts, and her fashion that we often forget that Gwynnie is actually a really good actress. At first, when I started feeling these feelings, I thought maybe it was residual Emma love (I can't help it, I adore a good Jane Austen heroine, and Gwyneth is, in my opinion, among the best). But after reading the piece in Vogue I realized it was true: I actually do just like Gwyneth.
However, I did not like the writer, Jeffrey Steingarten, at all. He admits to having a crush on Gwyneth, but he also spends the entire first paragraph talking about what a "perilous assignment" covering Gwyneth's cooking could be. Clearly, Steingarten's career has never taken him anywhere more threatening than the vitamins aisle at Whole Foods on a Sunday (okay, so that place stresses me out — not the point, dammit). He also tells us that he would "have to lie" if Gwyneth's food sucks, before letting us know that, no, he isn't lying. Not exactly the best way to sell the reader on your honesty, dude.
But even with all that, Gwyneth comes across as sweet, and for lack of a better descriptor, like such a mom. The writer and the actress decide to make several dishes from her yet-to-be-released cookbook My Father's Daughter, which Steingarten describes as "nearly free from food phobias and from an exaggerated concern for health." They decide on gazpacho, corn chowder, chicken and dumplings and Bruce Paltrow's world famous pancakes. And it sounds delicious. And Gwyneth sounds like a competent cook with some enviable culinary tools. And Steingarten's love for Gwyneth only grows with each beautiful minute. Until he decides, for no apparent reason, that it's time to be a dick:
Things had gone so smoothly between Gwyneth and me that I thought I had a journalistic obligation to shake things up, to peer behind what seemed to me to be an impossibly perfect life, and so, despite the strong affection I had developed for Gwyneth, I wanted to ask her some rude questions… I remembered interviews from fifteen years ago, probably in Vogue, of several supermodels, and recalled a few of the questions. Had she ever had plastic surgery? Would she rather have somebody else's body? Did she hate any part of her own, the way Nora Ephron had written about how much she hated her own neck?
Instead of indulging in some self-snark, Gwyneth turned instantly cold and ended the call. She also potentially snubbed Steingarten later by uninviting him to the photo shoot. Though it's unclear whether she meant this as a message, her refusal to participate in self-hatred is kind of great. She might not be "down to earth" but Gywneth is also not entirely out of touch with reality. While some people like reading about celebrity insecurities, it is honestly the last thing I want to hear about. You hate your body? Well, join the goddamn club and shut up.
But my newfound Gwyneth love isn't entirely based on her unresponsiveness to a few obnoxious questions. Gwyneth seems like one of those women who want to constantly better themselves, and while in my darker moods this strikes me as irredeemably annoying, the quest for self-improvement is actually not a bad thing. Does the world need GOOP? Of course not. But she is making an honest effort to share the things that make her happy with the rest of the world. And while her constant dieting is a turn-off, she does appear to have a genuine love for cooking and food, as evidenced by her many food-related projects. I may not have time or wherewithal to make my own chicken stock, but I like that Gwyneth does.
And, as though she wanted to cement my support, Gwyneth's latest issue of GOOP isn't about $700 silk pajama pants or some such ridiculous thing. The "Be" edition of her newsletter is all about postpartum depression. She writes:
When my son, Moses, came into the world in 2006, I expected to have another period of euphoria following his birth, much the way I had when my daughter was born two years earlier. Instead I was confronted with one of the darkest and most painfully debilitating chapters of my life. For about five months I had, what I can see in hindsight as postnatal depression, and since that time, I have wanted to know more about it. Not only from a hormonal and scientific standpoint, and why so many of us experience it, but from the perspective of other women who have gone through it.
In order to do this, Gwyneth commissions articles from Dr. Laura Schiller, actress Bryce Dallas Howard, blogger Heather Armstrong and psychologist Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes. Together, they paint an informative picture of what postpartum really feels like, and how common the affliction is. Some of her advice can seem frivolous and unnecessary, but this is not.
Earlier, I called Gwyneth mom-like. And maybe that is the root of why I suddenly like her. She went from being an Ice Queen with an attitude to rival Anna Wintour's to being a kind of dorky, woefully out-of-touch, easily mockable celebrity figure. Her chic smugness has been more or less stripped away, revealing a woman who is earnestly trying to reach out to "real" people. If anything, her biggest crime nowadays is trying too hard, which makes her the antithesis of cool (and solidifies my weird sense that she's such a mom). Gwyneth is privileged and occasionally unaware, but the new, GOOP-y Gwyneth is trying to find some common ground with the rest of the world. So what if she sometimes falters?