We may never know the real story about what went down between Vanity Fair and Gwyneth Paltrow, but in his editor's letter for the March issue of the magazine, editor-in-chief Graydon Carter addresses the kerfuffle, offering up his side of the story. It is… odd.
The Daily Mail has a fairly good rundown of the situation, and there's an excerpt of the letter available on the Vanity Fair website. Carter claims: "the whole Vanity Fair–Gwyneth Paltrow brouhaha began innocently enough at a routine morning editorial meeting last spring." He continues:
We were reviewing assignments and batting around story ideas, and at one point I idly mentioned that I would be interested in reading something on Gwyneth Paltrow.
Wait wait wait. Is that really how you run your editorial meetings? "I'd like to read something about Gwyneth Paltrow"? First of all: That's not a story idea. That's not a pitch. There's no narrative there. There's no hook. I'd like to read something about Jason Momoa being my new boyfriend, but that's not a story. Second of all: According to your own statistics on your own damn website, Paltrow was first photographed for Vanity Fair's 1995 Hollywood Issue at age 22. She's had FIVE Vanity Fair covers (the ones above are from the years 2000 and 2004) and appeared in the magazine numerous times. It's not like she is a shy, reclusive, seldom-seen, rarely-photographed enigma. It seems more likely that Carter was prompted by a promotional push tied to Iron Man 3 — which was released late last spring. In fact, in April 2013, Paltrow appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, The Dr. Oz Show, Rachael Ray, Ellen, and Chelsea Lately. She was on the cover of Self that month and on April 25, 2013, she was named People's Most Beautiful Woman. So Carter "idly" thinking he'd like to read about her seems disingenuous. But let's move on.
Carter assigned writer Vanessa Grigoriadis to write a feature about the way people find Paltrow both appealing and appalling.
Vanessa turned in her story at the end of the summer. And it was just what had been assigned—a reasoned, reported essay on the hate/love-fest that encircles Gwyneth Paltrow. I thought it perfectly explained the whole phenomenon. But it was such a far cry from the almost mythical story that people were by now expecting—the "epic takedown," filled with "bombshell" revelations—that it was bound to be a disappointment. What to do? I decided to sit on it for a time.
In other words, the "not a story" idea turned into something that was not a story. Actually, it was probably a fun read — Grigoriadis has written some great features for New York Magazine and The New York Times as well as Vanity Fair. But as news started circulating that something was in the works — probably as Grigoriadis was doing research and interviews — the hype became bigger than the piece. Here's what happened next: