The Truth About Rebekah Neumann And Her Relationship To Cousin Gwyneth Paltrow

The story of how WeWork, an office-space startup company valued at billions of dollars, collapsed, has become something of a legend in the business world, and it even got the television treatment in 2022 (via Bustle). The company faced a series of events, including a doomed attempt at taking the company public, that led to two of its founders — the husband and wife pair of Adam and Rebekah Neumann — receiving a massive golden parachute worth nearly $2 billion (via the New York Post).

Rebekah Neumann, one of the central characters in the real-life drama of the ill-fated company, and the Apple TV+ series "WeCrash" is inextricably linked to actress and wellness entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow. The two women are first cousins, according to Vanity Fair, with Neumann's father being the brother of Paltrow's father, the late director Bruce Paltrow. If the TV series is to be believed, Paltrow owns a considerable amount of proverbial real estate in Neumann's head, but it doesn't appear that there was always a sort of competition between the two women.

Who is Rebekah Neumann?

Rebekah Neumann was born Rebekah Paltrow in 1978, and according to Bustle, she was the youngest amongst her siblings by a considerable margin, with the next youngest being 12 years older than her. Neumann liked to go by the nickname Rebi, and her upbringing is one of the first points of contention between her and her cousin.

Neumann said in a 2016 interview with Porter magazine that her family lived ​​"off a dirt road in, like, a treehouse." Her description paints a different picture of her early days compared to Paltrow's who in the same article described her cousin's family by saying "They were well-off."

Neumann's parents grew estranged over time but both came from families that had developed considerable wealth. Her mother's family had made money with their lingerie company Gelmart, and her father's side of the family had made money manufacturing steel pipes, and even started his own company with a childhood friend that distributed junk mail. This is to say that while maybe she did grow up in a treehouse just off a dirt road, it would appear there was still enough money floating around to have a company plane and a pilot that flew the family to vacation homes in different corners of the country.

Who is Gwyneth Paltrow?

According to Biography, Gwyneth Paltrow is the daughter of actress Blythe Danner and television director and producer Bruce Paltrow. Paltrow was born in Los Angeles in 1972 and got her acting start early. She was just 5 years old when she took the stage in Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains, where her mother was performing. She and her family eventually moved across the country to New York City with her family when she was 11.

Entering the 1990s, Paltrow's career was heating up after performances in films like "Shout" and "Hook" and once again appeared alongside her mother, this time in the 1992 mini-series "Cruel Doubt." The serious career momentum led her to drop her studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara to focus on acting.

It was a good call, and she appeared in critically acclaimed fare like 1995's "Se7en" and 1998's "Shakespeare in Love," a performance which earned her an Oscar win. In 2008, Paltrow launched GOOP, a wellness brand that started as a newsletter.

Growing up in the Paltrow family

According to Bustle, Newman faced a few trying times during her childhood. Her father's business had hit a lull, and he attempted to right his junk mail ship by creating a fake charity. This drew him and the company into a series of legal battles. Tragically, around the same time, Neumann's older brother died after a bout with cancer when he was just 23.

One of Neumann's former brothers-in-law, Moni Lieberman, said of Rebi Neumann as a child, "She was never running around, trying to get attention." He also mentioned spending a fair amount of time with both Neumann and Paltrow at tense family gatherings. ​​"The whole family was constantly under fear, constantly guarding and judging."

Neumann attended a private high school in the Bronx, and in 1996 she headed upstate to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. There she seemingly had a propensity to use her relation to her famous cousin as something of an icebreaker. According to Business Insider, Neumann once introduced herself at a sorority meeting by saying, "Yes, Gwyneth is my cousin. Yes, I know Brad [Pitt, whom Paltrow was dating at the time]. Yes, we are close. And I am going to the wedding. Next!"

Neumann tried her hand at acting

After college, Neumann went into investment banking but she eventually set her sights on the same line of work that made her cousin one of the most famous women in the world (via Vanity Fair). According to Bustle, Neumann left New York and settled in Los Angeles where she started taking acting classes. ​​

"She was extremely dedicated to art and she was extremely dedicated to meditation, spirituality. You can absolutely spend every moment of the day for six or 20 years in genuine dedication to either one of those things," Raphael Sacks, an acting classmate of Newumann's said. He added that it's difficult enough to become a successful actor in a place full of people looking to become successful actors themselves, but Sacks pointed out that Neumann likely faced an additional hurdle. "It's easy to imagine people in LA trying to use her to get to Gwyneth Paltrow."

Neumann's foray into acting makes an appearance in "WeCrashed." During a scene from the series' third episode, where Neumann — portrayed by Anne Hathaway — tells her father she wants to be an actress. He replied, "You always had talent, more than Gwynnie. I never really believed her head was in that box," a reference to the infamous ending of Paltrow's film "Se7en" (via Vanity Fair). While her acting career didn't exactly hit the heights of her cousin's, Neumann appeared in a few projects including a short film called "Awake,' which she co-wrote, produced, and starred in alongside Rosario Dawson.

Neumann forges a new path

While she didn't make a name for herself in the upper reaches of Hollywood — at least not as an actress the way her cousin Gwyneth did, Neumann still managed to find a high degree of fame for herself. According to Vanity Fair, WeWork was founded by Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey in 2010, and Rebekah Neumann came on as the company's chief brand and impact officer and also carried an additional Orwellian-sounding pseudo-title as her husband's "strategic thought partner."

Vanity Fair reported that while WeWork was a rising force in the corporate world, Neumann still had acting aspirations, and had considered dropping her original last name — she had sometimes gone by Rebekah Paltrow-Neumann — and former employees had said that she had "met in WeWork's office with consultants to advise her about the issue" and "set up a Google alert for news about Paltrow." Eventually, after WeWork attained an estimated value of over $1 billion, an internal memo sent throughout the company indicated that she was to be known moving forward simply as Rebekah Neumann.

In 2018, the two cousins sat down together for a conversation about WeGrow, a for-profit private school that Neumann launched that carried a $42,000 a year tuition. The school fell victim to the problems faced by the rest of the company, but Forbes reported that Neumann had purchased it with hopes of a relaunch.