Tavi Gevinson On How Being ‘Girl Power’s Last Hope’ Felt Like So Much Responsibility: EXCLUSIVE

Tavi Gevinson On Being 'Girl Power’s Last Hope'


by Emily Phillips |
Published on

She hit the fashion scene aged just 11, by 15 she had become an editor-in-chief and was named one of the most powerful people in the media by Forbes. There can’t be many more boxes left to tick for online superpower 18-year-old Tavi Gevinson. Can there?

[Tavi in New York Images: Getty]

Tavi Gevinson has come of age. At 18, she’s a fully fledged Generation Y overachiever living in New York and starring on Broadway. Hard to think that her already crazy career trajectory started out in the back garden of her family’s home in the Chicago suburbs, when a tiny 11-yearold

Tavi began taking pictures of herself, like many other kids, simply dressing up. Except it was never a normal dressing-up box. Inspired by high-fashion magazines, she’d emulate the looks of her hero Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons and post them on her blog, Style Rookie, to share with similarly fashion-obsessed teens. Now, of course, she’s hasty to downplay any precociousness. ‘I did start my blog when I was 11, but then I turned 12, like, a month later. And none of that stuff really started happening until I was 13.’

[Pre-teen Tavi at a fashion show Image: Getty]

‘That stuff’ involved being flown across the globe to sit front row at various fashion weeks, her distinctive granny-chic look turning well-groomed heads from Anna Wintour to Karl Lagerfeld, and making the cover of magazines like POP.

All the more surprising when you consider that Tavi hails from decidedly non-fashion stock; her father is a retired English teacher, her mother, who is Norwegian, weaves tapestries. ‘I think my parents were a little confused because it wasn’t anything they were interested in,’ she says. ‘They couldn’t work out how I had got into it. But they’ve always been very supportive.’

These days, her dad is also her manager. While her contemporaries were hanging out at the local roller rink, at 15 she became editor-in-chief of her own online teen magazine, Rookie, which, at its peak, recorded 3.5 million hits a day and led to its own beautifully printed annual *Rookie Yearbook *– the third volume is out now.

Add to that a feature fi lm (Enough Said), a TED talk (on the representations of women in film and TV), and she fitted in graduating from high school this summer. Now, she is making her Broadway debut in seminal play This Is Our Youth. While this may seem like a career swerve, Tavi has in fact performed in local community theatre since childhood. ‘At first, I did have impostor syndrome, but then I remembered I’ve been acting since I was little,’ she says.

Tavi Gevinson Interview On Feminism and Taylor Swift

[Tavi on Instagram]

A phenomenon in multiple fields, you are left scratching around to find anything of the average teen about Tavi. And then – at last – a glimmer… ‘Earlier this year, I broke up with my high-school boyfriend, and I was desperately looking up everything under the break-up tag on Rookie,’ she admits. And, yes, she cried on a friend’s shoulder. Who happened to be Taylor Swift (‘I hate being heartbroken, but who better to discuss it with than Taylor?’). She also hung out with Lena Dunham on the set of Girls, seeking out career advice – an almighty combination of wise, sisterly support most girls can but fantasise about.

Named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 on the Media Power List, like Lena, she is often held up as a role model for her generation – which comes with its own pressures. ‘Girls look up to me, maybe, but they also know that I have never said I have the answers,’ she counters. ‘A lot was being written about me as “Girl Power’s last hope”. That felt like so much responsibility. One person can’t be the face of feminism,’ she asserts.

Until very recently, Tavi didn’t even receive a salary from Rookie, and her earnings from speaking engagements have been funnelled into savings. But when you consider the enormous success of the site – which employs more than 80 people – you are left wondering if there is anything she’s failed at, or that gives her the heebie-jeebies like the rest of us? ‘Not being in control,’ she says, admitting aspects of her new career that she finds anxiety-inducing. ‘Acting is a creative medium where you need approval. It is all just so, so arbitrary.’

[Tavi with her This Is Our Youth co-stars Kieran Culkin and Michael Cera Image: Getty]

For someone who runs her own empire, this must be a tricky adjustment, but she isn’t letting it knock her off-course. Instead, she is humming with the thrill of living in New York. ‘I love it so much,’ she gushes.

She shares an apartment on the Lower East Side with best friend Petra Collins, 21, a photographer and *Rookie *contributor. ‘We get crafty, watch TV and order pizza. Both ends of the scale of productivity and laziness are covered,’ she smiles. Most of her meals are ordered in. ‘I am so intense about time, and I don’t have the patience to cook.’

So, what’s next for Tavi? ‘I’d like to try screenwriting, and fiction, and more acting,’ she says. For now, though, eight shows a week are keeping her busy and *This Is Our Youth *has just been extended. ‘I’m sad even that it’s ending in January,’ she admits. ‘I moved to New York and thought, “Oh, I am a different person now,” but I am realising every day how much I am still… just me.’

Somehow, being ‘just’ Tavi doesn’t seem too terrible at all.

‘Rookie Yearbook Three’ is out now (£19.99, Razorbill)

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