If you’re wondering how to find Gwyneth Paltrow’s Airbnb, just type “goop” into the search bar. This will ultimately reveal to you (or me, or anyone with an Airbnb account and a particular curiosity about the “lifestyle” that could have inspired one businesswoman to manufacture a soy wax candle that allegedly smells like her vagina, which she then allegedly took a bite out of in a Super Bowl Uber Eats commercial) a mostly typical-looking Airbnb listing for a home titled “goop-Inspired Stay with Gwyneth Paltrow: Entire guesthouse hosted by Gwyneth.” Goop is now more than just an enigmatic celebrity brand, a socioeconomic-identifying skincare routine, and a one-stop e-commerce shop for all of your jade egg needs—it is also a place. A place you can rent. Or try to rent if you have the time, patience, and mental resilience to let some questions about the short-term-celebrity-rental market remain forever unanswered, fluttering off into the vagina-scented Montecito wind.
Two weeks ago, I was personally presented with the opportunity to become Gwyneth Paltrow’s friendly neighborhood Ryan Atwood: to stay (in a state of unclear permanence) inside the pool house of her Montecito home free of charge, I think, but with plenty of social strings attached. I first found out that Gwyneth Paltrow wanted me and me alone to come stay in her pool house by watching a reel on her Instagram wherein she floats around her property while wearing a puff-sleeved dress and shows off the gorgeous features of her guest home: “Wood-burning fireplace, lovely little bar ... a nice soaking tub.” She spelled out why she was doing this in the caption: “Loneliness is a human condition, but in the past few years, increased isolation and our lack of community has made our lives even more fragmented. @airbnb had the brilliant idea of doing something to make the world a little less lonely, which is why I’m inviting you to come stay at my Montecito guesthouse for a night.”
When I battled loneliness in the past, I never once considered going to stay at Gwyneth Paltrow’s Montecito guesthouse as a solution. And that’s on me. So, thank goodness Airbnb had this brilliant idea to partner with someone who has 8.3 million Instagram followers in order to cure the loneliness epidemic. I hadn’t been feeling lonely, but now, I know that if I’m not able to rent Gwyneth Paltrow’s guesthouse—if I’m not able to “select whatever bottle of wine [I] like” from her password-protected wine cellar to have at dinner with her husband (Brad Falchuk) and my guest of choice (it would just be the floating version of me having an out-of-body experience because I’m at the Goop House)—a void will open up in my life that I never knew existed until I was given the opportunity to fill it with Goop. I wonder what brilliant plan Airbnb has to fix that? Because on August 1, the day Goop House was announced, the central question of my life became: How? How do I rent “goop-Inspired Stay with Gwyneth Paltrow”?
Ultimately, it’s a question with no answer; a guesthouse, inexplicably, with no hair dryer. But for me, it was a journey worth taking, if only to try to discover why, when Gwyneth Paltrow sing-songs of the available Goop products in her Airbnb, “Your skin is gonna be better when you leave than when you caaame,” it sounds like a threat. And I’ll tell you this right now: This journey isn’t over. But this is how it began, and this is how it’s gone.
Day 1: Existential Reckoning
Before I spent two weeks scheming about how to make Gwyneth Paltrow my landlord, I had three existential questions to contend with:
1. Why would Gwyneth Paltrow, a multimillionaire entrepreneur, Academy Award–winning actress, and primo Hollywood nepo baby, be renting out her home on Airbnb? Well, Gwyneth thought you might ask that, so in her Instagram announcement, she basically makes it seem like she is just absolutely jonesing to entertain some guests, and I guess Oprah and Gayle were busy. But ultimately, the reason becomes much more obvious in the final 10 seconds of her announcement reel with a “Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb” jump scare: This woman is getting paid an outrageous amount of money to welcome strangers into her home and pretend like she’s happy about it. Which brings us to ...
2. Why would Airbnb—a company frequently accused of being responsible for the housing crisis—choose this moment in time, when revenues are way down for its hosts, to “ask unexpected hosts to create unique shared experiences and connections”? Since Gwyneth Paltrow announced she would be renting out her guesthouse to solve loneliness, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have also announced they’ll be renting out their oceanfront Santa Barbara beach house, by way of a video where Kutcher tells Kunis that he has an idea even dumber than his mustache: “I think we should have complete strangers come stay with us at the beach.” Kunis, meanwhile, seems appropriately horrified by the idea of ... exercising the central concept of Airbnb … as … publicity for Airbnb. Why would Airbnb do this?! I’ll mark it down as the first of many unanswered questions on my journey, and follow it up with a softball ...
3. Why would I want to rent Gwyneth Paltrow’s Montecito Airbnb? Well, to quote Gwyn herself, in a cadence that cannot be described by the English language, I’m looking for that “I laughed, I cried a number of times, I sweat, I danced, I got a shot, I ate, and I had many epiphanies” kind of Saturday night. I am trying to get a mystery shot in the near vicinity of Gwyneth Paltrow’s soaking tub. I am trying to hear the outrageous way Gwyneth Paltrow pronounces “chaise longue” in person. I am trying to meet the sassy, stone-faced version of Mrs. Gwyneth Kate Paltrow Falchuk that clad herself in chunky knits and claimed victory in one of the richest, whitest court cases Twitter has ever seen. And I am trying to do it with 2 centimeters of free Goop products soaking into my suddenly flawless skin! You get it; I know you do.
Days 2-4: Data Collection
Now that the why has been settled, it’s time to move into the ever-more-challenging how of this equation. As soon as Gwyneth’s Airbnb listing went live on the site and the app, it only raised more questions. There was no calendar of available dates, no nightly price listed, and certainly no cleaning fees or estimated taxes. There was only a block of text informing any interested renters that the booking would “go live” on August 15, at 10 a.m. PT. With further inspection of “The Space” section of the listing, I was at least able to uncover that the one-night booking (not yet available to book) would be for September 9.
So to be clear, that’s one person (plus one guest) who would be able to rent one night on one weekend at Gwyneth Paltrow’s guesthouse—a weekend during which I happened to already have a beach trip planned, but all things considered (see next slide), I think my friends would understand. Perhaps I wouldn’t tell them that with check-in listed at 4 p.m. and check-out at 11 a.m., I wouldn’t even be getting a full 24 hours at the Goop House. Some quick math tells me that it is, in fact, 19 hours in Montecito paradise—and at least a few of them (probably) spent (maybe) with Gwyneth Paltrow. And while there are plenty of details to be pored over in the near future regarding how Gwyneth and I will spend our time together, how to actually claim that time is much more vague.
The “Booking Rules” under the “House Rules” section explicitly state: “This one-night stay is not a contest.” But, uh, because only one person is able to claim something that is presumably in very high demand, it … kind of feels like a contest. Or, at the very least, it feels like entering the Taylor Swift Ticketmaster thunderdome—something I’ve specifically avoided doing because I find it scary. Imagine a ticket line full of (I can only assume) snarky, secretly hopeful journalists such as me and then, like, 10,000 lithe blond women, precisely executing Goop-related tasks in between Pilates and a lymphatic drainage massage like it’s any other day—that’s the pool for the Goop House contest. (That’s right, I said it—please still let me win!)
Because if it looks like a contest and quacks like a contest, it’s probably a publicity stunt. But still, if at the end of that publicity stunt—and at the end of whatever technical nightmare stands between me and the Goop House—is my getting to talk about natural wine and odors with Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, Brad Falchuk … well, quack quack, bitch, let’s go.
Days 4-7: Imagining My Goop-Inspired Life
Enough with dreading the technicalities—this small stretch leading up to booking the Goop House is all about luxuriating in the idea of becoming one of the “treasured friends” that Gwyneth Paltrow says she likes to “recharge and daydream” with at her Montecito home. So, once I’ve secured this 19-hour rental, flown to Santa Barbara, driven myself to Montecito, and waved to friendly locals like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Gwyneth assures me that she’ll meet me at the door to make sure I have everything I need for my stay. Given the amount of Goop products she’s promised to keep stocked in the bathroom, I’m sure I will not want for any powders, nor potions, nor crystals. Protein-rich meals? Possibly. But Gwyn also promises that all necessary meals and snacks will be provided, all dietary and allergy restrictions honored. Whether those meals will necessarily be shared between the two of us remains disconcertingly vague. A chef’s dinner in the wine cellar is offered up as something we “could” enjoy together, presumably after she’s sized up whether I’m a weirdo or not during what sounds like mandatory Transcendental Meditation …
But let me tell you what: She’s gonna love me (even if I don’t know how to meditate transcendentally). I’m gonna be so chill, and I’m not going to tell her about all the ways I considered rigging her contest (see next slide), and I’m only going to steal as many Goop products as can fit in one carry-on suitcase. But I don’t even think Gwyneth would care about that last one, because there’s only one rule labeled as the most important rule at the Goop House:
I’m way ahead of you, bestie.
Days 8-11: An Obsessive Detour
It’s time to get down to business. How do I, one mere mortal, give myself a fighting chance at beating out the other thousands of people logging on to Airbnb at 10 a.m. PT on Tuesday, August 15?
I would like to point out that it was my editor who first suggested that—and I’m curious to know whether I can say this without getting him fired, in which case we’ve had a good run—“maybe you can expense some bots.” I’m sure he was kidding. I, however, am extremely serious about trying to book the Goop House. And so I set out on a quest the likes of which I have never been less prepared for in my life: trying to figure out how bots work. Unfortunately, I come from one of those lawyers-and-liberal-arts type families, and I work in an industry full of the wrong kind of nerds, so my access to anyone who knows anything about bots is limited. Unless I wanted to submit a ticket to our IT department, which I obviously do not know how to do. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting in touch with the guy who’s always rigging the Ringer brackets, but ultimately that seemed like a great way to get the Goop House swiped out from under me ...
So I reached out to the one friend I have who knows anything about technology (she was the webmaster of our sorority in college, the bona fides are there) and said, “What do you know about bots?” To which she responded, “I currently work for a company that sells bots to other companies. What’s up?”
What was ultimately up is that her company programs the kind of bots that ask you if you need any help while you’re shopping for throw pillows online, and while their programmers would likely be able to rig an Airbnb not-contest, my friend estimated it would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 ...
But I still wasn’t quite over the bots thing, because kind-of cheating was the only way I could imagine winning this kind-of contest. Mostly because I don’t totally understand how bots work, but even more importantly because I definitely don’t understand how this not-contest is going to work come August 15. Would I need to give the bots my credit card? (Sounds like a bad idea!) Would the bots need to write a persuasive essay about why they want to stay at the Goop House? (Spoiler alert: yes!) Would that persuasive essay matter? (Answer still unknown!) I asked a guy I went on a date with if he knew anyone who knows anything about bots—he seemed like the type. And he did, but that guy was in the Maldives. So, with all hope busy soaking up the Maldives sun, and my mind comprehending perhaps less about bots than ever before, it was time to move on to the things I could actually prepare for.
Days 12-14: Preparing to Not-Win the Not-Contest
Listed deep within the “goop-Inspired Stay with Gwyneth Paltrow” Booking Rules was the most information about how to secure Gwyn’s guesthouse I was ever going to get.
- “Guests must be able to provide a government-issued ID.” One of the few, non–Olivia Rodrigo–related reasons I love having a driver’s license!
- “Guests must enter a complete message when submitting the request to book, letting the Host know, among other things, who will be joining them.” Ultimately, I wish I’d been a little less cocky about all the coasters I use, and a little more focused on this particular hot tip, but we’ll get to that later …
- “Guests acknowledge Airbnb may conduct a review of public records.” And, of course, my eternal greatest downfall: this Sasquatch-sized internet footprint of mine. Be a blogger, they said! Write about pop culture, they said! I guess they never considered that eventually Gwyneth Paltrow might rent her Montecito guest home out on Airbnb for one night only, and would probably prefer to have an earnest fan come stay there than someone who’s going to document every second of their visit to GoopLand. Which, to be clear, I absolutely would. But hey, maybe they won’t Google me. (Or maybe they’ll go straight to my social media profiles where I’ve briefly removed all indicators that I’ve ever so much as dabbled in the blogging arts.)
Day 15: Go Time
The setup? Two laptops and two iPhones at my dining room table. My hands? Literally shaking. My dream of thousands of bots swooping in to secure my rightful place at the Goop House? Dead. In its place is a more humble, but also more reliable (and definitely less expensive) plan to utilize the original bots: other people who owe you a favor. More specifically, a trusted handful of friends and colleagues who have been informed that I don’t know if this will cost money, I don’t know how much money I’m even allowed to spend, and I don’t know what will happen when the clock strikes 10 a.m., but I assume that it may be a bit of a technological disaster. Because on August 1, when the information first went live that you could go stay with Gwyneth Paltrow at her house, Paltrow’s reel racked up over 116,000 likes—four times more than she usually gets (excluding posts that include her daughter Apple, which get twice as many likes). The original tweet that blew the whistle on the Goop Airbnb for anyone who hadn’t seen it on Instagram got 15,000 likes, 1.2 million views, and thousands of replies and reposts.
So, I assumed that the listing was going to be crawling with applicants come go time. But in the hour leading up to 10 a.m., I saw no such chatter online. There was a handful of writers waiting for their chance to document the Goop House, of course, but mostly, the streets were quiet. And I … I was ready.
At 10 a.m. PT on the dot, I refreshed every page on every device, finally revealing a calendar with only one window available: September 9-10. Well, it was available on the webpage. On the app, it took a few minutes for the date to become clickable. But on my trusty laptop, I soared through the booking process, and right into …
The essay portion.
So I guess they were right all along—this wasn’t a contest. It was a TEST. And I wasn’t as prepared as I thought! Despite being told that “Guests must enter a complete message when submitting the request to book,” I completely forgot to prepare a compelling written statement. I am a writer, for goodness’ sake. But in this case, I had to make a decision to prioritize speed over wit …
I had my poorly written request to book Gwyneth Paltrow’s Airbnb submitted in seconds. My outsourced applicants told me tales of error messages on the app, of having to try a few times before getting their requests submitted, so I knew I must have been one of the first to the finish line. And in the end, it … kind of didn’t matter? After submitting my Goop appeal, I got the same message that everyone else would eventually get: “Gwyneth’s place is in high demand. We’ll only reach out to you if you’re invited to book.”
A full 24 hours later, the booking period finally closed, with who knows how many applications collected over the day. And three days later, I still haven’t been invited to book, nor has The Ringer received a response from Airbnb’s publicity department on whether a renter has been officially selected. I’m over here just waiting, for what will certainly be a personal message from Gwyneth. But in this case, there’s something comforting in the unknown. And besides, if it’s not a contest, then I can’t lose. There’s still a chance that someway, somehow, I’ll get my invite to Montecito. Until I see some influencer on TikTok posting selfies from the Goop-inspired stay, my heart (and un-gooped pores) remains open to the idea that I have a shot.