Criticism from scientists and doctors doesn’t stop Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Goopies’ from flocking to Vancouver summit

Hundreds of wellness enthusiasts flocked to Stanley Park pavilion over the weekend, where Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness empire — known as Goop — held its sold-out wellness summit.

Though Paltrow did not make an appearance, Lycra-clad attendees clutching branded tote bags paid $400 to attend seminars and workout classes, and browse the latest products. The event website promised “transformational workouts,” “chillout sessions” and a “mind-expanding day.”

Kate Bentley, a mother of three who made the trip from Seattle to attend, said it was her third Goop summit, having previously attended events in New York and Los Angeles.

“Everything that’s cutting-edge is what Goop has —​ like on gut health, on emotional health, on physical well-being, they have the whole picture down to skincare and everything,” Bentley said.

Kate Bentley, right, made the trip from Seattle to attend the event, and said it was her third Goop summit. Her friend Heidi Lent, who attended for the first time, said she enjoyed the community aspect of the summit. (CBC/Jon Hernandez)

Claims of snake oil

Goop, founded by Paltrow eight years ago, has grown to be worth more than an estimated $250 million. But as it expanded from a blog to a full-blown wellness empire, it was heavily criticized for promoting potentially dangerous products based on pseudoscience.

In January, doctors slammed the company for advertising a do-it-yourself coffee enema that promised to “supercharge your detox.”  In September, the company agreed to pay $145,000 US in civil penalties over products including the now-infamous egg-shaped jade stones, meant to be inserted into the vagina to improve health.

But lawsuits and unfavourable media coverage of Paltrow and her brand didn’t faze summit attendees. Bentley said she loves many of the products the company recommends.

“I take the high school gene vitamins, love those, I’ve been taking them for about a year. I’m not as consistent as I should be,” she said.

Hot Dog Water CEO attends

If you were outside the venue on Saturday, you may have noticed one person standing out among the self-proclaimed “goopies.”

Douglas Bevans, adorned in a hot dog onesie, stood in a tent outside the venue selling “hot dog water” — water in a clear bottle with, yes, a hot dog floating inside.

“This is a smart water — it’s keto-compatible, it improves brain function, it increases vitality, I mean the list goes on and on, but it’s our latest product for helping people live healthier lives,” he said.

“This is a smart water — it’s keto-compatible, it improves brain function, it increases vitality, I mean the list goes on and on, but it’s our latest product for helping people live healthier lives,” Douglas Bevans. (CBC)

Bevans, who describes himself as the CEO of Hot Dog Water and a performance artist, said he came to the summit to encourage people to think critically about product advertising.

“This message is about — in its absurdity — making people think more critically about the products that are being sold, especially if there’s a celebrity endorsement involved or bogus scientific claims,” he said.

He said that in stereotypically yoga and wellness-obsessed Vancouver, the message is particularly important. He said while some summit attendees looked “hesitant and bewildered” as they walked by his stand, he’s just hoping to spark conversations.

“They had a similar bottle to this with a crystal in it. As ridiculous as this is, there are products out there that exceed this in absurdity.”

With files from Jon Hernandez