Blond Ambition Image Credit: InStyle
Blond Ambition Image Credit: InStyle

Blond Ambition

She has an Oscar but is building an empire—even if she has to personally do every new cleanse in order to get it. Inside the perfectly imperfect world of Gwyneth Paltrow.

Christopher Bagley

The first time I met Gwyneth Paltrow, back in 1994, she was smoking cigarettes and telling dirty jokes. It was lunchtime on the set of the period drama Jefferson in Paris, and Paltrow, then 22, had the role of Thomas Jefferson’s daughter Patsy. Although she was fully convincing on camera as a prim 18th-century teenager, over lunch Paltrow quickly reverted to her true persona, that of a saucy New Yorker. Quick and fun and raspy-voiced, she traded barbs with director James Ivory as well as the sound guy, and they both seemed a little besotted with her.

The second time I met Paltrow, this past November in Santa Monica, she was sitting in a corner office at the headquarters of her lifestyle company, wearing a black Chloé suit and drinking matcha tea while looking over spreadsheets in preparation for a board meeting. She used terms like “topline revenue” and “verticals” with evident ease.

In the 22 years between our two encounters, plenty of things have happened in Paltrow’s life, and a lot of them are known to basically everybody. To recap: Paltrow won a best actress Oscar (in 1999 for Shakespeare in Love), almost married Brad Pitt, did marry English rock star Chris Martin, had a daughter named Apple and a son named Moses, and launched an influential lifestyle and e-commerce venture called Goop. Those accomplishments have brought Paltrow plenty of fame and admiration, sometimes along w

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