To paraphrase the famed 1929 artwork La Trahison des images by René Magritte: Ceci n’est pas une vagine.
That is what Gwyneth Paltrow would like you to know, en essence, about her own famed work of self-referential surrealism, the Goop candle “This Smells Like My Vagina,” which retails for $75 (a steal when you consider a Magritte will run you $26.8 million at auction). On Wednesday night, the basically former actress and wellness impresario appeared on Late Night With Seth Meyers to promote her upcoming Netflix series, The Goop Lab, which premieres this Friday. Seth asked Gwyn about juice cleanses and sending her Goop staffers to Jamaica to take mushrooms, an assignment that “everybody signed up for.” And of course, he asked her about the impetus behind the vagina candle, which is famous in the way the Mr. Peanut death is famous, which is to say, playing directly into the brand’s well-manicured hand. Gwyneth’s explanation:
“Well, it’s a candle. It’s called ‘This Smells Like My Vagina.’ So it sort of started as a joke. I was with the nose, Douglas Little, for his brand Heretic, and we were kind of messing around. And I smelled this beautiful thing, and I was like this smells like my vagina. And I was kidding, obviously. We were on mushrooms. No, we weren’t. We weren’t. We weren’t on mushrooms. So then it actually became kind of a funny thing where it was really funny to us, but also a little bit punk rock, you know. I think women, a lot of us have grown up feeling certain degrees of shame around our body, or whatever, so this is just a little bit of a, you know, subversive candle for all of us out there.”
Subverting the patriarchy by buying a candle that doesn’t actually smell like Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina, but that has the word “vagina” on the packaging, which is empowering and deeply subversive? Very punk rock.
Velvet Underground proto–punk rock godfather John Cale released a song called “Magritte” in October 2003, in which he sings “somebody’s coming that hates us, better watch the art.” In October 2006, punk rock mainstay CBGB closed for good. Today, just a three-minute half-block walk away from where CBGB used to be on the Bowery, you can visit the Goop boutique, if you want. Anyway, stream Goop Lab on Netflix on January 24.