Kombucha, Ear Seeds, & B12 Shots: Inside Goop's NYC Wellness Summit

In Goop Health, the annual wellness summit hosted by Goop founder and CEO Gwyneth Paltrow, has somewhat of a Fyre Fest aura about it. It’s insanely expensive, it’s uber exclusive, and everyone wants to (or wanted to, in Fyre’s case) go, whether they want to admit it or not.

Unlike the dumpster fire that was Fyre Fest, however, In Goop Health runs like a well coconut-oiled machine. Instead of FEMA tents in Exuma, the day-long workshop took place in a sun-soaked waterfront warehouse in Manhattan’s Seaport District. Instead of cheese sandwiches, guests ate "health-driven food options," sipped unlimited kombucha and alkaline spring water, and indulged in a variety of educational talks and hands-on activities.

I approached Saturday's festivities with an open mind, but certainly had my preconceived notions. As a website and brand, Goop has experienced a lot of warranted criticism for promoting dangerous treatments under the guise of health. What would I witness when all these goopies came together? Other writers have called the event "surreal" and "intoxicatingly selfish," which only heightened my curiosity.

And, it was all of those things. While Twitter’s favorite Ob/Gyn Dr. Jen Gunter's recap of last year's event prepared me for the line of women receiving B12 vitamin injections straight into their glutes, nothing could prepare me for the cult-like opening. It was a Kundalini meditation session led by Gabby Bernstein, where we were told to raise our arms to the sky, thumbs up, and practice "breath of fire," which is essentially hyperventilating with a purpose. In a "fireside chat" with Paltrow, a medical intuitive (someone who claims to have a "natural ability to sense what’s wrong directed toward your health") named Caroline Myss told us that our "fear of being raped" really comes from our second chakra — which, no. A psychic medium named Kim Russo divulged very personal (and seemingly accurate) information about an attendee’s family member’s reproductive health in front of the entire audience. Lines to get "acupuncture ear seeds, " little pellets that are supposed to stimulate acupuncture points inside the ear, snaked through the venue. Everyone wore expensive-looking leggings and cream-colored knit sweaters to fit the recommended "athleisure" dress code. I wore Outdoor Voices.

Guests in a Reiki seminar at In Goop Health.Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images.

For all intents and purposes, the In Goop Health summit was exactly as "goopy" as I'd hoped. I got my ear pierced on a white leather Eames chair, and ate enough plant-based food to keep my goops regular for the foreseeable future. But since this installment took place in New York City — as opposed to cities such as Los Angeles and Vancouver, which are known for embracing out-there health trends — I wondered if the attendees were as jaded and suspicious as I was.

"I'm trying to figure out how I can build up something that's outside of just my home, my children, and my husband — and how can I get into kind of a second chapter in my life," says Louise Armstrong, a 37-year-old New Yorker, who says she saw In Goop Health as a "guilty pleasure" and opportunity to learn about the "different pockets of health." After a self-acceptance workshop with psychological astrologer (a therapist who incorporates facets of astrology into her practice) Jennifer Freed, PhD, Armstrong explained that Goop has helped her reflect on her own life. "I think Goop makes you kind of aware of [your own life] a little bit more," she says, "and gives you different tools to explore some of those thoughts."

Erica Fox, a 33-year-old from Ottawa, Ontario, says the summit was a "weekend getaway as a present to myself." This year marked her third In Goop Health summit. "I guess I'm just hoping to recharge, and just feel more aligned with myself when I return back to my normal life," Fox says. "It really is a fantasy in here for a day, it’s wonderful." As a mom, she says it's hard to carve out time for yourself, but she admires what Paltrow preaches and thinks she's "really cool."

Like many Goop skeptics, I started to sort of like GP after The New York Times Magazine profile by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and was tickled to see the 46-year-old entrepreneur walking around the space, hand-in-hand with her 14-year-old daughter, Apple. Based on the things Paltrow says and preaches, you would think she's completely aloof and unaware, but Brodesser-Akner painted her as incredibly self-aware. If you follow Paltrow on Instagram, you may have noticed her funny comments and sarcastic quips. In a recent interview with the TODAY show, Savannah Guthrie asked Paltrow if she's perfect, to which she said, "Are you insane? I'm a mess."

Green smoothies at Goop Hall.Photo: Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images.

So when the GP and Apple float by to browse the food options — including almond-crusted chicken tenders and cauliflower "steaks" — I’m struck by her poise and presence. Wearing head-to-toe G. label, the Goop clothing line, her straight blonde hair glistening, GP looks effortless, even though the effort she puts into looking that way is the whole reason many are here. I ask Armstrong if she thinks the criticism directed toward Paltrow and her philosophy is warranted. "I think that's bullshit; people are just critical because they want to be critical," she says. "There's a huge jealousy factor and competition, and all of those come into play especially if you live in New York City and are surrounded by that daily."

Of course, not all of the 600 guests at the New York leg of the In Goop Health tour were locals. (In 2019, Goop will also be hosting events in Los Angeles and London.) Alina Middleton, 40, traveled all the way from Oahu, HI to attend. "My daughter was like, Mommy, that's like your Disneyland, you need to go," she says. "For a lot of women, this gets us excited; going to mediums and eating this kind of food."

But for many women in Goop's demographic, the Goop lifestyle — including the food, the spiritual stuff, and the physical ticket to attend an event like In Goop Health — is simply out of reach from a financial or logistical perspective. (Tickets for the day cost $1,000 and entire weekend will set you back $4,500.) You can buy all of the products on Goop’s site, but you still can't be GP, and deep down, I believe that GP knows this. At the first panel, Paltrow joked, "Don't worry, there's no acid in your gift bag," in reference to a controversial interview last week where she said psychedelics are the new health trend. On Saturday Night Live the night of the summit, Paltrow appeared on "Weekend Update," spoofing a Goop employee who couldn't remember the names of all of the quirky products that she sells on her site. At least she's owning her shortcomings, which takes a sort of humility that the Fyre Festival crew would never possess.

In truth, that's part of what makes In Goop Health so successful: for one day, fans can pay to be part of her world. "I think [Gwyneth Paltrow] is doing such a service by just providing all this, and creating a Disneyland [for adult women]," Middleton says. "It's really fun.”

The author of this article received a free press ticket to attend this event. Neither Goop nor Gwenyth Paltrow approved or reviewed this article before publication.

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