Tavi Forever
June 14, 2014 2:17 PM   Subscribe

At only thirteen years old, Tavi Gevinson was proclaimed the world's most famous fashion blogger. At the age of fifteen, she founded Rookie Magazine, an online magazine aimed primarily at teenage girls. Her newest project? Being a grown up. (Previously on Metafilter.)
posted by SkylitDrawl (58 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

I just deeply, deeply don't get the phenomenon that is Tavi Gevenson.

She just seems like this being who sprung fully formed out of... something.

I think the thing I find incomprehensible about her is that she's sort of along the lines of the child star model, except without any of the trappings or apparatus of child stardom. Like who are her parents? There's no overarching authority running the show, a la a movie studio, TV production team, or record label.

I see that she's talented, and she obviously has an eye as a tastemaker, and she's the darling of the elite cultural universe.

But, like... she's also a teenager going through her first breakup. And she... wants to be an actress? What is this? The whole Tavi Gevinson thing just makes my brain hurt. Is she Mozart? Is she just a kid surrounded by powerful grownups who can make things happen for her? And why? And what's so special about her? Not in a judgmental way, but, like, I just don't understand the level of phenomenon here regarding someone who is as far as I can tell just a normal teenager.
posted by Sara C. at 2:34 PM on June 14 [12 favorites]

What earnest teenager doesn't look authentic to an adult who never learned to be authentic?
posted by NiteMayr at 2:45 PM on June 14 [16 favorites]

When I was 13 or 14, I had a record review column in a newspaper that got distribution at local schools. I was paid 5c a word to review albums and demos and to interview local bands. (My biggest get at the time was O Positive, and I almost interviewed Mark Sandman, just to give you readers an idea of the time and place in which I was writing.) At the end of eighth grade, the paper went out of business, and I didn't have the same kind of outlet for the work I wanted to do. I was fairly ambitious, too -- later on in high school I went to great lengths to try and get an interview with Stephen Sondheim for a paper I had written for school.

When I look at Tavi, I get it. I know what it's like to have that kind of ambition, though I wish my parents had been in a greater position to help me. (Both of them worked and I didn't have the ability to do things like audition for a teen radio show, for example.) It's great that she not only has great taste, but that she also has great skill as a writer to make concepts like feminism accessible to her readers, and that she's built a media empire that allows other teen girls of all ages and gender performance to bring their work to a larger audience.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:46 PM on June 14 [38 favorites]

She's just a good writer and a smart person...? I don't get what's not to get. Everything I've read by her seems like her attitude towards the hype and dislike of her is very much *shrug*. Rookie is just a good magazine, and maybe she can act? Who knows. Either way I bet she's looking forward to being judged by her accomplishments rather than by her age and what that may or may not represent.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:58 PM on June 14 [15 favorites]

Not in a judgmental way, but, like, I just don't understand the level of phenomenon here regarding someone who is as far as I can tell just a normal teenager.

People who are rich and famous noticed her, liked her, and backed her, and she had the ambition (and guidance, presumably) to take that and turn it into something.

That's really all there is to it.

That's really all there is to a lot of things.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:58 PM on June 14 [14 favorites]

There have always been young people like Tavi, with drive and talent and a unique vision that seems almost otherworldly. The difference I think is that there hasn't always been an Internet.

I had a friend in middle school and high school who was such a prolific and creative talent that by the time he was 15 he had his own fully self produced sci-if radio show serial airing on local radio in a fairly large metro area.

This was in early internet days and he did have a website, but podcasts weren't a thing yet. I wonder how much bigger he would gotten if podcasting already existed by then. I think he might have exposed.

So I guess I don't find Tavi's success all that perplexing. Amazing, yes, but not so crazy these days.
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:06 PM on June 14 [19 favorites]

I'm a grown adult and I'd give anything to be as motivated, talented, and ambitious as Tavi. I think she's absolutely amazing.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 3:38 PM on June 14 [20 favorites]

Yeah, I think I'm forgetting the internet aspect. Because I was a smart and talented and creative teenager, and I have friends who did stuff like pitch their own radio shows or interview people for the local alt-weekly. When I was in high school I was in a band and we opened for some kind of big people before their tedious one hit wonder got overplayed. But the internet didn't exist, then, or at least not in the way it does now. It was just a totally different landscape back then. That's probably what I'm missing, here.

Anyway, Tavi Gevinson needs to get off my lawn, but leave a copy of the new Rookie yearbook because I have no idea what kind of jeans are going to be cool next fall.
posted by Sara C. at 3:40 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]

Bip Ling makes Tavi Gevinson look like Edie Sedgwick.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:27 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

I think we have gotten too accustomed to American youth who want to be teenagers until they are 35, and it's jarring when we see someone who is ready to get the show on the road already and does it. Good for her.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:28 PM on June 14 [17 favorites]

“If I was super-rich I would totally use my gap year to just put a bunch of stuff in a tiny museum somewhere,”

This is doable! I was just part of a project with the Queensland Museum where it was about regular people's collections. I recall the Oakland Museum and the Brisbane City Council Library welcoming regular folks to curate a small collection. I'm sure there'd be a local art gallery or community space that would love to host a collection like this.

Also chiming in to say that I could have been a Tavi, though my main limiting factor wasn't really parents but more location: there was really no outlet for me in Malaysia asides from the Internet, which I was publishing on CONSTANTLY. And even then this was just before things like Youtube or podcasts, and online journalling was a distinct beast from blogging, and my tech was always too slow to support any sort of multimedia making.

So my outlet was fandom. First I was a hyper-prolific Savage Garden fanfic writer, and even played with other formats such as musicals and parodies and Choose Your Own Adventure stories. Then at 16 I got noticed for a fan website I made of a TV show, which eventually led to me working for that TV channel many years down the road as well as a close friendship/metorship with their lead VJ at the time. I'm sure that if I had more resources I could have been even more well-known.

(hell for a few years in my early 20s I worked on an alternative education blog that was super popular. There was this other blogger that I would communicate and cross-post with, and just from the strength of his blog alone he got elected into Malaysian parliament. That could have been me if I wanted to. Even now I'm like the resident Pioneer of Malaysian Gap Years or something, if my local newspaper's Education section is anything to go by)

The other main issue was that I had no idea that doing anything along the likes of Rookie or all these other Kids These Days stuff was possible. I wrote tons of songs, but always assumed that you had to be Britney-famous to have a music career. I wrote like a demon but had never heard of zines because all I knew about print publishing was that you needed a permit and that the Government was censorious. I would have been a theater kid but no such thing existed and my parents were too caught up in the idea of "sex drugs rock & roll" to let me actually give it a try.

Now there's a lot more access to resources and tools, as well as a lot more access to role models. You get to see other kids do this stuff. You're encouraged and given support to do so. You don't have to be alone, you don't have to completely start from scratch.
posted by divabat at 5:04 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]

I want to be Tavi when I grow up.
posted by eamondaly at 5:16 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]

The thing that impresses me most about Tavi is that she just seems to get it right. I was a smart, creative thirteen-year-old, but probably not as smart as I thought I was, and if I'd had the courage to put myself out there in the world at that age, I would have said and done some lame childish dumbness. I am so very glad the internet was kind of a nerds-only thing when I was young and foolish.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:44 PM on June 14 [11 favorites]

Bip Ling makes Tavi Gevinson look like Edie Sedgwick.

I'm not sure if this is good or bad or anything or nothing, but I'd like the record to show that I don't know what any part of that sentence means.
posted by mhoye at 6:04 PM on June 14 [18 favorites]

i love her.
posted by nadawi at 7:26 PM on June 14

Yeah, Metroid Baby, I think that's why I'm so baffled by her. She's just always seemed so fully cooked, and at such a young age. I think I might have been as graceful as her at eighteen, if I'd carved out my little niche of the internet, and if somehow I hadn't done something incredibly stupid. But at this point Tavi is old news. She was hobnobbing with Anna Wintour at an age when I was mostly starting flame wars in Star Trek chatrooms on AOL.
posted by Sara C. at 7:31 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

i also guess i don't get the confusion? the only weird thing about her success in a post-internet world is her age - but she seems to have the same story a lot of famous bloggers have - wrote things, people got interested, the right people got interested partially due to her talent and partially due to her ability to get people interested. she then used her considerable drive to take advantage of the opportunities that attention afforded her.
posted by nadawi at 7:32 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]

I'm mainly impressed that Tavi somehow managed to build a career/following/THING out of her aesthetic loves. I remember how important clothing, music, objects, and some kind of atmospheric ambience was to me at her age, but I was nowhere near being able to promote, monetize, control, and share it like Tavi does.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:35 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]

Nadawi, just to be clear, I don't have a problem with Tavi, I'm just unnerved by her. I don't entirely believe it's possible to be that together in middle school, and to handle that level of attention as gracefully as she has, and to, as mynameisluka says, turn that into a successful THING out in the real world. She's the kind of person where I'm seriously thinking, "Is she an android?"

If her early period hadn't been documented so clearly online there would be a part of me that thought she might be two or three years older than she claims.

Again, not out of malice or anything, just out of being gobsmacked that she is possible as a human being.
posted by Sara C. at 7:46 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]

I was a lot more fully formed when I was i my teens. And my current current girlfriend was then preposterously driven -- she wanted to write for late-night television, and wrote thousands of pages, and sent them off to the producers. She once handed a collection of her comic writing to David Letterman directly. She and her mother would make annual trips to New York (still do; they're there now) and she would push her way into tapings of SNL. She became friendly with Robert Smigel and spent most of an evening chatting with Jimmy Fallon. She wrote Amy Poehler the first fan letter she ever received, and maintained mail contact with her for years. If late-night had been more welcoming to women and to young people, all this would have netted her a career at a young age.

It didn't, and now she looks back and wonders where that certainty and ambition went. Growing up means losing your way for a lot of us. And that's not a bad thing, necessarily. Sometimes,mwhen you lose your way, you wind up someplace you didn't expect, and that place is worth visiting.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:52 PM on June 14 [33 favorites]

w/e sara ur well jel
posted by Sys Rq at 7:57 PM on June 14 [5 favorites]

i feel like there's plenty of examples of teens being that smart and graceful - we'll see how she makes it through her 20s, these next few years pretty much separatess the lindsey lohans or britney spears from the jodi fosters or dakota fannings of the world. i personally think she'll keep on being awesome.
posted by nadawi at 7:58 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

One thing that occurs to me is that it might be precisely because she doesn't have stage parents or a whole Tavi Gevinson Machine of grownups around pressuring her. Fashion Week only happens a couple times a year. Rookie is mostly online, the site design is super simple, and very community/crowdsource oriented. Clearly her family has helped her to make a life that is still functional and normal for a teenager while still allowing her to do the stuff she wants to do. There just aren't a ton of opportunities to colossally fuck it up, because she has sane people around her.
posted by Sara C. at 7:58 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]

sys rq im not bovvered
posted by Sara C. at 7:59 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]

yeah - i think we'd all be way more impressed by, for instance, kristen stewart's talent and poise if we saw her a couple times a year and she was never tabloid fodder.
posted by nadawi at 8:01 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]

Jennifer Lawrence, at age 15 or something, talked her mother into moving with her to New York for the summer to see if she could get into acting. Her desire was strong enough that her mom did it and boom! She became Jennifer Lawrence. Some kids are just like that. They think they want to do something so they just do it. And their parents don't say "Oh, don't be silly!"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:17 PM on June 14 [6 favorites]

And their parents don't say "Oh, don't be silly!"

The ones we hear from, anyway. grumble grumble missed opportunities grumble grumble well half of it was my fault anyway grumble grumble
posted by divabat at 8:22 PM on June 14 [9 favorites]

Being flippant; but maybe she's one of the Kwisatz Haderachs that came out of the "self esteem" cultural experiment in North America.

How she stacks against Opra in a decade's time might be more informative.

Superb breeding giving her an education conferring supreme confidence along with solid fundamentals within the context of financial and social elitism. Basically a Paris Hilton (Count Hasimir Fenring) but with an iota of talent/taste?

No offense to Tavi Gevinson.
posted by porpoise at 8:27 PM on June 14

Superb breeding giving her an education conferring supreme confidence along with solid fundamentals within the context of financial and social elitism. Basically a Paris Hilton (Count Hasimir Fenring) but with an iota of talent/taste?
I've never got the impression that she comes from a background of "superb breeding" or "financial and social elitism." Her dad was a high school teacher, and her mom is an artist who makes money by tutoring kids who are studying for their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. She went to the local public school, which is fine but not one of the really elite Chicago-area schools. Oak Park is a nice, sort of funky suburb, but it's not super rich. I think her parents are kind of artsy, but they're not especially fancy people. Comparing her to Paris Hilton is just silly.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:36 PM on June 14 [13 favorites]

According to how she told the story (on Fresh Air, I think? Or was it Bullseye?) her family didn't even know she was blogging until she started to become famous.
posted by umbú at 8:37 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]


I stand humbly corrected. I wish the best for her, and continued good will media coverage.
posted by porpoise at 8:45 PM on June 14

I think when I first heard about her I figured her mother must be a fashion editor or something, and that it was some kind of "just like mommy" helicopter parent thing. But no, she's the real deal.
posted by Sara C. at 9:09 PM on June 14

I was a lot more fully formed when I was i my teens.

my rating on the Kirkley-Malhotra Fullyformedness Scale was only 6.3, but that was actually considered fairly impressive for my town at the time
posted by threeants at 9:31 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]

God, I wish I was this perfect. She was a 35-year-old from what, age ten? And of course she's blonde and thin and perfect looking and can act too (honestly, that probably helps boost it all right there). And everyone adores her and everything is wonderful and she's doing what she wants to do from middle school on.

Meanwhile, I'm a fucking loser who can't find her way for shit and probably never will. I've never been even close. Start my own businesses in my teens? Hah, I couldn't even figure out how to drive and I was supposedly "smart." She just doesn't seem real. (Ditto Lorde, but Tavi is even more perfect than that.) People tell me not to compare, but how can I not? This girl came fucking perfect OUT OF THE BOX. It makes me want to hit my head against everything to hear about how super wonderful and awesome and "writes like a 40-year-old, except young and hot and hip" she is.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:57 PM on June 14 [3 favorites]

And of course she's blonde and thin and perfect looking and can act too (honestly, that probably helps boost it all right there).

Actually, this makes me wonder: who else is out there that's somewhere in Tavi's age range and is similarly accomplished, but doesn't fit the whole White/middle-class/blonde/thin/perfect-looking factor?

I'm sure they exist, and I'd love to know more about what they get up to if i can put my jealousy aside

Is this worth an AskMefi?
posted by divabat at 11:01 PM on June 14 [7 favorites]

Wow, "perfect" is kind of an unfortunate label to apply and I really hope she's not hearing too much of it. It's got to be hard to give yourself permission to fail, to feel down, and a lot of the other turmoil that just comes with being a young person if you're expected to be perfect.

Looking back, several of my peers who I thought "had it together" were having varying problems they didn't feel like they could ask for help with. I can't help but put some of the blame on the desire to avoid shattering that illusion.

Some kids are just like that. They think they want to do something so they just do it.

And we never hear the stories of those that failed.
posted by ODiV at 11:02 PM on June 14 [4 favorites]

yeah - i think we'd all be way more impressed by, for instance, kristen stewart's talent and poise if we saw her a couple times a year and she was never tabloid fodder.

Panic Room though
posted by elizardbits at 11:19 PM on June 14 [2 favorites]

A lot of the comments in here...damn...don't sell yourselves so short, ok? You're breaking my heart a little over here.

Tavi is a great artist, a great mind, but let's collectively do ourselves a favor and not turn her story into another Cult of Genius myth. It is so unhelpful to think of people in this way. And her accomplishments, regardless of age or stage, don't have to diminish anybody else at all.

Look, when I was about 14 I saw a boy about my age playing some very impressive-sounding music on a piano at the school. All these girls were swooning around him and it was all very mesmerizing. After he finished playing I asked him what song he had played. He said "I don't know, I haven't come up with a name title for it yet."

I was gobsmacked. I didn't know you could do that! Write your own music? It was unthinkable to me; I had taken piano lessons since I was 8 and was fairly competent but never once had the thought crossed my mind that I could write my own songs (the fact that some girls seemed to get all swoony about it was merely an added bonus).

I asked him how he wrote music but he couldn't really explain it. It didn't matter though because my mind was ablaze with the possibility. I became tenacious: I immediately signed up for music theory, checked out books at the library, studied scores, pirated an early version of Cakewalk. I listened, and experimented, and played, and obsessed.

By the time I was 15 I was developing a small internal repertoire of songs, most of which I was generally unwilling to share. I was nervous and embarrassed, I thought people wouldn't like them, or would like them for the wrong reasons (yes, I know how dumb that is).

About mid-way through the school year we had a fund-raising talent show for charity. All students were invited to audition, and a select few would get the chance to perform at the concert. With some encouragement from my friends I decided to audition a piece. To my surprise I was asked to perform (I almost turned it down because one of the judges said the song reminded her of Yanni and that was just super uncool to me).

Of course I was nervous, I'd never done any solo performances before, and never shared anything of my own creation to such a large and unknown audience. But I went out there and did my piece and I was so nervous and bewildered by the end of it I didn't even notice the standing ovation and shouts for encore from the audience. It was something I simply had never expected to happen.

The next day the high school dance teacher approached me. She told me about her private ballet studio and that she wanted to choreograph a group dance to my song and have me perform it with her dancers at their end-of-year recital. Of course I said YES and I had a blast doing it. For the briefest of moments I was this "genius", this young kid who was writing his own music and blah blah blah

And then I was a kid again. The momentum died. I didn't know how to use it anyway. I was too wrapped up in my own head, in my own weird arbitrary ideas about How Shit Works. I was obsessed with details that didn't matter to anyone but me; the next year for another talent show I decided to audition with one piece and then play a completely different, extremely avant-garde and challenging piece at the actual concert. Because I didn't want to be cliché (HA). It was weird and none of my fellow students really liked it. All the adults LOVED it, said I was a rare talent, etc...

Hey maybe if youtube was available back then I'd have had my own channel. Maybe I would be Internet Famous too. Maybe I would have been interviewed by Pitchfork or The Quietus. I don't know, it barely even matters. I realize now that all of the comments and the praise –and the envy– directed at me in those brief moments wasn't really about me at all. They were about the people making the comments, comparisons they were making against an idealized version of me that they needed to see. I know this because I've caught myself doing too.

Meanwhile this trip down Former Glories Lane is kind silly, because while I was having my teeny tiny eensy little moment of greatness a lot of my peers were doing way more badass things than that. Like getting published in literary magazines, or making award-winning documentaries. Oh sure, I tried my hand at a few songwriting contests but nothing ever happened. So it goes.

I'm in my 30s now, is it over for me, for any of us? Listen, time doesn't matter and neither does age. It's all so arbitrary. If everyone was Tavi when they grew up...well that would be pretty weird.

Did you know that Frank McCourt was 66 years old when he wrote Angela's Ashes? On the other hand we could all give ourselves a real hard time and just let this list of child prodigies on Wikipedia sink in for awhile.

But I say FUCK IT. It doesn't matter. This is not why you're here. There's no contest, and you don't win anything. Which means you're not a fucking loser, either. There's still time. As long as you're breathing you still have time. Tavi's not perfect and nobody else is. A lot of media elites are invested in protecting the cult. Ignore them, they don't have you're best interests at heart. They don't even have Tavi's bests interests at heart.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:29 PM on June 14 [28 favorites]

There's no contest, and you don't win anything.

This is very true, but it's also exactly the kind of thing Tavi would write. Whilst winning everything.

But she's beautiful (inside and outside) and I'm glad she shares it all with the world so gently.

Plus as a Brit, I love her chewy drawl of a voice, having heard it for the first time today.
posted by colie at 12:39 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

If you want to learn about other cool young women (who maybe aren't blond and beautiful), read Rookie. Seriously, it's so very good. I had never heard of all of this other stuff about Tavi until this post, but I love Rookie. And I think the fact that I could have loved Rookie for years but not really registered Tavi as a phenomenon says a lot about her.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:09 AM on June 15 [7 favorites]

Actually, this makes me wonder: who else is out there that's somewhere in Tavi's age range and is similarly accomplished, but doesn't fit the whole White/middle-class/blonde/thin/perfect-looking factor?

I'd like to introduce everyone to Maya Penn. She started when she was 8 and here's her Ted Talk.
posted by kinetic at 5:58 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

Kind of embarrassing to watch women in this thread talk about their disdain of Tavi because she is "baffling" and "unnerving," like talent and drive are things to be suspicious of rather than celebrated.

To be clear, with any success, there is a huge luck component: being in the right place at the right time, having the right people back you, being the first to do something novel. And there's certainly an element of that in Tavi's case. But she managed to transcend novelty and become her own person and do great fantastic work.

It's impossible to read those comments as anything other than "I am jealous of this young woman's success." Yikes.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 6:06 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

It's impossible to read those comments as anything other than "I am jealous of this young woman's success."

Of course it's not impossible to read it another way, because, in fact, that's not what those comments are saying.

Geeze Louise. People can be confounded by Tavi Gevinson without necessarily being jealous of her. I think her ambition is awesome, but I also was confounded by her a little at first. Her life experience is just so different from mine. And that's okay.

Imagine others complexly, people!
posted by ocherdraco at 6:23 AM on June 15 [6 favorites]

it's weird to say that "women in this thread" are doing anything besides discussing the thread. by my count the thread is about half women and we're all (women and men) giving a number of different perspectives on tavi, and fame, and youthful drive.
posted by nadawi at 8:13 AM on June 15 [7 favorites]

I love her chewy drawl of a voice

Yeah, this is how I feel about Lorde. It always seems to me that she's just taken a big bite of mashed potatoes but really wants to sing nevertheless so she does so with aplomb.
posted by elizardbits at 8:27 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

The brewing anti-Tavi backlash kind of bums me out, because it does seem to be part of a phenomenon where women are held to different, higher standards than men. I've honestly seen more accusations of nepotism leveled against Tavi, who comes from a pretty unremarkable middle-class background, than about Ronan Farrow, who is equally good-looking and probably more precocious and who certainly did benefit from having a mom and grandmother who were movie stars. There just seems to be some bizarre impulse to discredit accomplished young women, and it annoys me. But I wonder if part of what's going on is that young and formerly-young women can identify with her in a way that we can't with most other celebrities, and that's what makes her poise seem so unnerving. Ronan Farrow might as well be from another planet from me, and so it's not so weird to me that he went to college when he was 7 and discovered cold fusion when he was 13. I was a weird, verbal, obsessive 11-year-old, and so Tavi is both more familiar and more baffling.

I guess one thing that occurs to me is that, because she's such a polished and accomplished media presence, people kind of hold her to grownup standards. I mean, yeah, she was a writer and now she's trying acting. But she's 18. Did you honestly not develop any new interests when you were 18? It seems to me that some of the things that people hold against her are the things that actually are age-appropriate for her.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:32 AM on June 15 [8 favorites]

And I think the fact that I could have loved Rookie for years but not really registered Tavi as a phenomenon says a lot about her.

One of the best things about Tavi Gevinson is that she has simply and precociously done her thing and became semi-famous almost as an afterthought, all without the intercession of the hype machinery that drives modern celebrity.

The reason you're hearing about her so much now is because she is about to open in a big Broadway show. For the first time, she's in a position to make other people a lot of money, and the machinery is being put into motion as a result. I hope it doesn't change her.
posted by How the runs scored at 8:38 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

You know what? I kind of am jealous of Tavi's success. There's definitely a part of me that looks at her first year or so of blog entries and thinks, "Yeah, I could have done that if blogging had existed when I was twelve." (Actually probably not, because my middle school obsessions were not as easily branded/monetized, but you know.)

But that's not really what confuses me about her. I'm jealous of plenty of smart and successful people who have accomplished things I haven't. I'm used to feeling jealous of people. What confuses me about her is that she never messes up.

Really the only negative feeling about her that I still harbor despite kind of checking her out more and seeing what her deal is, is that I'm pretty sure the fashion world mostly fell in love with her because she's thin. Which has nothing to do with my general state of being kind of confounded by her poise and drive.
posted by Sara C. at 10:32 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]

Like others in this thread, I was doing interesting, press-worthy things back when I was a teenager. In my case, it was getting involved in the Mars exploration movement; writing articles to politicians, being on TV, winning prizes, that sort of thing. The peak was probably when I spoke at the main TED conference, aged 18. And then things slowly petered out after that, and I switched my attention to doing interesting things with the internet and games.

Had things been different - had I lived in the US rather than the UK, had there been some mentor to propel me faster - maybe I would have kept going. Or perhaps if I'd chosen internet development rather than Mars exploration, I would've been one of those precocious dotcom millionaires. Or maybe if I'd asked Sergey Brin for a job while I was at TED, I'd be someone senior at Google now.

A lot of this is about talent and hard work. But just as much is about being in the right place at the right time. Tavi is very talented and I respect her success, but like many successful people - and like I was - she's also been very fortunate.

The thing about being in the right place at the right time is that the longer you live, the more opportunities you have, and the better you can become at identifying them. I'm pretty happy with where I am right now, but I'm also only 31. I hope and expect to continue working until I'm 80, which means I'm only about one sixth the way through my career.

Doleful Creature is right - there's no contest, and you can't win. Even Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Obama probably feel inferior compared to titans of old. No need to get overly hung up on this.
posted by adrianhon at 10:40 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]

ArbitraryAndCapricious: I hope you don't think my comment is anti-Tavi! It was more mulling over how just knowing that this sort of thing is possible can really make a huge difference. Exposure, support, encouragement - all goes a long way.
posted by divabat at 10:53 AM on June 15 [1 favorite]

Maybe just because I finally feel like the age difference between myself and an 18 year old is just, like, laughably huge? Or maybe because I'm mostly okay with my life in general, but I entirely entirely entirely understand this feeling of quoi? that is not jealousy, even though it has some common points with jealousy.

The other night some friends and I watched Somm, the movie about sommeliers and the ridiculous qualifying exam etc., and afterwards we were talking about, you know, "Why aren't we sommeliers???" But the thing is, when I was a kid I only knew that about 6 jobs existed in the world: teacher, firefighter, bartender, policeman, whatever weird desk-job randomness my mom did, and then like, FAMOUS PERSON OR ASTRONAUT which was made clear to me was not actually an option.

If I had known at 18 that people made their whole careers out of wine tasting, beer tasting, what have life would look very different. But in my lower-middle-class-to-dirt-poor milieu, man, I had no fucking idea that those jobs were even a thing--and arguably, when I was a teenager in the Midwest, they probably *weren't* much of a thing yet.

And the Tavi Gevinson thing is similar, in my mind. If there had been bloggers when I was a teenager, I would have been a seriously badass teen blogger. I really have no doubt of this. But there weren't, so I wasn't. And so it's more just this heightened awareness of a generational divide: "ah, that's what happens when you grow up breathing the internet. I had no idea it would look like that."
posted by like_a_friend at 11:18 AM on June 15 [3 favorites]

I wish I had included this talk of Tavi's in the FPP.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 11:33 AM on June 15 [2 favorites]

Really the only negative feeling about her that I still harbor despite kind of checking her out more and seeing what her deal is, is that I'm pretty sure the fashion world mostly fell in love with her because she's thin.

That doesn't really seem fair. It may well be that the fashion world wouldn't have been interested if she wasn't thin, because thinness is a prerequisite for the interest of the fashion world. But that doesn't mean that they were primarily interested in her for her thinness. After all, there are a lot of thin young women in the world who are interested in fashion, and most of them do not end up in Tavi's position.
posted by bookish at 3:37 PM on June 15 [5 favorites]

That talk is great, thank you for linking it! Some of what she says in the beginning sounds just like the comments here: feeling insecure about originality and badass-ery, comparing herself to "Bjork and other magical woodland creatures" who come out of nowhere with their original creativity fully formed, feeling like her stuff is not unique or worthwhile.

I love that she talked about fangirling being at the root of what she does, especially when she talked about how it helped her through heartbreak and depression. Part of why fandom was such a massive outlet for me as a teenager was because I was going through hard times at school and I felt a lot less lonely in fandom, where I wouldn't get attacked for being the wrong race or being weird or whatever. When I was going through a difficult breakup late last year I jumped into Harry Potter fandom as a means of processing and cheering myself up, and I think that helped a LOT.
posted by divabat at 3:38 PM on June 15 [2 favorites]

Bookish, I mostly realized it when looking at her first few months of blog entries. She's very clearly pre-pubescent there, and mentions a few times only wearing a kids' size 10 and having trouble adjusting her vintage finds to fit her properly.

That would make her an ideal choice of style blogger to send couture samples to, because she'll fit in all the sample sizes. With room to spare, even, creating exactly the sort of look the designers want to show off with their clothes. She was basically the perfect way for high fashion to reach out to the internet fangirl masses, without having to spend any money or answer any tough questions. Her look combined with her earnestness and moxie and authenticity is the answer to a fashion marketing director's prayers.

This isn't a slam against Tavi at all, who at the time couldn't possibly have guessed that about herself. And who clearly has a great eye and a ton of dedication, and isn't just another skinny body at all! It's not even really a slam on fashion, or on marketing directors, or really anyone. It's just sort of what it is.
posted by Sara C. at 5:23 PM on June 15

To be clear, with any success, there is a huge luck component: being in the right place at the right time, having the right people back you, being the first to do something novel. And there's certainly an element of that in Tavi's case. But she managed to transcend novelty and become her own person and do great fantastic work.

It's impossible to read those comments as anything other than "I am jealous of this young woman's success." Yikes.

And is that so wrong? emphasis on the last part here. Is that something disgusting? It's not unacknowledged, and it's not couched in any sort of "i'm not jealous" type of stuff. The other feelings being described are legitimate as well, and aren't just fig leaves for potential jealousy.

You said it yourself, there's a fairly large component of luck and being in the right place at the right time. The individuality/drivenness/acumen part comes in knowing when to leap or when to "push" if you're in that opportune zone. But plenty of people who are very talented just don't get those chances. Being jealous is not some unforgivable sin.

That said, i've known a few people like this. The difference was that their passion wasn't to be in the spotlight most of the time, but more behind the scenes. Photographers, record label jobs, etc. I knew someone who started out doing photo stuff when they were in their very early teens, and parlayed it through various local small magazines* and other stuff into a job at Vice(both as a photog, and a model) which took lots of driven-ness and essentially running away from home right after high school graduation to achieve. Another friend ended up with a job at an internship and then job at sub pop shockingly young through lots of aggressive networking(like, freshly 18) and turned it into a real full time job at a bigger label. That started from a path of stuff like the david letterman harassing above, an internship at a venue doing booking, which turned into an AR internship, which turned into...

What i know several more of though, are people who had it and went for it at a fairly young age and then flamed out. None of them that i know of are just doing nothing with their lives, but they just aren't the subject of some big online write up. I don't know of any actual failure stories, just a high upward trajectory that plummeted and then leveled off into a more normal climb, but starting above a lot of their peers. For instance, a friend of mine was in a band that likely would have been touring nationally within a couple months but broke up very suddenly. Now she's a photography instructor at a pretty great arts school in her early 20s, and working on moving up to even bigger things.

Winning at this kind of thing is a lot like playing poker at a very high level or something. There's a undeniable amount of skill involved to play at a high level, but it's still gambling. I don't think it's that weird to be jealous.

I used to harbor the false belief that a lot of people like this just walked right in to this kind of success. But after actually knowing a couple of them, they're generally very socially adept and also very driven/focused. They're not just knowledgable and talented at whatever their passion is, but at working with people. It's like being born a brilliant musician at social interaction.

*there's another ridiculously story involved here. several girls a lot like tavi on a smaller scale started something like rookie locally, freely distributed in boxes around town and many hip record stores/hair salons/venues/coffee shops/etc. the print quality, graphic design, and general fit and finish of it was SHOCKINGLY high for being made by a bunch of 14-16 year old kids. The photo shoots were extremely professional, and the interviews and other content were awesome. I never found out who was backing it how it was all paid for, but multiple people got serious jobs out of being involved with it, and everyone else got an awesome portfolio bit to reference. It only lasted maybe 6 or 8 months though.
posted by emptythought at 8:15 PM on June 15 [4 favorites]

Despite being 43 years old, I am a huge fan of the young Ms. Gavinson. She seems to be exactly who she seems to be and she inspires a large group of young people to be more aware of who they are in the larger world and in their own hearts. Yes, I too was a prodigy. I too, squandered, etc., but it is no matter. I am who I am and I adore this young woman for who she is.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:45 AM on June 16 [4 favorites]

I wasn't even a prodigy and still managed to squander. Go Tavi.
posted by colie at 11:03 AM on June 16

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