What I Learned From Gwyneth Paltrow

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Gwyneth Paltrow taught me that I was a hypocrite. Here I was describing myself as “a fierce advocate for empowering women” and I should have put a footnote that said “except for Gwyneth Paltrow.” When I heard about her business, Goop, I rolled my eyes, made snarky comments in my head, and subconsciously excluded Gwyneth from the women supporting women culture.

Why wasn’t I supporting Gwyneth Paltrow? That was a question I did not examine until Lena Dunham published Gwyneth Paltrow Business Guru, in her e-magazine,Lenny. Lena was a woman who fit well into my women supporting women culture: someone fighting Hollywood stereotypes, outspoken, comfortable in her own skin, an actor, writer, producer and director of a hit HBO show that featured “real women.” She fought the odds and won. I did not feel that way about Gwyneth. As I pressed myself for why I was not supporting another successful woman, the reasons I came up with were incredibly shallow: she was pretentious because she named her kids after fruit (Apple) and biblical icons (Moses), and she called her separation “conscious uncoupling.” And…and…she was so…so…she was so darn healthy!

As I heard my inner voice come up with this ridiculous rationale, I saw it for what it was. I was jealous. I wanted this gorgeous, successful actress to stay in her lane and not cross over to mine, because it would make me feel less successful. It would make my start-up experience look ordinary. It would somehow belittle my hard work and the obstacles I had to overcome. Yep, Gwyneth made me feel insecure, and it had nothing to do with her, and everything to do with me.

And then it hit me. I was the mean girl. I was the woman who was undermining other women who threatened her. I was the woman who I had been preaching to, day after day, article after article, to look outside herself and support other women. And what I learned from the Lenny article, and from researching Goop myself, was that Goop was a strong and successful business (yes, I now subscribe to the Goop newsletter and the articles are relevant, insightful and helpful), and Gwyneth’s ideas, intellect, drive and capabilities were behind every aspect of the business.

Gwyneth was sponsored by a woman in private equity who became her “guardian angel”, helping her work through the many challenges of growing a business. She also turned to an “incredible group of women” to fund her seed round of capital. Then Gwyneth payed it forward in Goop’s work environment by “creating a culture that both celebrates and empowers women, where the thread line is that we are all multi-faceted, complicated, and busy b*&tches who can care about family and work simultaneously.”She also began helping other women grow their own businesses, teaching them everything she learned from raising capital to defining their brand. So to paint a full picture of my hypocrisy, I had to admit to myself that Gwyneth meaningfully contributed to a culture of women supporting women, while I supported women only when it suited my ego.

So despite all my “fierce advocacy,” I realized that I still had (a lot of) work to do if I wanted to be a role model to other women, and truly fuel a culture of women supporting women. I re-committed to the actions of a strong role model, vowing to demonstrate them day by day, woman by woman, without allowing my petty insecurities to be a factor. If I was truly a woman supporting other women, then I didn’t get to pick and choose who I supported based on my own feelings of inadequacy. I needed to check myself, and ensure that I was inclusive of all women.

Do you have your own version of Gwyneth Paltrow? If so, I encourage you to consider why you are excluding her, conduct some unbiased research of her work, and give her the benefit of the doubt. Give your Gwyneth Paltrow the support that fuels not only her own success, but the success of women as a collective force.

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