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Gwyneth Paltrow on Turning 50: ‘I’ve Earned My Wrinkles’

In celebration of her 50th birthday, Gwyneth Paltrow sat down with Vogue to reflect on this milestone. Ahead of the celebration the actor turned wellness mogul was feeling calm, which she explained was a change from how she had felt in previous decades. Paltrow discussed how her sense of style has—and has not—changed over the years, what it’s like to see images of her younger self canonized in fashion history, and what she’s most grateful for that she did in her 20s.

Vogue: Happy early birthday! How do you feel approaching this milestone?

Gwyneth Paltrow: I feel great. I feel very happy and fulfilled and not scared and weirdly not freaked out about it. I remember turning 30 and feeling like there was so much pressure to be married and have a baby. I was not in a serious relationship when I turned 30, and I remember just thinking, I’m disappointing my parents. I haven’t married my stockbroker or a lawyer, and I’m this weird artist. When you’re in your 20s, you’re really a kid, and I think there’s this expectation that when you’re 30, you are going to really start to have a handle on your life. And then when I turned 40, I really freaked out.


Largely because I had a very strong relationship to my livelihood and importance being tied to my image and relevancy in the world. Rightly or wrongly, I really felt that way. When you’re kind of rewarded for being attractive and then you build a living and a livelihood, it’s predicated on that.

It was not fully. Of course, I knew I was talented and smart, but there was this very real piece of that. So I was really questioning, What does it mean to lose that, if I am going to lose that? And how do I approach aging, and how do I want to define myself as a person who’s aging? Also I wanted to move back to America from England, and I was sort of realizing that my marriage wasn’t going to work. So it was a very tumultuous time for me. There was a real dismantling of a lot of stuff at the same time, and I really freaked out.

I remember going to some doctor and getting Botox. It was terrible; it was so embarrassing. I was like, I’m such a cliché. I thought I had to redefine so many aspects of who I am. It wasn’t as scary as I thought, by the way, but going into it I think I had a particular set of unique circumstances.

And then turning 50, it’s been a lot smoother than I thought. For the last year or so leading up to it, I have been ruminating on these different chapters in a woman’s life. What does it mean to go through perimenopause and then later menopause? And why is that a taboo, and why are we put out to pasture?

I’m really so happy with the people that my kids are, and I’m in a really fantastic relationship. And my work, even though it’s full of challenges, is very rewarding. I also feel very lucky to have my health and vitality, and I feel grateful to myself that it is an investment I started making in my mid-to-late 20s, with the exception of occasionally falling back into smoking a couple of times throughout. I feel like those choices that I started to make in my mid-20s around implementing a yoga routine; starting to really research and anecdotally experiment with healthier food, less processed food; and doing detoxes and stuff like that really set me on a path of getting to a place of turning 50, and crossing that threshold feeling great.

I was reading a lot of interviews you’ve done, and at one point, you said something to the effect of, at 40 you get an automatic software upgrade.

Yeah. Totally.

Are you anticipating another upgrade now?

I feel it coming. In the months after turning 40, I really noticed a difference in how I started to relate to myself. There was kind of an acceptance that started coming, and all that stuff has deepened and solidified in the ensuing decade.

I was lucky enough to interview Oprah for the first Goop podcast. And she was like, “Just wait until you turn 60. It is the best. You are just delivered from all of these projections and ideas from other people of who you’re supposed to be.”

It sounds like not caring about what other people think.

It sounds like that, which I already feel like I’ve made a ton of progress with. Not caring sounds like an act of defiance or something. The way she was talking about it, it was like this utter liberation. If someone is criticizing you, it just doesn’t register whatsoever.

That must be a nice prospect as someone who’s grown up in the public eye, who’s been a celebrity for so long.

Oh, my gosh, I know. Exactly.

And apologies for just quoting yourself to you, but—

Feel free.

Something you said on The Beauty Closet podcast in 2019 I also found interesting. You said, “What does it mean to get wrinkles and get closer to menopause? What happens to your identity as a woman if you’re not fuckable and beautiful?” That made me think about how the image of your younger self is so iconic. I feel like every time I log on to Instagram, I see photos of outfit inspiration from movies you’ve been in or your Oscar dress. And I was curious if you see that image of your younger self a lot, just out in the world, and if that does affect how you think about aging.

I definitely run into those images once in a while. To me, I just see this young, slightly lost girl really trying to make heads or tails of things. So exposed, so in the public eye, trying to figure out so many things. Now there’s so much distance from it. If I think about some of the iconic images from The Royal Tenenbaums or something like that, there is a part of me that thinks how cool that I was part of the visual lexicon at that time. And like, Wow, that’s interesting, and my grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to access these things and draw conclusions about their great-grandmother.

I think as human beings, we all want to feel that we’ve left a mark in some way. And so I guess that’s proof on some level or empirical proof that I did make a contribution. But I would never want to go back and be that person. I’m so happy with wrinkles and my life.

No matter how put together your outfit is in those photos, it doesn’t sound like you’re nostalgic for being that person.

No. I can still put together a pretty mean outfit.

You can, you can. That actually leads perfectly into my next question, which is: How has your approach to style changed, if it has?

I was at the gym the other day, and there’s this neat guy who works there, and he showed me…I don’t have TikTok, but he was like, “Let me show you this, G.P.” And it was some review of all my clothes from the ’90s, one outfit after another. Do you know what I’m talking about? The lady’s in the corner, making commentary on it and all.

Oh, yes.

Obviously, silhouettes have changed and waist heights have raised and pant legs are different, but I still dress in the same vein. I’m simple. I’m minimal. I’m tomboyish/elegant. I don’t know how I would characterize it exactly, but sort of preppy with a little twist. I just wore that same red Tom Ford suit. I would still probably wear it if I had any of that stuff. Well, now especially because the ’90s is so back in.

That’s interesting. I think there’s not a ton of people who can honestly look back on what they wore at 20 and say, “Yeah, I’d still wear that.”

Yeah. It was always very me.

Anjelica RiveraAndrew Yee

You’ve spoken a few times about what I see as kind of a dichotomy between aging and getting wrinkles or feeling less beautiful but at the same time liking yourself more. I’m curious why you think these two get brought up together and what you think about the relationship between beauty and age and self-appreciation?

Yeah. Because in our Western capitalistic culture, we have conflated youth and beauty and we have very little outside of that margin to explore. Maybe it’s because I have wrinkles and I’m almost 50 years old, but I’ve really recalibrated the way that I look at that stuff. I don’t relate to a 26-year-old model. I don’t want her life. I don’t want her face. I don’t want her experience. I’ve earned my life. I’ve earned my wrinkles. I have been through so many highs and lows, and there’s a sweetness that starts to emerge from that, from having lived, from being wise, from being humble, from loving and losing and all of this stuff.

Do you notice a generational difference around preventing aging and things like developing a skin care routine at a young age or 20-year-olds getting so-called preventative Botox. As someone who’s in the wellness space, do you see a difference between how you think about aging now versus how someone who is 25 or 20 thinks about aging?

Maybe it’s not in my orbit at all, but the young women that I’m around, I haven’t heard a major anti-aging bent to their routines. It’s more like this desire to have great skin. When I was my daughter’s age, I just washed my face with water and a bar of soap. I had no idea about skin care and routines. It wasn’t really in the culture. I was lucky to not have acne when I was a teenager, so I just never did anything. And my daughter definitely is into skin care. So I think that’s also cultural. I think with this Instagram age, we can make women or people feel like they’re missing something in an effort to capitalize on them. Because sometimes I’m seeing the consumer mindset emerge earlier and earlier. But I haven’t noticed specifically the preventative thing. [My daughter] Apple has never said to me, “I better do X, Y, and Z, so that I don’t get wrinkles later in life.” But she’s also very young.

I see what you’re saying. Do you think about your purpose in life differently approaching 50 as opposed to when you were approaching 40?

I don’t ruminate that much on what my purpose is. I have some ideas, and I think sometimes when I have a conversation with a founder who feels like I’ve helped pave the way for something she’s doing or someone says to me on the street, “Thank you so much for the recommendation. It changed my life.” Or one time a chef stopped me and said, “Thank you for making healthy food cool.” So those little data points where you’re like, Okay, so, I guess I’ve put things into the world that have been helpful and resonant to some people.

I think it’s always evolving, what my purpose is. I honestly don’t know if I’ll know until I’m on my deathbed. So I just follow my instincts and kind of keep going along.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.



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