"People are grasping at straws to tie us together," Paltrow says of fellow stars-turned-entrepreneurs Blake Lively and Jessica Alba
Gwyneth Paltrow is tired of being compared to other stars.
The actress and Goop entrepreneur spoke to TIME for a story in the issue on stands June 5 about celebrities who have branched into lifestyle brands; she came down strongly against what she sees as the media’s tendency to lump ambitious women together. When asked if she’d looked at sites like those founded by Blake Lively, Reese Witherspoon, and Jessica Alba—all of which, like Paltrow’s own Goop, offer insight into their founders’ tastes and personalities—Paltrow cited two male stars who have both invested in spirits, saying: “I wonder if George Clooney would be asked about Puff Daddy’s ancillary liquor line.”
This is hardly the first time Paltrow’s stood up for Goop, a site that’s been controversial since its 2008 launch. But that very controversy may well be good for business: Goop is finishing its first round of funding, and Paltrow’s work as an actress is currently on hiatus as she grows the company. Says Paltrow: “I need to focus on this business. I have a fiscal and moral responsibility to other people.”
TIME: How can Goop grow in the near future?
Gwyneth Paltrow: This is an issue we talk about a lot internally. The way that I inadvertently set up the business, we could legitimately go across many different verticals. I think that there are a lot of things we could go into, but the heart of our business is a contextual commerce business. It’s working well for us. The edit is our taste and aesthetic. Everything we buy is within the context of a bigger picture. There’s room to grow there across projects from apparel to home to food. There’s room to grow in the product sales area. We’re also building a robust ad sales business. We’re working on launches for the first quarter of 2016, like an organic skincare line we’re really thrilled about. We’re working on launching proprietary label products we can sell as well. So we’ve got a few things to focus on.
Do fans get a feeling of closeness or access from sites like Goop? Is that the appeal—that people can get a piece of your life?
It’s funny, because when I started the business I didn’t think of it as an extension of myself in that way. I started it to answer my own questions and to aggregate information. I didn’t think of it that way at the time. Now I can look back and say, If you look at the careers of successful people in the entertainment industry, [they] heavily leverage their lifestyle to their advantage. This has happened with more and more thought as I’ve gone along. Initially it was kind of an accident. The world is just changing so much, with social media and the expectation that privacy is a thing of the past. People do want to understand who they align with. If it’s somebody who is on Goop for the celebrity aspect of it, they’re going to find things, for better or worse, that align with me and my values and my tastes.
Is it easier to communicate through Goop than through the press?
Yes, that’s true to a certain extent. I’m not interested in building a celebrity business. I want Goop to be its own brand that can thrive and scale without my involvement at some point. I’m always careful about—the same way I’m the creative force behind this brand, any creative force, their brand will represent their likes and dislikes, whether it’s Jenna Lyons [of J. Crew] or the guys at Valentino or anyone. You’re going to see the materialization of their brand value and aesthetic. I think for me, I’m not trying to infuse the brand with “This is what Gwyneth Paltrow likes.” We’re such a dynamic, large group of people at this point, it’s half me—a lot of things people take as my recommendations are another editor, it’s a collective.
I think with the press, of course I can communicate certain things directly to the world, and I have on a couple occasions. The press is its own animal and is going to do what it’s going to do on the side. I’ve never absorbed that. In this day and age, a lot of press seems very all over the place. Yes, you could use your site as a way to communicate with fans, and yes, I have done that, but that’s not really the intention.
How do you balance two full-time careers?
That’s a good question and it’s very hard. We are in the final stages of closing our series A [round of funding] and I’ve said in 2015, I’m not going to film anything. I need to focus on this business. I have a fiscal and moral responsibility to other people. It’s very difficult to balance. The good thing is that when I am on a film set, I sit around for a lot of the day, My team comes and we sit in the trailer and work. There’s a lot of downtime, so when I do choose to do something, I can focus on the work. But it’s difficult! I’m trying to raise kids, and it’s challenging.
There are several sites started by successful actresses. Do you look at these sites?
This is a very interesting question, because I wonder if George Clooney would be asked about Puff Daddy’s ancillary liquor line. I’m fascinated how the media in particular are so confounded by entrepreneurial women doing something outside of their box. Jessica [Alba], especially, who’s a friend of mine—our businesses could not be more different. There’s not a lifestyle piece to her business. The fundamentals of our sites are very different. Reese launched—our businesses have similarities, but hers has retail. People are grasping at straws to tie us together and I get it, because it makes a good story, but I’m slightly offended by this sort of generalization that happens with myself and Jessica and Reese and Blake. Yes, there are similarities. But there aren’t stories in TIME written saying, “Wow, look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, who did x, y, and z!”
This isn’t an original observation, though, that there are various actresses whose sites launched within a short span of time.
I wrestle with it. I feel there’s something slightly misogynistic about it. This is a common theme. I think Reese and Jessica and I—I don’t know Blake Lively, and I don’t know if Jessica and Reese know each other—I’m friends with both of them and I speak to both of them and I want to do everything I can to support their businesses. I’m not articulating it well, because I haven’t completely worked out what it is, but I feel very proud when Jessica was on the cover of Forbes. I think that’s amazing. You can quantitatively say, “Look what she’s done, she’s been able to conceive of a business and scale it to that size, in that amount of time.” But we have such different businesses.
How, then, do you change the narrative around you?
I think you just put your nose to the grindstone and build your business and scale the best way you know how. You just keep going in hopes the story becomes not people pitting women against each other, which is not founded in truth. There’s no competition. None of us think we’re in each other’s space. I don’t know how you do it! You just get to f—ing work! I think we’re in a funny time for women. We are more and more the breadwinners in families across America or contributing equally; there’s a shift happening sociologically and psychologically. People are wrestling with this new archetype of being a woman with a brain who’s also sexual and trying to do more than one thing at a time. I also feel proud. Why would I not want to do that, if it’s a passion?