Gwyneth Paltrow on How it Felt to Become “Super Famous” in the ‘90s
"Back then everybody was telling me, 'You're going to be something.' I was like, 'I don't know, but I guess I'm on this train.'"
I’m going on 20 years of InStyle covers. I remember when the magazine started everyone was like, “Oh, People is doing a style magazine! What is this going to be?” I liked it right away. InStyle was friendly and accessible but still looked fantastic, which was a breath of fresh air.
I felt very honored to be on the cover in January 1999. I was 26, and it was at a time in my life when everything was going absolutely crazy. I was becoming super famous. People started recognizing me on the street, especially after Shakespeare in Love [for which Paltrow earned a best actress Oscar in 1999]. You know, I still remember one of my favorite lines: “I will have poetry in my life. And adventure. And love. Love above all.”
It was also a complicated time for me because my dad was going through all of his health stuff [producer-director Bruce Paltrow was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998 and died in 2002]. I felt overwhelmed. I think when you’re so young and something like that happens to you, it’s very hard to have any perspective on what’s going on. You’re in a storm. In a way, I was extremely present because that’s all I could be.
There’s this optimism that comes from having your whole life ahead of you and not knowing what’s going to happen. Back then everybody was telling me, “You’re going to be something.” I was like, “I don’t know, but I guess I’m on this train.” It’s funny: Now I see the kind of energy I had then in my daughter.
When my August 2002 InStyle cover came out, I was doing Proof in London’s West End. It was my first play in London. I started working in the city when I was about 22. I worked there several times a year. I finally bought an apartment in the city when I was 29 and moved there when I was 30. Then I met Chris [Martin] right after that, and London was home for at least 10 years. I loved my London years. There was so much mystery around everything, from the humor to the traditions to the architecture to the snacks — I liked that Marmite on a crispy thing. [laughs] I had my kids [Apple, 15, and Moses, 13] there. And I completely changed as a woman. Having children was so extraordinarily profound. It turned my world completely upside down in the best possible way. I think women understand that there are different chapters to our lives. My life looked a lot different in that decade than it did in my 20s, when I was very immersed in acting. In my 30s my focus was my kids. I was home most of the time. I was cooking with my kids and starting [lifestyle brand] Goop. I was very happy doing the school runs and being domestic.
In 2003 I shot my third InStyle cover in Spain with my exchange family from when I studied abroad as a teen. I still go there all the time. I’m very close to the family. In fact, my Spanish father, Jesus, walked me down the aisle at my wedding [to TV writer–director–producer Brad Falchuk] last September. Married life has been really good. We took a year to let everybody [in the family] take it in and let the dust settle. And now we’re moving in together this month. I adore my husband. He’s brilliant and deeply kind. I feel like he’s a real equal too. And he pushes me in the best ways. I really like being married. It’s fun.
I remember I turned 40 right before my InStyle cover in 2012. Forty is amazing. I mean, every year since, I’ve felt much closer to myself. And, you know, it’s interesting. For me, having a big platform has always been about finding a balance between being my irreverent self and understanding that there is a responsibility that comes with it.
I don’t think of myself as an influencer. I’m a little bit allergic to the word. I like the concept of people finding somebody in the world who resonates with them. But it also makes me a little nervous. I feel like I’m more of a connector. It’s weird to metabolize that and to understand that you do have influence. It can make me slip into a more corporate version of myself sometimes. And I don’t love that. It’s weird! That’s not who I am or what my sense of humor is like. So I’ve tried to say “Fuck it” in certain ways too.
I’m almost 47 now. At this stage I’ve realized the secret to wellness is a little bit of everything. It’s sleep. It’s hydration. It’s nutrition and exercise. It’s not being toxic. It’s watching your tongue. It’s being around people who love you and who are honest with you. It’s about seeing Dr. Dray — the dermatologist, not the rapper — in London or Paris, whenever I can get over there. And drinking is part of my wellness program too. [laughs]
How I'd describe myself in three words:
In 1999: Optimistic, Hopeful, Immature
Today: Still very optimistic, Integrated, and Humble
Photographed by Paul McLean on May 28 in Los Angeles. Styling: Natalie Hoselton. Hair: Lorenzo Martin for The Wall Group. Makeup: Sabrina Bedrani for The Wall Group.