Gwyneth Paltrow may be an Academy Award-winning A-lister who comes from an established Hollywood family, but she is still a human being. A human being who is subject to criticism. In fact, the "Shakespeare in Love" star has actually come under fire many times throughout her long career — and no, not because of the work she’s done on the big screen.
As if being a movie star didn’t keep her busy enough, Paltrow eventually decided to dip her toe in other business ventures. In 2008, she founded Goop, a wellness and lifestyle company. Since then, Paltrow has mostly shifted her focus from acting toward her brand, even executive producing two Netflix series about it called "The Goop Lab" and "Sex, Love & Goop." She said on "Today" in 2017, I had an incredible acting career, but I had this deep passion to produce content and make great products and curate things."
Goop has raised eyebrows far and wide, but as Paltrow told "Today" in 2016, "I’m always only open to criticism and learning more — but people who are going to criticize should have all of the empirical information." Both Paltrow and her brand have received a lot of backlash for other reasons as well. So let’s break down Paltrow’s sketchiest moments over the years that have caused a stir.
Gwyneth Paltrow encouraged vagina steaming
Gwyneth Paltrow often makes headlines for the controversial things she promotes in the name of health on her lifestyle website, Goop. One of her first newsworthy topics was vagina steaming. In a 2015 post, she claimed (via Women’s Health), "You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release…that balances female hormone levels."
While that does sound intriguing, several gynecologists spoke out against it, with Mary Jane Minkin, an OB/GYN and professor, declaring, "It’s complete bull." She went on to point out that the vagina doesn’t actually produce hormones and there are major risks involved like burning your vagina or giving yourself an infection. Fellow OB/GYN Jen Gunter wrote a whole blog post about why it’s a bad idea. She explained, "I’m not sure what our gal GP thinks balancing hormones actually is…but I am confident when I say that steaming your vagina with wormwood or mugwort will not do anything to hormones because these plants are not hormones."
Despite the negative feedback from medical experts, Paltrow stood by her claim, telling The Cut that she too had been skeptical at first but once she tried it she was all in. She added, "It’s been in Korean medicine for thousands of years and there are real healing properties. If I find benefit to it and it’s getting a lot of page views, it’s a win-win."
The Goop CEO was fined for unsubstantiated claims
In 2018, Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop was fined for suggesting women insert a crystal egg in their vaginas. More specifically, it was jade and rose quartz yoni eggs, which Goop sells on its website for around $60. According to the BBC, the lifestyle brand claimed that the eggs could balance hormones and regulate menstrual cycles. However, California’s consumer protection office apparently determined those claims were a bunch of bunk and fined Goop $145,000. District Attorney Jeff Rosen stated, "We will vigilantly protect consumers against companies that promise health benefits without the support of good science…or any science."
What’s more, OB/GYN Dr. Jen Gunter explained to Live Science that keeping that egg inside of your vagina would require a constant muscle contraction which could lead to pelvic pain. She also said that it could impact the PH or bacteria in the vagina, "resulting in infections such as bacterial vaginosis, or even toxic shock syndrome if left in for too long."
Goop paid the fine but downplayed it, releasing a statement that read, "While Goop believes there is an honest disagreement about these claims, the company wanted to settle this matter quickly and amicably." Paltrow also defended her company, telling The New York Times, "That egg is not dangerous. We still sell it." As of this writing, Goop still sells yoni eggs.
The Iron Man actor promoted bee venom therapy
At this point it’s pretty clear that Gwyneth Paltrow has backed some unconventional wellness practices, but perhaps her most intense one was bee venom therapy. The "Shallow Hal" actor has promoted getting stung by bees on purpose for skin care. She revealed to The New York Times, "I’ve been stung by bees. It’s a thousands of years old treatment called apitherapy. People use it to get rid of inflammation and scarring." Paltrow praised it, but did admit, "Man, it’s painful."
Paltrow left that last part out when she wrote about it for Goop, dishing, "I was recently given ‘bee venom therapy’ for an old injury and it disappeared." While that all may be true, doctors still advised against it, and not just because it hurts. Dermatologist Gary Goldenberg explained to Health (via Refinery29), "I do not recommend bee stings as anti-inflammatory agents. Many patients are severely allergic to bee stings and may not know it."
Unfortunately, a woman in Spain did have a severe allergic reaction to bee venom therapy and died because of it, according to the BBC. While she of course had the worst outcome, other people have suffered from it as well, including "300" star Gerard Butler. The actor talked about his experience, which was much different from Paltrow’s, on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." He said his heart rate increased drastically, adding, "I ended up in the hospital."
Gwyneth Paltrow’s disappointing Goop summit
Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle company Goop may be controversial but it’s still popular, which is why some fans were willing to pay big bucks to attend the In Goop Health summit in 2019. According to Page Six, attendees shelled out $5,700 to spend a weekend doing wellness activities with Paltrow and her Goop crew in London. However, some of those people reportedly felt that they were ripped off, claiming that the lackluster event was basically a "sales pitch." One person even reportedly said, "GP [Paltrow] is a f **king extortionist."
Some guests also believed that the Goop team overcharged them for the hotel they stayed at because they paid more than the going rates. However, a spokesperson for the company suggested that the price of admission was way below what the summit was worth. Others felt that Paltrow wasn’t as available as they thought she would be. One attendee dished, "She had a ton of security . . . She was unapproachable." They added, "She did the minimum…then she put on her Birkenstocks and snuck out."
A Goop rep denied hearing about problems though, claiming, "[It] was more along the lines of, ‘Thanks for an amazing weekend!’ " Yet Paltrow is no stranger to getting backlash because of her company. She once told Harper’s Bazaar (via HuffPost), "There were a couple of times when I thought, ‘I’m just gonna stop doing it. People are so mean to me.’"
The Emma star’s COVID-19 treatment recs
After Gwyneth Paltrow came down with COVID-19, she opened up about the holistic treatments she chose to use. In a 2021 Goop post, she wrote, "It left me with some long-tail fatigue and brain fog. … I had some tests done that showed really high levels of inflammation in my body." Paltrow then turned to things like intuitive fasting, using an infrared sauna, and taking supplements specifically to treat that inflammation that she linked to the coronavirus. Because she shared that and then plugged the products she used, Paltrow came under fire for recommending unverified COVID-19 treatments, despite the article having a disclaimer.
The National Medical Director of National Health Services (NHS) England, Stephen Powis, spoke out against her advice. Per the BBC, he said, "Some of the solutions she’s recommending are really not the solutions we’d recommend in the NHS." He continued, "We need to take long Covid seriously and apply serious science. All influencers who use social media have a duty of responsibility and a duty of care around that."
Paltrow didn’t feel that she nor Goop did anything wrong and defended herself to The Hollywood Reporter. Of Goop’s critics, she said, "I always find it’s for their own amplification." The actor added, "We’re very much in integrity and we’re careful about what we say. We always feel like we understand why a lot of that becomes clickbait for people."
Gwyneth Paltrow’s infamous vagina candle
Gwyneth Paltrow’s health advice isn’t the only thing that’s gotten under critics’ skin. In 2020, Goop started selling a "This Smells Like My Vagina" candle. And what do you know, the "Iron Man" actor was the one who came up with it. She recalled on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," "I smelled this beautiful thing and I was like, ‘This smells like my vagina.’ And I was kidding, obviously." Though it started as a joke, she liked the body positive element. "I think women, a lot of have grown up feeling certain degrees of shame around our body," she said.
Despite Paltrow’s best intentions, the name earned some eye rolls. Martha Stewart even took a swipe at Paltrow and the candle on "Watch What Happens Live." Stewart dished, "She does that kind of irritatingly—she’s trying to zhuzh up the public to listen to her." Then when asked about the people who purchased it, Stewart added, "I think it’s a lot of guys who are horny."
Other people have alleged that the candle was actually dangerous. One person claimed to The Sun, "The candle exploded and emitted huge flames, with bits flying everywhere." Another claimed something similar happened and sued Goop because of it, per NBC News. A rep for the company stated, "We’re confident this claim is frivolous and an attempt to secure an outsized payout from a press-heavy product."
Her out-of-touch divorce announcement with Chris Martin
In 2014, Gwyneth Paltrow got a lot of flack for something unrelated to Goop, which was how she and her then-husband Chris Martin announced their divorce. Since celebrity divorces are never that shocking, it was the fact that they called it a "conscious uncoupling" instead of a divorce that rubbed people the wrong way. Evidently, some critics felt the statement came across as out of touch and pretentious, and so the ribbing began.
A year later, Paltrow looked back at the backlash during The Goop Q&A, recalling, per Us Weekly, "We like broke the f**king internet." She went on to explain that it was actually a good thing because it started a discussion of what that means for a family. She added, "Because it was such an emotional time and we didn’t give it as much context and didn’t explain [that it] wasn’t something that I was inventing — it was already an established theory."
However, in 2019, Paltrow shared on "The Armchair Expert" podcast that she had really used that term to help herself process the pain of divorce and keep her family intact. She admitted that backfired though because of all the negative attention. She shared, "There was this whole other layer of the world turning on us about saying, essentially, ‘We just want to be nice to each other and try to stay a family.’ … It was brutal, because I already felt like I had no skin on."
Gwyneth Paltrow’s comments about illegal drug use
Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t seem like your typical rebel but "The Royal Tenenbaums" star has dabbled in drugs. On an episode of the "Armchair Expert" podcast, she noted that she doesn’t regularly use illicit substances, but she has taken MDMA. "I feel like it was… more of a shamanic experience … I had a lot of trauma come up and I was, like, crying. And I think it was productive," she recalled. "But it wasn’t like, I’m at a rave."
Paltrow must have really been impacted by that experience, since she seemingly discussed it again on her Netflix show "The Goop Lab." According to People, she revealed that she took it with her now-husband, Brad Falchuk, saying, "It was a very, very emotional experience." She continued, "Being the person that people perceive me to be is inherently traumatic." The series also explored the potential therapeutic benefits of using magic mushrooms.
While a number of studies over the last several decades have shown that MDMA and psilocybin could change psychiatry in a major way, they are still illegal in the United States. Many could argue that Paltrow is using her platform to shed light on this development is a good thing, though others might find that she’s encouraging people to experiment with substances that could get them in legal trouble or cause negative side effects.
The Contagion actor gave problematic diet advice
On more than one occasion Gwyneth Paltrow’s approach to dieting has made waves. Take for example when she appeared on "Oprah" with celeb trainer Tracy Anderson in 2008. At one point during their workout demonstration, the actor casually stated, "When you’re 35, you either starve yourself, or you eat and you do serious cardio." Understandably, this remark rubbed some the wrong way. Goop has also offered weight loss tips that’ve been received poorly, with one (now-deleted) article about how to "lose weight fast" getting a lot of backlash, in particular. A nutritionist told The Independent, "I am in complete shock that this article has been published as this has the potential to harm a lot of relationships with food." Following the backlash, a spokesperson for Goop told E! News, "We would never advocate for an unhealthy diet or extreme routine." Goop later published an article about why people should work toward achieving their "leanest livable weight." Per The Independent, Dr. Giles Yeo of the University of Cambridge pointed out why this "tip" could pose a problem. "This is a dangerous suggestion, as many people will take it to mean they should be as thin as possible," he said.
A former employee also alleged that while working for Paltrow’s company, she developed harmful eating habits and a distorted body image. She said on Instagram, "I felt like I was not in a healthy relationship with my body, where I was always trying to punish it, bring it under control."
If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA’s Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).
The struggles of being a nepo baby
Gwyneth Paltrow has a reputation for being a bit out of touch and it may be safe to say her appearance on Hailey Bieber’s YouTube show "Who’s in my Bathroom" in 2022 didn’t exactly help her case. In the one-on-one chat, Paltrow claimed that in some ways, children of celebrities, aka nepo babies, actually have to prove themselves more than people who aren’t the kids of the rich and famous.
"I really do feel that once your foot is in the door, which you unfairly got in, then you almost have to work twice as hard and be twice as good," Paltrow said. "Because people are ready to pull you down and say … ‘You are only there because of your dad or your mom." Paltrow is the daughter of director Bruce Paltrow and actor Blythe Danner, as well as a goddaughter of Steven Spielberg. Of course, she also happens to be a talented actor, so it’s not like her family connections are the only reason she’s gotten where she is now, but there’s no denying she’s had a seriously good foot in the door at an early age.
Double-edged sword or not, Paltrow had some words of wisdom for fellow nepo babies: "It shouldn’t limit you because what I definitely believe is that nobody in the world … should have a negative impact on your path or the decisions that you make."
Did Gwyneth Paltrow hate on her home country?
Gwyneth Paltrow sparked outrage in the early 2000s when she seemingly made anti-American comments. The Los Angeles native had spent many years living in London part-time when she was married to Coldplay frontman Chris Martin. Paltrow had apparently been quite taken with the country since she often boasted about it. Yet what people found sketchy was that she had reportedly thrown her own country under the bus when doing so. For example, in 2006 she told The Guardian, "I love the English way, which is not as capitalistic as it is in America. People don’t talk about work and money; they talk about interesting things at dinner parties."
It seemed like Paltrow took her insults toward the U.S. a step further when speaking with a Portuguese newspaper (via Hollywood). She reportedly told the outlet, "I don’t fit into the bad side of American psychology. The British are much more intelligent and civilized than the Americans." After the story began to make waves, Paltrow attempted to set the record straight, insisting to People that she didn’t actually say those things about her home country. "First of all I feel so lucky to be American," she said. "I felt so upset to be completely misconstrued and I never, ever would have said that." She went on to reveal that she sees herself as a "New York girl" and that she only lived part time in England because of her then-husband. "It’s not like I’ve left America," she said.
Gwyneth Paltrow tweeted a racial slur
In 2012, Gwyneth Paltrow messed up big time on social media. While attending Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch The Throne concert, Paltrow tweeted a photo of herself on the stage, writing, "N***** in paris for real @mrteriusnash (the dream) tyty, beehigh." Understandably, this use of the n-word — which was part of a reference to Ye and Jay-Z’s hit single from "Watch the Throne" — sparked controversy. Yet, instead of apologizing for using the slur, Paltrow tweeted, "Hold up. It’s the title of the song!"
In an effort to defend the actor, The-Dream said he actually wrote and posted the tweet from Paltrow’s account. However, that explanation did not last long: The-Dream later told MTV News that he did not write the tweet after all but was just looking out for the Oscar winner. "I knew it was going to be silly from the beginning, so I just tried to jump to her defense," he said.
Paltrow’s tweet and her non-apology did not go over well with many non-celebrities and celebrities. After the original post and her followup made the internet rounds, Q-Tip tweeted (via the Daily Beast), "She may have not meant harm, sure it was in the heat of the moment but the fact that she showed not 1 IOTA of an apologetic tone, given the historical weight of that word is not responsible of G Paltrow’s part."
The Marvel star forgot her own movies
Being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big deal. But for at least one MCU actor, the movies really start to blend together. On an episode of "The Chef Show" (via ET), Gwyneth Paltrow admitted she couldn’t remember being in "Spider-Man: Homecoming," telling her co-star Jon Favreau, "We weren’t in ‘Spider-Man’ … No, I was in ‘Avengers.’" Paltrow later defended her forgetfulness on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." "I just got confused," she said. "There are so many of these wonderful Marvel, interconnecting movies."
She really seems to have trouble keeping track of her MCU co-stars. "Gwyneth Paltrow [was] asking why Sam Jackson was there, and the other actors [were] jumping in saying… ‘He’s Nick Fury! You’ve been in movies with him," Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige revealed in a 2019 Q&A, per Empire. She was also heard asking her publicist who her co-star Sebastian Stan was. Stan poked fun at that on his Instagram, writing, "glad I got to reintroduce myself to @gwynethpaltrow for the third time. We are in the same film."
Paltrow may have described the Marvel movies as "wonderful," but it sounds like they aren’t exactly at the top of her priority list. As she told Elle in 2019, "[T]o be honest, I haven’t seen very many of them. It’s really stupid and I’m sorry, but I’m a 47-year-old mother." So maybe don’t ask Paltrow to join your Marvel trivia night team.