The Real Gwyneth
Quote:So here is Gwyneth Paltrow, sitting on a big sofa in her house in north London, pale winter sunlight filtering into the quiet room, and she looks, quite startlingly, like herself. That might sound odd: We've grown accustomed to the symmetry of her face and her killer body displayed on the red carpet since her catapult to fame in the '90s. But when you see her today, without the distractions of props or makeup or styling, in jeans and a white button-down shirt, Gwyneth's calm beauty is striking, as is her extraordinary discipline. As she falls naturally into yoga stretches during the course of the conversation, supple as a cat, you realize that this is a woman for whom working out has become essential.
At 39, she looks stronger than she did in her 20s, lean and toned, with the streamlined contours of an athlete. She is lightly tanned and smooth skinned while avoiding the telltale waxy complexion of overdone Botox. "I'll take my wrinkles," she says. "I don't like the Botox thing." But she does enjoy sunshine for the vitamin D, despite "my dermatologist yelling at me." (She admits to "little things, like lasers" and regular facials, often with the London-based Vaishaly Patel.) Today, like every other weekday morning, she has spent an hour and a half with her trainer, Tracy Anderson, doing dance aerobics and a precise series of exercises that changes every 10 days. The aim, she says, is "that you're muscular, but you don't get used to anything." Right now, the dedicated eater (see Gwyneth chowing on a bocadillo with Mario Batali in Spain or on fried chicken while filming Country Strong down South) is also on a 12-week detox program. "I have a lot of inflammation in my system, so I'm not having anything I'm allergic to—no gluten, no dairy, no sugar."
The trigger for these seasonal detox sessions, she says, is recognizing her physical symptoms: "I'll wake up exhausted; I can feel my adrenal cortex being really high. When I get into bed, my heart will pound, my skin won't be good, I'll feel cranky, and then I'll just know it's time."
But such consciousness has an emotional impetus as well: She cites the death in 2002 of her beloved father, director Bruce Paltrow, from throat cancer at 58—after decades of vodka and smoking—as a catalyst for her own conversion to clean living. "All I've learned about nutrition and health came from his cancer," she says. "I'll probably have a long and healthy life because he didn't."
This doesn't mean, though, that Gwyneth leads a monastic, joyless existence. When she's not detoxing, "I eat whatever I want. I like bread and cheese and wine, and that makes my life fun and enjoyable." But an outline of her regular diet, along with the rest of her timetable, reveals a model of restraint. She's up every morning around 7:00 with her two children, Apple and Moses (seven and five, respectively). "I don't really like eating that early, so I usually just have coffee and then a couple of bites of their leftovers, like granola and yogurt or scrambled eggs."
During the day, Gwyneth's attention turns to her rapidly expanding and soon-to-be-redesigned Web site, goop (which now has more than a million viewers a week and is relaunching next month), and its associated apps, including a new range of city guides, starting with Los Angeles and moving on to London and other world capitals. Then there's her second cookbook to complete. (The first, My Father's Daughter, came out last spring; this one, as yet untitled, will focus on "really delicious health food.")
At the heart of all these projects is the woman herself—her recommendations on diet, exercise, skin care, where to eat, and what to consume. She is her own best advertisement for the brand that is Gwyneth Paltrow. "Everything I've done has been completely organic, and that's why the brand is a strong brand, because there is no ulterior motive behind it," she says.
Her husband, Chris Martin, is hugely supportive of Goop. Today he is covering for Gwyneth with the kids in between duties as lead singer of Coldplay and planning a world tour to promote the band's latest album. The two of them seem affectionately relaxed together—"he's very communicative," she says, "which is rare for a British man"—at ease with their nine-year relationship and their roles as parents. "If I'm in L.A. for three days working, then my husband does the school run; it's always one of us," although they do have a nanny for the children. "She's French, so she's teaching them French, and their previous nanny was Spanish, so they're fluent in Spanish." But it's Gwyneth who gives the children their bath—"we all get into the tub together"—and she's the one who cooks dinner for them before Apple and Moses go to bed at 8:00. It's a family dinner, unless she goes out with Chris to eat at her favorite Japanese restaurants in London or for seafood at the members-only Arts Club.
She can also laugh about the vagaries of red-carpet fashion, including the drubbing she took for the black Alexander McQueen gown she wore to the Oscars in 2002, with its mesh bodice. "I loved it!" she says with a smile. "But I think the hair was a mistake. I shouldn't have had it braided." Nowadays she sees her dresses through the eyes of Apple, for whom she is archiving her wardrobe. "I've been saving my clothes for her since before she was born. I was like, I'll bet you anything I'll have a daughter, and she'll be a really cool butch lesbian and be so above clothes, and I got a very clothes-obsessed child. So if she's a lesbian, she's a lipstick lesbian. She doesn't like anything avant-garde at all. She likes anything that's pretty, pretty, pretty or has a bow or a ruffle or is pink." Thus the Ralph Lauren taffeta frock that Gwyneth wore in 1999 to accept her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love gets Apple's seal of approval, as does the peachy Prada dress at the Venice Film Festival last September, "but she would have hated the McQueen."
And for all her commitment to green-vegetable juice and the gym, Gwyneth clearly enjoys her social life with a gang of Hollywood friends, including Cameron Diaz, Robert Downey, Jr. and his wife, Susan, and Jay-Z and Beyoncé. As it happens, while Beyoncé was headlining the Glastonbury Festival last June (the night after Coldplay), Gwyneth was watching by the side of the stage with Jay-Z and testifies to the fact that her friend's performance was punctuated by the miserable side effects of early pregnancy: "She was absolutely incredible, especially as she was barfing in between."
I'd imagine that Gwyneth is a good friend to those she cares about. She's generous in sharing the details of where to shop, what to cook, how to negotiate the transitions of a long-term relationship, all the details of love and loss, pleasure and grief that form the threads of every woman's life. Her 20s, she admits, were "not very happy," despite the astonishing trajectory of her career, with her Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress in Shakespeare in Love. She seems philosophical about being unlikely to get another role as brilliantly written as that one—"I don't think I'll ever read a script that good again. Tom Stoppard is a genius"—while remaining positive about the relatively traditional role she plays as a wife and mother, with her husband's career commitments currently taking precedence over hers. "I have little kids in school. I want to maintain my marriage and my family, so I have to be here when he comes home." Hence her recent advice to a girlfriend (who remains tantalizingly unnamed): "She is an actress and in a new relationship with someone else with a big career, and I said this may not be feminist, but you have to compromise. It's been all about you and you're a big deal. And if you want what you're saying you want—a family—you have to be a wife, and that is part of the equation. Gloria Steinem may string me up by my toes, but all I can do is my best, and I can do only what works for me and my family."
Nevertheless, it sounds as if the Paltrow-Martin clan has managed to accommodate Coldplay's schedule with the requirements of family life. The world tour will incorporate 10-day spans at home interspersed with three-week blocs of traveling (a very different proposition from the era when the Rolling Stones would take their rock 'n' roll circus on the road for months at a time). "The other guys in the band have little kids as well," Gwyneth says, "so they want to tour in a family-friendly way. "
Gwyneth remains discreet about her previous boyfriends, who include Brad Pitt (they dated for nearly three years from 1994 and were engaged for six months) and Ben Affleck (in the late '90s). She met Chris Martin in 2002, three weeks after her father's death, and married him the following year. But she does confess that she knows what it feels like to be betrayed—"I had a boyfriend who used to cheat on me all the time. I was quite naive. I knew on a cellular level, but I bought his story"—while making it clear that infidelity is not part of her marriage.
That said, she does not condemn others who stray. "The older I get, the more open-minded I get, the less judgmental I get. Life is long. I have friends who I love and admire who have had an affair. When I was younger, I would have said he's a terrible person or she's a terrible person. But who made these laws?" And if the commitment to remain within a relationship can be renewed, she believes, then it should survive the inevitable challenges. She cites her father's practical advice on the secret to a long-lasting marriage: "My parents were married for 30-something years, and he said [it was] because they never wanted to get divorced at the same time." Which is possibly why she can regard the ups and downs of any marriage with equanimity.
"I think you do fall in and out of love and you just keep going, and every time you go through a really difficult phase, you rediscover something new and it just gets better. We've been married for more than eight years now, and we're still into it."
All of what she says seems very sensible and levelheaded, but it does not exclude powerful emotion. When she talks about her father's death, her eyes fill with tears; then she touches her father's wedding ring—"I always hold on to it. I ask it questions; I feel like it keeps me safe"—which hangs on a gold chain around her neck along with a diamond angel's-wing charm and a tiny skull. His absence, however, also incorporates a presence; she describes sensing "the energy of his soul. I don't think that evaporates. I feel my dad, I still feel his love, and I still love him." And her admiration for him remains evident. "I would do anything to have him back, but half the reason that my life is good, has real, true value, is that he died. I would obviously rather have him alive, but he gave me so much in his death. I don't go back and say I wish he had done this differently, I wish he hadn't smoked, because the fact is that he did and he died. As much grief and pain and trauma and heartache are caused, there was an equal amount of positivity that came out of his death." If everyone thinks that Gwyneth Paltrow is lucky, then it is a blessing that has been hard-won.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.”