Almost immediately after the jury had opined, questions turned to whether beating back a $300,000 claim her lawyers termed “utter BS”, will prove to be personally and commercially brand-enhancing.
Over nine days, Paltrow, 50, made a remarkable transformation: at the start of the “hit-and-run” bunny slope collision case she was known as an Oscar-winning actor turned voyager to the outer reaches of the luxury wellness industry; by the end, late on Thursday, she had added a new component: a wronged woman who stood on principle against what jurors unanimously found to be a wrongful accusation.
The case that gripped America and beyond, in part perhaps for its apparent lack of consequence to anyone beyond accuser, the accused and skiers, may go down as Paltrow’s best role since Shakespeare in Love.
“What we’ve been seeing is essentially Gwyneth Paltrow’s greatest hits,” says Bob Thompson, professor of media studies at Syracuse University. “Her clothing, her appearance, her candor, her kookiness, she’s behaved pretty much as we want her to.”
Paltrow’s victory will probably play to fans and detractors equally, with each finding reasons to firm up their original views of the Goop merchandiser. It’s not accidental that Paltrow’s This Smells Like My Vagina candle is situated prominently in Goop’s New York City store in the downtown Nolita neighborhood – it’s adept signaling to her customer fanbase and a gauntlet to others.
In the general direction that Paltrow leads, others may follow. Singer Christina Aguilera launched a line of lubricants this week, following sexual wellness products endorsed by Dakota Johnson, Lily Allen and Demi Lovato.
“I want to be an additive to your life”, Paltrow told Harvard students in 2018 in a lecture that encompassed “contextual commerce” and “radical wellness”. Her message, especially to working mothers like her was an empowering: “That bitch will get things done.” As indeed she did in the Utah courtroom.
After the verdict, the Los Angeles entertainment attorney Tre Lovell commented that Paltrow had not only won the legal fight but improved her image. “Overall, she walks away from this trial with her image more than intact,” he said. “It’s actually been enhanced because of how she handled herself with poise.”
Crucially, Paltrow is not now a working actor, she’s a wealthy lifestyle entrepreneur, and the risks she took in resisting the legal claim are not necessarily aligned. According to one LA lawyer, the risk to reputation and future employment from litigation are so great that most claims are settled to make them go away.
“This is the same thing Johnny Depp did. Instead of running, he fought. It turned out well, but it usually doesn’t,” said the LA investigative journalist Allison Hope Weiner.
But the Paltrow “ski-and-run” trial may be best remembered for its fashion. The Wall Street Journal described her gold Aviator shades as “popular with stylish older women looking to project a tough but cool look”. Paltrow also endorsed “stealth wealth” – clothes that are expensive but do not overtly advertise it, don’t follow TikTok trends, and rely on subtler gestures and context.
”People are no longer interested in obvious wealth signifiers,” said Amy Odell, author of the fashion and culture newsletter Back Row and a recent biography of Dame Anna Wintour “It’s really a reaction to the pandemic that caused people to view wealth and status in a new way.”
Avery Trufelman – creator of the celebrated “Articles of Interest” podcast – says Paltrow’s style does show a lot of care. “What else would we expect from this wealthy woman? Obviously she’s going to wear the nicest cashmere. There’s a lot of black, almost mourning costume, that’s more about respectability than anything else. It reminds me of what [Soho Grifter] Anna Delvey was doing at her trial.
“The overall idea that she has an ability to express herself and her personhood, to display these signs of integrity, human-ness, autonomy, says more than any of the intricacies of the outfit.”