Tavi Gevinson

 

‘I tried to fit in, but it didn’t work.’

If you want to know what the next generation is really thinking, listen to Tavi Gevinson.

By Jonathan Wingfield
Photographs by Brigitte Lacombe






For a publication that generally steers its focus towards people within the fashion industry, Tavi Gevinson is a complex and intriguing System subject – an ever-evolving anomaly operating both in and beyond the very system we like to explore. Her story is the stuff of outsider folklore: in 2008, an 11-year-old bespectacled suburban introvert starts a ‘style blog’, finds herself (controversially) sitting front row next to Anna Wintour, becomes disillusioned and retreats back to high school.

   Destined to be remembered as a quirky also-ran in the annals of fashion, Tavi simply chose a different path. Or paths. In the ensuing years, she’s been in Hollywood movies, moved to New York and starred on Broadway (where she returns next spring to play Mary Warren in Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible); she’s delivered a TED Talk entitled Still Figuring It Out, which skilfully suggests why media representations of women should be complex and contradictory; and, as if to prove the aforementioned point, has been the face of Clinique, as well as one of 12 women (alongside the likes of Yoko Ono, Patti Smith, Serena Williams and Fran Lebowitz) photographed by Annie Leibovitz for 2016’s redefining Pirelli calendar. And she’s still a teenager.

   But it’s perhaps Rookie, the website and occasional publication she’s run since 2011, that continues to best define what Tavi represents to the millions of young women (and men, but mainly women) who consider her a guiding voice. Championing the sort of writing, doodling and self-expression that for decades never left the padlocked diaries of teenage girls, Rookie’s influence on youth culture is at least as tangible as the queues around the Supreme store. Or, as writer Eva Wiseman neatly puts it, ‘by unpicking the awkwardness of female adolescence and providing a place to talk about it, [Rookie has] helped feminism become almost fashionable’.

‘I asked this popular boy at school for his number and he just said, 123, 456, 789, and I was like, Oh, I see, I’m not going to get what I’m looking for here.’

Were you a bedroom fashionista or more the bookish type? When you first arrived in the fashion industry you seemed like the perfect mix of the two.
Yes, I think a bit of both. In elementary school I read constantly and did Reading Olympics, which was really fun; my dad was an English teacher and my mother’s a visual artist who always encouraged us to be creative. I wasn’t interested in fashion until I discovered style blogs when I was about 11. I wouldn’t say I really had a sense of style at the time, but I just kind of knew what I didn’t like.

Were you popular at school?
I tried to fit in, but it didn’t work. That was when everyone in my age group started getting cell phones and I asked this kind of ‘popular’ boy for his number and he just said, ‘123, 456, 789…’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I see, I’m not going to get what I’m looking for here’.

So you turned to fashion?
My friend outside of school, who I knew from doing plays, had an older sister who did a fashion blog. I was immediately struck by how much confidence and style she had. But what impressed me most was how she’d talk about the reactions she got at school, and how she just found them amusing.

People were mocking her?
Yes, but she didn’t care, which felt empowering. I remember Anna Dello Russo saying that when she was little her mom said something like, ‘If you wear this you won’t be cool’, and she replied, ‘But I don’t want to be cool, I want to be fashion!’ For me, I wanted to be interesting and creative, although that’s not to say I wasn’t immune to feelings of wanting to be pretty.

‘Back then, no one did fashion blogging as a career or to get invited to the shows; it was just something you did in your bedroom after school.’

So seeing this blog inspired you to start your own.
Yes, I started Style Rookie in 2008 as soon as I saw other blogs, but, you know, I never thought lots of people would read it. It wasn’t like I was building up my style and then saying to myself, ‘I’m ready to share this with the world’. And anyway, back then no one did fashion blogging as a career or to get invited to shows; it was just something you did after school.

Were you aware of fashion beyond blogs?
My friend’s older sister Stephanie once sent me a list of magazines she liked, so I’d walk to the Book Table in Oak Park after school and buy Dazed & Confused, i-D, foreign editions of Vogue; I remember calling the store and bugging them because I knew there was this 3D issue of Dazed & Confused coming out and they were like, ‘Stop calling us, what is so special about this thing?’, and I was like, ‘But it’s 3D!’ Over time I got to know all the fashion stuff coming out.

Tell me something from those magazines that struck a chord.
I was really interested in people’s processes: I remember learning that the Rodarte girls hadn’t studied fashion, but that they’d bought and cut up a Chanel dress to see how it had been constructed. Or how Alber Elbaz would sketch while watching CNN. I also remember reading an interview with Tim Burton in Interview conducted by Danny Elfman where he said that when he was a child he wasn’t really scared of ghosts and goblins, but he was scared of teachers and dentists and his parents’ friends, and that helped with my demonization of everyone I encountered at school!

Who were the first fashion designers you were attracted to?
It was straight to Margiela, Rodarte and Comme. I was obsessed with Rei Kawakubo and Japanese street style, and a book called Style Deficit Disorder. I remember going on Style.com and clicking through every single designer from that season until I found something I liked. When I first looked at Comme I didn’t really get it, which is true of a lot of the things that then become my favourites.

You didn’t ‘get’ Comme, but it seemed interesting.
Exactly. I remember I would really dig around for news about Rei Kawakubo: there was a piece about her in the New Yorker where they asked her what makes her laugh and she just said, ‘People falling down’, and to me that was awesome!

Let’s talk about your own rapport with clothes and image back then. Did you have an amazing local thrift store or was it just rooting through your mum’s closet?
There was a Salvation Army store where I would get clothes. Later on, I would go on trips to L.A. and get a lot of flea-market stuff, or visit this antique store in Pasadena. But you have to remember, I was 12, so I didn’t have a lot of options to buy clothes.

Style Rookie didn’t feel like it was about actual consuming anyway.
No, it wasn’t about shopping: although later on I would get sent clothes from designers. I remember when I started to make money from the occasional weird campaign or something, I would save up for years and then have to convince my dad to allow me to spend my own money on a Hussein Chalayan dress.

Would you agree that you presented yourself in a way that was atypical, especially for an 11-year-old growing up in suburban America?
I just felt like whatever was right was whatever I liked. Plus, I discovered enough of a community online who liked the same things as me, so I didn’t feel the pressure to look a different way. When I was younger what I admired about women like Iris Apfel and Anna Piaggi was that everyone would refer to them and say, ‘The wonderful thing about reaching a certain age is that you just stop caring about what other people think’. And I thought to myself, ‘Well, why don’t I just do that now; why waste time?’

Is style overrated?
No, but it’s over-judged. Someone’s style should be like their sense of humour or taste in food: no one ever says you’ve got bad taste in food or a bad sense of humour because it’s just the stuff that you naturally respond to. I think style – for me at least – is the same.

Looking back now, how self-aware do you think you were at that time?
I think it was largely a question of just having some childlike confidence left over, and trying to get as much mileage out of that as possible. I mean, I look back at some of those photos and it’s like, ‘Oh, I had no awareness of my body or that it was even changing’. I wasn’t interested in make-up, for example; it just seemed irrelevant.

Style Rookie started in 2008, which was a key year: the year of the financial crisis, and the year when the fashion industry as a whole finally started embracing the digital world. Did you ever see yourself as part of that shift towards DIY online culture?
I was too young to notice, but because I was young I got attention in the fashion-blogging community, which at the time was still completely off the radar. That made it easy to keep going without feeling like I was doing market research or trying to figure out what would get more comments or what people would respond to more.

‘It was certainly easier being picked on at school for what I was wearing, knowing that all these other people thought I’d become an authority on fashion.’

What about the reaction back in the real world, back in school?
It was certainly easier to go to school and get picked on for what I was wearing knowing that all these other people thought that I had become something of an authority on fashion. It meant the world to me that this one kid at school said, ‘I just love seeing what you wear every day; I am excited to see it, it’s like art’.

What was the first sign that your blog was hitting the fashion industry’s radar?
I got an e-mail from the Rodarte sisters saying, ‘Hey, our friend Miranda showed us a video you made’. They later told me that their friend was Miranda July. But the moment it really escalated for me was when Dasha Zhukova wrote saying she wanted me to come to London with other bloggers to curate a section of her first issue of Pop magazine. While we were there she asked if I wanted to be on the cover and I remember talking about it a lot with my dad who’d travelled with me; he’d talked to [Pop co-founder] Ashley Heath who had told him, ‘Fame is utterly meaningless but it can give you power’. That’s stuck with me. People might mistake it for ‘evil dictatorship power’, but I see it more as a question of gaining access and doing what it is I want to do.

Having options.
Yes, choice. When Pop came out, Dasha flew my dad and me to New York for Fashion Week, and that was when I started showing up in the front row and stuff, although a lot of the time not in front rows, but you don’t see those photos!

Tell me about going to New York for the shows.
Looking back at it just makes me feel glad that I got a lot of the ‘Wowwww!’ out of the way early on.

Didn’t you find attending the shows intimidating?
I was excited, I was thrilled, but I was also trying to keep my wits intact. I remember at the Rag & Bone show a guy behind me said quite loudly, ‘Is that a boy or a girl?’ and I was thinking, ‘Hey, you’re the mean one, there is nothing wrong with me looking androgynous.’ It was like being back at school.

Were there moments during that week that made you stop and think about what you were getting yourself into?
I remember my dad and I going to the Alexander Wang after-party at Milk Studios. Courtney Love was playing and when I think back to walking through that crowd it wasn’t all, ‘Wow, this is everything I’ve ever wanted’, it was more like, ‘Eurgh, gross!’

You weren’t as awestruck as perhaps you should have been.
Right, and there is this certain lifestyle that comes with all that, like a party lifestyle. It’s kind of helpful when you’re that age to see people who are out of their minds.

They should make the Wang after-party a national curriculum field trip.
[Laughs] It’s like seeing the movie Kids way too young! I mean, it obviously helped to be with my dad or my mum. For them, those moments were almost like an anthropological case study; well, not just anthropological because they also had a lot of respect for everyone we came across. Some of my fondest memories are of being in-between shows, getting a bagel with my dad and us just talking about how amazing that designer or editor was to talk to.

Who made the biggest impression on the two of you?
I guess Rodarte. We have since spent a lot of time together with them. I think my dad had concerns about the world I seemed to be dabbling in, and they were an example of people who were truly concerned with their own art and were really passionate. I attribute so much of my sense of wonder to them.

You say your dad had concerns, which is probably to be expected, but did he also have his own ‘Wowww!’ moments?
Right back before the whole fashion week thing started happening, I remember showing my dad a binder I had made full of runway photos. He didn’t respond at all, which makes him sound like a bad father, which he isn’t; he’s an English teacher who refreshes his wardrobe every two years at Eddie Bauer. Anyway, one time at fashion week he was talking to an editor and he said, ‘I think it’s really great that you’re supporting Tavi; she makes me really proud because when I was growing up everyone just wore Eddie Bauer’. And he was stood right there wearing head to toe Eddie Bauer [laughs].

What was it like returning to school after your first fashion week?
I remember sitting in the airport with my dad and crying because, like, now I have to go back to school and I’m never going to get to do anything like this again! I was completely aware that the cycle is so brisk and of the whole 15-minutes-of-fame thing – it was sad.

Are you still like that about things?
Oh, absolutely. Right now, I am still recovering from the play that I did, This Is Our Youth, ending. I was saying to my friend, ‘I’ll never get to do anything like this again!’ It reminded me of Joan Didion’s essay On Keeping a Notebook in which she says something like, ‘Notebook keepers are afflicted during childhood of a pre-disposed sense of loss’. And I think that kind of sums me up pretty well.

The more prominent you became, the more I remember people in the industry regarding you as this polarizing figure. What do you recall about that?
I remember one of the first negative things that got written about me: it was really snarky, saying that the only reason people were interested in Style Rookie was because of my age, and that I probably wasn’t even writing it. After that I stopped the blog and took a break for a bit.

That must have been upsetting.
It was. I lined our basement walls with newspapers and took photos of myself wearing all black outfits, and I wrote a whole thing about how condescending it was. I am almost ashamed that it has stuck with me to this day, but I remember writing something like, ‘I’m sorry, we are talking about the fashion industry here; it’s not exactly the perfect democracy!’ I remember feeling good about writing that, thinking it was a thoughtful response with a good measure of sass thrown in.

By now, had your newfound fashion industry status – whether critical or otherwise – reached your school? I mean, were people aware you were flying off to fashion shows?
People would come up to me and be like, ‘Do you know Miley Cyrus?’ Just throwaway comments. But I recently got an e-mail from this boy who I shared a few classes with but who I never really talked to. He wrote, ‘I don’t know if you remember me, but I just wanted to tell you that Style Rookie was really important for me at high school; it changed the way I felt about being a guy, and assured me that I didn’t feel I had to identify with a certain idea of masculinity. I have seen you saying in interviews that kids at your school ignored you or weren’t interested, but that wasn’t true – we were just intimidated and actually looked up to you’. And I was like, ‘Oh, great! Why didn’t you say that at the time? It would have changed everything!’

‘I was seated next to Anna Wintour, the lights went down for the show to begin, and The End by The Doors started playing… and I just felt bored!’

Let’s talk about your decision to stop the Style Rookie blog, retreat from the fashion shows, and launch Rookie as a broader platform for writing, self-expression and life beyond fashion. Was that something that just naturally played itself out, or was it a conscious decision?
It just felt like a natural evolution, although I did have an experience at a Band of Outsiders show that made me sit up and question things. I was seated next to Anna Wintour, the lights went down for the show to begin, and The End by The Doors started playing… and I just felt bored! And when I looked around me everyone else looked bored. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Hold on, this really isn’t what had excited me about fashion to begin with’. I probably came across as ungrateful, but it’s important to be transparent about aspects of these very inaccess­ible worlds that are unfulfilling or unattractive.

You’d become jaded!
Well, while I hadn’t much liked middle school, I really enjoyed high school. I felt very precious about the experience of just wandering around the suburbs, or having a crush on a boy, or sneaking out with my friends. It felt good to do that stuff because I had seen this other side – fashion shows and parties – and it had left me craving my own life.

One thing I’m struck by is the fact that you could probably have pursued the fashion route, successfully emulating say, a stylist or editor a generation or two older than you, and playing out that lifestyle you’d been exposed to. Or you could have continued Style Rookie, and amplified your profile and financial gain. But you chose not to.
The night when there was that first negative thing written about me, my dad handed me a short story called Claudine’s Book. It’s about a girl who keeps a journal that her stepmom finds and publishes. All of a sudden there are journalists at her door every day, asking her questions, trying to figure out if it was really Claudine who wrote the journal, but the stepmom takes credit for it. Claudine is happy to let them believe that and marches up to her tree house whistling a kind of victory march. I’m really glad that my dad showed that to me because I think we’re conditioned to believe that the ultimate reward is recognition. But it’s important to know that recognition doesn’t necessarily mean understanding. Because I didn’t really just want to be heard, I wanted to be understood.

Do you feel that your life now is one that is better understood?
Well, I met this girl yesterday who came up to me and said she was a Rookie reader; she was telling me about an essay that she’d written called Reinventions of Love and it was apparent that we shared similar touchstones of movies and books. I can’t believe I get to meet someone on the street and we already have this established language through the works of art that have resonated with us. I have friends who have insane amounts of fame and the people who approach them are either like, ‘You’re a celebrity!’ or they genuinely love their work, but they don’t have any way of knowing, unless they were to talk to them for a long time. So I think the nice thing about writing is that someone has to read your work to know who you are.

‘I asked Miley, Why not do drugs in private or have sex instead of performing sex? and she said, There’ve been paps outside my house since I was 14.’

Talking of celebrity culture, it’s intriguing to me that mainstream magazines commission you to interview pop-culture celebrities, like Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. It’s almost like you’re being sent as the rational voice of reason.
Well, it’s certainly interesting to consider the argument for and against recognition. Miley is going through this transition, and to her there is no difference between public and private. That is what I took away and ended up writing about. I asked her, ‘Why not just do drugs in private or have sex instead of performing sex?’ and she was like, ‘There have been paparazzi outside my house since I was 14. I don’t even feel like me, like when I see a picture of me, it’s not me’. I can’t imagine that level of… I don’t even know what ‘it’ is.

Sounds terrifying.
I summarized that Miley piece by saying: we have created this person where there is no line between public and private; she is going through this in her own way. Young people who I talked to at Miley’s concerts seem very inspired by her. It was almost like the level of compassion that people had for Katie Holmes breaking out of Scientology; for Miley to go against everything she had represented as a Disney star, it felt very symbolic for these kids.

What are your thoughts on teenage rebellion?
When I interviewed Taylor Swift for Elle, earlier this year, I asked her, ‘You might not have had Disney or Nickelodeon to rebel against, but did you ever feel the need to rebel against yourself?’ And she said, ‘I have no interest in burning down the house that I have built; I can redecorate it but I am really proud of everything that I’ve done. Even the things that now embarrass me have led to everything else’. And that just makes so much sense to me.

So let’s talk about Rookie. Would you agree that the outsider-ness of your middle-school years, and perhaps that sense of introversion or at least awkwardness, inform a lot of the site’s editorial voice?
Yes, I find that I frequently end up talking about or referencing it, not because I feel a responsibility or that it is my duty, but just because it is an inevitable part of life for me; I don’t know how not to talk about it and I don’t have any shame about it. I feel like Rookie is such a supportive community – from the contributors to the girls who read it – so it’s never felt embarrassing to talk about.

It feels extremely inclusive.
I am so happy that you get that vibe from it, because I sometimes worry about the tone; I love the things that I love and I want people to know about them and love things as well, but I worry that it can also seem like welcome to the cool kids’ club…

How do you reconcile the fact that Rookie positions itself as this very inclusive platform for girls to connect and express themselves when your own life – being on stage in New York, dabbling in Hollywood – could now be perceived by Rookie’s readers as detached, no longer relatable to them, aloof even?
I’m writing something at the moment about recently moving to New York and getting to have the experiences I’m having. I knew right away it wouldn’t be a Rookie piece, not that I feel I have to censor myself or make myself more relatable or anything, but I think it would be in poor taste. When you were talking before about success, it made me think of a conversation I was having the other day with my friend. We were discussing when Jon Hamm said that thing about Kim Kardashian: ‘I’m not a Kardashian, I’m an actor! I didn’t ask to be photographed by paparazzi!’ And my friend was saying, ‘He’s not wrong, he just sounds like an asshole’.

Are you uncomfortable with how Rookie’s readers might think you’re preaching from an ivory tower?
First of all, Rookie is not my personal blog and there are plenty of girls reading it who don’t know I’m the editor, or don’t know me full stop. I am in a position where I can promote it, and maybe there are people who come for me but then stay for all these other voices. The girls reading it are still in high school, and when I was in high school, adult figures in my life would constantly tell me, ‘Don’t worry, you are going to get out of school and you are going to go to college and you will go live in New York, you’ll be fine, it does get better!’ Even though they are right you still feel like shouting, ‘Fuck you, I’m in so much pain!’

And now you feel like you’ve become that adult figure.
Well, there are some people who respond to that and are like, ‘This inspires me; it makes me feel like I should express myself and get to do what I want and move to New York and all these other things’. And then there are those people for whom it does just feel like, ‘Fuck you!’

‘There used to be more division between mainstream and alternative culture, which has since blurred. I think Rookie can take some credit for that.’

Do you think the Rookie community is a tangible demographic or rather a disparate group of individuals?
I feel like earlier on it was a little niche: at that time there was more of a dividing line between mainstream and alternative culture, which has since been blurred – and I think Rookie can take some credit for that. I mean, we have heard from girls who’ve said Rookie used to be more punk and I feel like I never wanted it to be punk. I never wanted it to be a ’zine. Counter-culture comes out of people feeling excluded from mainstream culture, but what if we could change the mainstream culture instead? I was just at a Taylor Swift concert and I was so happy at the number of girls coming up to me and saying that they read Rookie – I don’t think those girls are into Riot grrrl.

People presumably refer to you as the voice of a generation. How does that make you feel?
I never wanted to speak for teenage girls; I wanted to have my voice and create a space where other people could have their voices. I never wanted Rookie to be just giving answers, but giving options and perspectives; I didn’t want us to dictate. I think it can be weak editorially if you include everything – just go figure it out!

How many people look at Rookie, give me some stats so I can get an idea of its scale and resonance.
Month to month there are 3 million hits.

Do you have organizations or brands that approach you thinking, ‘Because of her relationship with Rookie’s sizeable community, Tavi is worth aligning ourselves with?’
There are brands and companies that are certainly interested in the loyalty our readers have with us. But I feel like people would have better luck saving their money and looking at people’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.

What I found so laughably out-of-step about The Sartorialist’s dismissive comments regarding you is that brands seem keener than ever before to tap into the voice of the youth market – essentially because it holds the keys to the next generation of consumers.
Yes, it was out of step, but he doesn’t seem interested in the future; he’s part of a group of people who want fashion to remain elitist, as if the values held by keeping it that way are in some way innovative, artistic or interesting. The irony is that he wants it both ways: the street-style photography, democratic blogger guy who’s also in the ivory tower. 
I think the people who really know what’s up – the ones who are going to keep their jobs – are the ones interested in young people.

‘I posted on Instagram about the Clinique campaign I did and someone said it wasn’t Tavi-like. I was like, Well, I’m kind of the barometer for that one.’

Tell me about, for want of a better phrase, ‘Brand Tavi’. Multinational companies such as Clinique are increasingly interested in you.
That is the one thing that’s a bit tricky. I really value the fact that some people read Style Rookie for years and now read Rookie, or have just recently started reading my work and are really supportive. I don’t want to betray that, but I do have to make a living and I want freedom and I want choices. I’m thinking about something I posted on Instagram this morning about the Clinique campaign I did and someone said it was not ‘Tavi-like’. And I was just like, ‘Well I’m kind of the barometer for that’. But I think I can do these things and be completely transparent about them. It’s not like I’m being forced into doing things that I don’t feel comfortable with.

You mentioned before that brands would be better off looking at social media than at Rookie in order to understand youth consumer behaviour. Do you find that images in a fashion magazine like Vogue have more or less cultural weight than those on Instagram feeds?
Probably less, based on the number of people seeing one versus the other – it depends on the feed. That has always existed: some things are influential through their popularity; others become more influential within a community of influencers. But I think it’s goofy to try and uphold values that are elitist and classist, and that is why it bothered me when people were up in arms about seeing Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue. I’m not saying there aren’t certain things about the Kardashian brand that make me uncomfortable, but I also think those are the things people love and perpetuate every time they talk about how much they hate her. That’s why Kim is amazing: she has permeated this space that she wasn’t ever supposed to: she is really rich, but it’s not a wealth people in positions of power are comfortable with, because it’s not old money.

What do you think she represents?
Well, her demographic is thought of as trashy, lowbrow and mainstream. But anyone mad about her being on the cover of Vogue is missing the point: Vogue is about trendiness, so it makes perfect sense, and she is one of the most powerful and relevant people in the world. I was talking to someone who was going to the Met Ball and – referring to Kim – she said, ‘I feel now they just invite everyone!’ And I was like, ‘Yes, but who were they inviting before?’ This is not a meritocracy, and I don’t say that to invalidate anyone’s hard work, but in the same way I work really hard there has also been a lot of right-time-right-place luck involved. That is true of everyone and our culture has largely been one that creates more of a time and place for some people than others, for people who are already privileged or from old money or are conventionally beautiful and skinny and white. And I think that even if people don’t explicitly express why it makes them feel weird to see Kim Kardashian on the cover of Vogue, it’s definitely there. I don’t think there is any point in denying that we have been influenced by those systems in the world.

Do people who voice an opinion against that have a problem with the blurring of high-end and mass culture?
That is part of it. I understand the discomfort that people feel if they think Kim represents an unhealthy ideal of beauty, but it’s not like Vogue doesn’t do that, too! If anything, Kim diversifies the beauty standard. The idea that an interracial couple is the most powerful and glamorous in the world is great I think.

Do you think people are sceptical about how they’ve achieved that power and wealth?
When it comes to questioning the way Kim, or other celebrities of her ilk, make their money or promote themselves, I’m just not interested in being mad about that. I’m not interested in telling other women what to do. I’m not interested in creating a hierarchy about what is the most dignified way to be public because, as we have established, there are gross people in every industry and medium.

What is the general perception within the Rookie community regarding Kim and Kanye?
It’s a combination of a lot of things: we have readers who say, ‘I don’t love the way that Kanye talks about women’. Or they don’t like the way Kim perpetuates certain beauty standards. I’m just glad that they can have those opinions and that it is up for discussion and they can learn from one other. The conversation about Kim and Kanye played out on Facebook among our Rookie contributors, like Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, and I feel like I’ve just borrowed a lot of those thoughts in what I’ve just been telling you.

Besides Kim and Kanye, what are the liveliest debates that have taken place on Rookie’s comments section?
The Rookie comments section is probably the most civil and loving place on the Internet! We once had a girl write in about needing to get an abortion, and I don’t think abortion has ever been discussed on the Internet with so much respectful disagreeing and compassion. Of course, girls felt differently about it, but I was just so happy that it could unfold in such a thoughtful way.

It seems like you’ve brought together a rational community of voices. Which on the Internet is rare.
For my dad growing up – I don’t know why I keep using him as an example, but he is 64 – the Oscars told you what was good, but now everyone is like, ‘Nah, the Oscars basically represents 97 percent old white guys in an academy’. You don’t have to listen to those authorities if you don’t want to: there are other voices; there are people who look like you, and whose life experience is closer to yours. Maybe listen to them once in a while. [Pauses] Did that come across as a rant? It wasn’t supposed to!