I already knew wellness was big business. The CBD oil explosion, turmeric infused vitamin smoothies, coffee high colonics, pricey Pelaton bikes, exorbitant yoga retreats in Costa Rica, cashmere compression gear, 24k gold microcurrent facial wands and 24/7 life coaches. You have to be rich to be well.
But now we have wellness porn! Thanks to Gwyneth Paltrow and her $250 million Goop business. She’s producing an ever-expanding array of “lifestyle” products sold on her site and now on Sephora and of course Amazon. As one critic described it — it’s a perfect marketing concept combination of “star wattage and trendy sexy categories under the guise of beauty and well-being.”
So far, the Goop hot topic has been $70 jade eggs that you insert into your vagina for vulva fitness. And now her latest sold-out item is a $75 scented candle “This smells like my vagina.”
Goop was started by Paltrow “to help people get close to themselves and open minds to ways they might get closer to themselves.” So… open my vagina, open my soul? Good luck with that! She also confessed that Goop was a way out for her to “be something else, besides, you know, make out with Matt Damon on screen or whatever.” I think Matt Damon and Goop might be one in the same!
Goop has already become a popular brunt of a lot of jokes in the media. Not to mention a few lawsuits about some of the “health” products like the jade vagina eggs. Lately Goop is endorsing Carnellan minerals for infertility and fasting on nothing but goat milk for 8 days to clear your intestines of parasites — or how about the $120 bio-frequency healing sticks which promise to rebalance your entire body.
This merchandising all comes under the heading of “build the field, they will be stupid enough to come.” Anything to restore our livers, rejuvenate our vaginas and not to mention the idea of facial “threading” (cones and threads inserted in your face at $250 a session) as an alternative to injections for a youthful appearance. Ka-ching and Kaput!
Now all of Paltrow’s tips and merch can be seen on her own Netflix series “The Goop Lab.” Basically, it is 6 half-hour glossy informercials for her blonde and beige and sexy lifestyle. As USA Today mocked in its review, “Let’s give a woo-woo for the woo-woo.” Even the poster for the show displays Gwyneth inside a huge pink vagina.
The 6 episodes cover exotic healing sessions from the acupuncture facials to psychedelic drug taking (to cure everything that ails you). No doubt, more men will watch an episode or two in search of some kind of cheap thrill, but then tune out in the dullness. There is a session on the rise of labiaplasty — resulting in plump and young labias. The Goop Lab expert even enacts an on-camera orgasm.
Where is Matt Damon when you need him? Martha Stewart was recently asked about Goop products (especially the vagina scented candles) and she answered by saying “More men will buy that candle and what a great product to get more traffic to look at her brand.” Martha understood the buzz and wished Paltrow luck, but admitted she herself was completely disinterested in the line. Go Martha — the Queen of real good clean merchandise that matters!
I sense a problem with the Goop line, and the Netflix hype of psychics and healers depicting beautiful wealthy women modeling their perfectly waxed bodies in bikinis in the snow. There is this underlying nudging question (as one British critic suggested): “Do wealthy indulged people feel bad because they’re not suffering enough, so they have to make it up somehow — with all this narcissistic elaborate self-exploration?” Is this what Socrates meant when he said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.” Was he stretching his private parts?
It’s great that Paltrow (a woman of wealth and privilege) has been successful exploring the body/mind connection on her site and podcast. After all, she gets 150,000 to 680,000 listeners a week – even though a lot of people are listening simply to laugh at the message and the material. Luckily, Paltrow doesn’t seem to care.
It is hard to say what Paltrow’s real-life message is since she recently appeared on the Golden Globes wearing a long Fendi transparent dress (given thumbs down by many red-carpet critics) that (accidentally?) prominently displayed her breasts and vaginal area. And all of this from one of Harvey Weinstein’s most prominent accusers. Okay, a woman should be allowed to wear and promote what she wants. BUT, something doesn’t feel exactly aligned here. In fact, it seems very loopy and goopy in what feels like a money grab in the body/mind merchandising world.
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On the other hand, we have dear Oprah doing her current 20/20 Vision tour of various stadiums with guest hosts like Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez, Gayle King, and Amy Schumer. From 9 AM to 3 PM you get to “share” with Oprah (and 18,000 other women) HER feelings on exercise, breathing meditation and video of her giant tree gardens in Santa Barbara (she admits to having a “tree counter” on staff and a toilet paper folder whose job it is to fold the paper in a V on the roll) all for inspiring YOU to make your own dreams come true. You get a “gift” workbook to record your goals and a bag of Weight Watcher snacks along with a meager Panera box lunch. Apparently, you can pay for your own wine or beverage in the vending machines. And the reports were that many women got drunk in the aisle!
I guess this is sort of Oprah’s “Eat, Pray, Love” tour for her followers. And no doubt for Oprah and Michelle, these giant stadium appearances are so much better and more profitable than running for President. Remember Oprah really is a spiritual leader (some call it “The Church of Oprah”), I wouldn’t knock her on all of her messages or what she has done for reading in our country with her book club (even though the book publishing business is now seriously sinking).
And who cares if Oprah is really a fat diet counselor. She is totally relatable, and her Weight Watchers frozen cauliflower pizzas are sold out! Her fans love her fat, and loved her recent stadium interview with Amy Schumer admitting her “empowerment” over having actually pooped in an airplane toilet (never mind that Amy and Oprah fly private and that most of their audience members had to pay $350 – $400 a ticket to learn that one important piece of poop leads to inner strength).
Like Gwyneth, Oprah has swag to sell. Remember her famous Xmas gift lists — not cheap. $159 ear pods, $115 pajama sets, and $75 cashmere beanie hats. But who is counting when it comes to Oprah. It might be just worth it all to go to her 2020 Vision event and get an actual selfie with Oprah. But that has been reported not to actually be the case. Oprah would rather not “selfie” while she roams the stadium aisles – she just wants you to write in your workbook and listen to the meditative mantras. In the end, what the hell is an inner journey to find the meaning of life with Oprah if you don’t get that ultimate self-validation selfie with Oprah?
I actually have no problem with Oprah on a wellness barn-storming tour. But I have to say, who does that rabble-rousing art form better than Donald Trump. He calls them “rallies” and you bring your own MAGA swag! The only soul enhancing merchandise Trump is shamelessly selling is himself!
My biggest question is, who are all these women who are flocking to Oprah and buying up Goop? I thought we were all further along in our female empowerment than all this desperate need for well-being merchandise. I get the idea of going to events for “community,” but honestly wouldn’t one-on-one real professional therapy be better and safer? Forget the vaginal eggs — get to a real gynecologist or some psychiatrist to sort yourself out. Even AA has picked up a lot of the slack in a more efficient communal way.
And where do all these wellness wanderings really get us? At least Oprah turned her TV time slot over to Dr. Phil (is he an actual doctor?) for all that confessional exploration.
I remember in 1981 I went to a 10-day retreat ($1500) in Lucerne Valley desert in California. It was run by Dr. Brugh Joy, a leading Mt. Sinai medical doctor who was just starting to explore the connection between mind and body. In those days, we did a 2-day break of fasting and silence and a lot of body “energy” sessions and healing circles with Brugh brilliantly in charge. The only swag we got was a crystal and a Tarot deck. We all came away “transformed.” And believe me, it was hard to get into his booked retreats! He retired just before he could be accused of being a sham or a pervert (he was neither), but truly was one of the originators of serious body/mind medicine. More recently Dr. Andrew Weil has been running his successful Integrative Medicine Program for 25 years in Tucson using real Doctors with real knowledge with unconventional healing treatments. No swag here!
But one must remember we are in an era where we are all suffering from some kind of PTSD. Now everyone is “in recovery” from alcoholism, drugs, sexual molestation, food disorders — the list is endless. And everyone can share their own vaginal and penile health online from their own bathrooms 24/7. Actually, who needs Gwyneth, or Oprah for that matter? I am not sex shaming or body shaming or soul shaming; but maybe I am shame shaming. It all seems too much self-awareness at this point.
Frankly in the end, the person I missed the most who would have a handle on all this wellness explosion would be dear Joan Rivers. Just watch the video from a standup she did in Montreal Canada:
And in the end, her mantra to all of life’s problem was “Oh, grow up!”