It’s 9am on Saturday, and I’m in a bath with Gwyneth Paltrow. There is no actual water – but there is whale song. Because, of course, it’s a ‘sound’ bath, and I’m at the first ever Goop weekend to be held in the UK.
The venue is in Hammersmith, West London, and my one-day ticket to mind and body wellness has cost £1,000.
Even so, the event is sold out, with 250 day tickets plus 35 weekend passes (including hotel stays) all gone, gone, gone for £4,500.
The people who bought these last ones are called ‘summit warriors’. Bloody idiots might be more apt. Because I have rarely endured such a day of woo-woo nonsense. Or encountered so many well-heeled young women in designer ‘athleisure’, gathering to worship at the altar of self help.
My bag is being searched at an entrance scented with huge installations of English flowers and I half expect that, if any plastic is found, I’m to be shot.
It is fascinating to see Gwyneth Paltrow, known here only as GP, on stage and in the flesh. Given that she is 46, she’s a fantastic advert for her Goop brand, which she started on her kitchen table in London a decade ago. The UK is now her third largest market, beaten only by the loons in America and Canada.
Her forehead is ever so slightly corrugated, the rich person’s badge of merit to show they’ve not had a face lift, and she exudes honeyed health.
She has ironed, Calvin Klein ad hair and a smile that can be seen from outer space. She welcomes us all.
Liz Jones visits the first Goop wellness summit in London. Pictured: Liz in a LED Mask
There are only a couple of men in the room, and only one woman I can spot with a BMI above that of a catwalk model.
She then conducts an interview, or ‘morning fireside chat’ in Goop-speak (there’s no real fire, thank goodness, given it’s the hottest day of the year) with Barry Michels, psychotherapist and author of the rather unfortunately titled The Tools. He is just one of the ‘provocative minds’ on offer.
Chatting about how women can be powerful without turning into men, Michels mentions the name Harvey Weinstein. Paltrow has the decency to blush, as it was through working with that particular monster (his company Miramax financed Shakespeare In Love) that she won her Oscar.
Perhaps this is why she has turned away from acting and towards Giving Something Back.
But the important question is this: is she acting today, or does she really believe all this stuff?
Gwynnie first became interested in alternative medicine when her father got cancer. Sadly, despite good intentions, some of the claims she’s made on her blog have been unsubstantiated. She was, let’s not forget, fined £112,000 for making claims that the Jade Vagina Egg she sold offered a ‘spiritual detox’.
Not that such criticism matters to her vast army of fans – and it is vast, her blog has 1.8 million readers a month. The eggs are still on sale at her store in Notting Hill and, despite the £60 price tag, they’re currently sold out.
Does GP really believe your lady parts need to be steamed, as she once controversially claimed? Having been in Gwynnie’s world for the day, I really think she does. After a plant-based breakfast of vegan doughnuts and cauliflower popcorn is a session with breath guru Stuart Sandeman or, as he calls it, ‘therapy without words’.
A breath guru, for all you normal people out there, is someone who teaches you to breathe deeply and slowly, thus fooling your mind into thinking all is calm.
When asked if charging such high prices excluded people with, you know, real problems, he replied: ‘Last week I was doing sessions for charity.’ Well, that’s all right then.
Liz Jones visits the first Goop wellness summit in London
Seeing me looking sceptical, a woman from Sweden asks, deadpan: ‘Will you be breathing later?’
There is no humour here. No real depth, either, if the talk entitled Food Matters is anything to go by.
Food writer and TV star Jasmine Hemsley tells us gravely, if ungrammatically, to ‘eat slower and chew more’ and to ‘go to bed earlier’. Great. Thanks for that.
We are encouraged to ‘hydrate mindfully’, although a good old-fashioned water fountain might have helped.
This is a ‘plant-based’ day yet there is almost no discussion of the horror that is eating animals. The only thing that seems to matter is the health effects on the Western female body. This newest wave of hippiedom, or nu-wellness, is so self-absorbed it is the New Age equivalent of a black hole. Scary. Next up, do you want a body like Gwynnie or Madonna? Yes please!
Instead of doing what most Hollywood stars do, and have a couple of ribs removed for a tinier waist, this means 40 minutes spent trying to spot the small blonde dot at the front of the room that is trainer Tracy Anderson, in order to follow her work out.
We are given weights, and spend about 35 minutes twirling and flexing our upper arms. Fine if you are due on a red carpet any time soon but, really, for the rest of us, what’s wrong with buying some nice sleeves in Marks? And when did propping up your iPhone by your mat to film yourself – as those around me did – become a thing?
As if a huge mirror at the end of the room isn’t bad enough!
The event lumbers on, fuelled by nut butter balls and hubris. Aside from tables groaning with books written by the guest speakers – one wag says the event should be called ‘Buy my book!!’ – there are lots of treatment stations. I opt first for the Face Gym. My face is effectively ironed by a little pair of rollers, which I tell the therapist is making my fillings tingle.
‘You have fillings!’ she gasps. ‘They’re not mercury are they?’
The little roller can be yours to use at home for just £429.
Upstairs, I’m intrigued by a woman offering a Light Therapy Golden Facial Treatment.
LED face mask
‘Do you want the green light for acne, or the red light for ageing, sagging skin?’ she asks disingenuously. I thought this was all about being made to feel good about yourself? But still. I chill. I opt for the red. I emerge no younger, but we live in hope.
The most bonkers session of the day has to be the reiki class, conducted with yet another straight face by someone called Jasmin (they are always Jasmins, never Beryls), who walks among us, her disciples, with chimes before banging a large gong.
‘Use your third eye to visualise a bright light!’ she tells us, which makes me wonder whether even my third eye needs something to eradicate its bags.
It is at this point that it all descends into Ab Fab parody.
Except the only person laughing is GP herself, and the venture capitalists who last year injected a cool $50 million into Goop.
Throughout the day, GP is conspicuous by her absence. I do spot her once, having changed out of her Louboutins into Birkenstocks, flanked by bodyguards.
What does she think her Goopies are going to do to her? Hospitalise her with bad vibes?
I imagine she retires to a backstage ‘space’ (GP doesn’t sit in rooms, she inhabits spaces), or has slipped out to gorge on pasta in The River Café next door.
The climax (please stop thinking about those jade eggs; they have SOLD OUT) is of course, the evening fireside, with special guests Twiggy, and Gwynnie’s BFF – best friend forever – Penelope Cruz, here to talk about hormones.
Cruz is eloquent, but the star of the day is Twiggy, who turns 70 this year. She outshines everyone, which rather begs the question how, given she came of age when mainlining bacon was normal.
She talks the most sense of the day, too. I think the reason she looks so good is that she has had an interesting life, and known love.
When Twiggy tells us how much she loves sewing; Gwynnie says, ‘Creativity with your hands is like channelling God’.
Which reminds me of something Barry Michels said at the start of this very long day – that we can rid ourselves of anxiety by picturing our archetypal mother, who will ‘Hoover up any negative thoughts.’
Gwyneth Paltrow at In goop Health London 2019 on June 29, 2019 in London
I’m reminded of my own mum, who mainly Hoovered the carpet, but who I summon today and, despite my scepticism, I do start to get what he means.
Was it worth the grand? Most of her fans seem to think so and I start to wonder if they’ve been brainwashed, or are just easily pleased.
One American woman dares to say: ‘It was enjoyable, but I could have had an all-inclusive week in Jamaica for the same price, and been even happier!’
Another commented that, ‘For £250, it would be the best thing ever’. But dissent was rare.
I inspect the goodie bag as I leave, rummaging through the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, leggings, a T-shirt, unguents and a scrunchie. Bloody good, actually.
But my litmus test is this: do I come away knowing three things that will make my life better?
The answer is a resounding no.
I did have one revelation, though, trying to bend my limbs into a pretzel in the Energy Studio and recall my damn mantra. Goop’s logo is writ large, everywhere. Staring at it, I finally intuit its meaning: it is Gwyneth Paltrow, sitting astride lots and lots of big fat zeroes…