So, you can only imagine the metaphorical party we had upon hearing Tavi and the rest of the Rookie gang would be giving a reading at McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan.
By now, calling Tavi a "wunderkind" is sorta cliché, and, to be honest, not even applicable anymore. At 16, she is by no one's definition an old lady, but she seems worlds away from the pint-sized blogger we were first introduced to nearly five years ago via her blog, Style Rookie. If there's still anyone left who doubts the intelligence and insight of Tavi Gevison, well, let's just say that we hope they like the taste of feet in their mouth. Read on for your chat with the style savant to see what we mean.
A lot of people think fashion is superficial. And, even more so, a lot of people think you can't be a feminist and still be interested in fashion. What are your opinions on this?
“Oh, I have a lot of opinions on this. I feel like, yeah, I'm always trying to prove that fashion is not stupid, and that you can like both.”
Why do you think it's this thing you have to justify, especially to women?
“Well, it’s one of the only industries that is largely for and by women, so of course it seems frivolous. A book you can immediately recognize as thought provoking or somehow intellectual, and with fashion you do have to go a step further to understand that.
"I remember once, my freshman year, this kid in school came to our lunch table and I was wearing this shirt that says 'feminist' on it. And he was like, 'I saw you wearing this sweater the other day. Do you even know what feminist means?' And then we just had this dumb conversation, where he was like, 'Is everyone at Fashion Week just a big idiot?' And I was like, 'Yes. Everyone except for me is an idiot.' And then he was like, 'So, what is Fashion Week exactly?' So, yeah, people don’t even know.”
What are you most proud of, when it comes to Rookie?
"Well, one of my favorite things we’ve ever posted — and it’s in the book, as well — is a story where we printed six pages of the readers’ comments on this one post. We have a Facebook group for the staff and one of our writers posted and was like, 'I just had the most gross catcall.' And it just becomes us all talking and rambling about how frustrating street harassment is. Then, we were trying to figure out how to do a good, solid post about it on Rookie. So, we were like, 'Let’s just publish this conversation.' I mean, it’s angry and rant-y, but…it’s so familiar that I think people weren’t scared of it in the way it can be easy to be scared of really angry feminism.
"We got hundreds of comments from girls telling their own stories of street harassment. I’m really proud of that. We had a similar article a few months earlier and I got an email about it from this boy who goes to high school and lives in England and he was like, 'I didn’t get it before and now I get it.' That kind of thing makes me really happy."
That it changed someone’s outlook?
"Yeah. I sometimes feel like publishing anything on the Interent is like yelling into a black hole. So, the fact that anyone even looks at it is amazing and the fact that people respond to it is amazing, but the fact that they take it and somehow apply it to what is going on outside their computer…that’s really special."
So, what kind of editor are you?
It’s hard because we are a group of friends, but sometimes you just have to make decisions that in some way will make somebody kind of unhappy. Narrowing stuff down for The Yearbook was especially hard because you know the backstory of why someone wrote that piece and you feel bad, but some things are just better read on the Internet.
"I’m very lucky because I work for people who trust me, even though I’m younger than most of them. I don’t think most people would be comfortable taking direction from a sixteen-year-old, but obviously no one on our staff is someone who would underestimate a teenager. Everyone trusts me, but they also give their own opinions in a way I really appreciate."
Rookie publishes a lot of personal essays. As an editor, where do you draw that line between using your own experiences to talk about a larger issue and just being self-indulgent?
"Our story editors, Anaheed and Phoebe, are great at drawing that line. We all read things on the Internet a lot and we’re pretty aware of what gets tiring. Self-pity is such an unattractive quality. When you’re a publication, you should be publishing stuff that could not just come straight from someone’s personal LiveJournal."
So, we hear you have a movie coming out. What can you tell us about that?
"We finished filming just the other week. As I grow older, I don’t want to just write or just work on Rookie. I have a lot of changing interests and one of them is acting. I had done community theater at my school before. It was just something I was interested in, and I read the script when we were on the road [for the Rookie Roadtrip], and auditioned when we got to L.A., and filmed it then. Then I went back a few weeks later to finish. And it was nice because we had been stopping the car [for the roadtrip] and playing dressup to take all these photos, and my character is a really normally dressed person, so I was just like, 'Yes! I get to wear jeans!'"
What do you feel you get out of acting that’s so different than the other things you do?
"Well, when I got the role we had a few family friends who were like, 'Why would you want to act? You’re one of the smart ones. You edit Rookie.' Because when you act, you don’t have that same kind of power. You don’t call the shots, and, for me, that’s why I like it. I'm responsible for peoples’ jobs. I make a lot of decisions. I have a healthy dose of low self-esteem, so I enjoy not feeling like myself for a little bit, and that’s one of the things I really loved at the height of my obsession with fashion — feeling like I could be anyone. So, I enjoy that about acting."
Wait. What do you mean by a 'healthy dose of low self-esteem?'
"I don’t want to romanticize manic pixie...little tiny girls who make allusions to eating disorders and look sullen all the time, but I also don’t mean to be that person who awkwardly makes jokes about their eating habits or their loneliness as a way of coping...I have very high expecations for myself. My own brain can be so exhausting, so it’s very easy to just hate it sometimes. But all of that anxiety is more self-indulgence than anything and it’s pure ego and having too much time on one’s hands. Or, for me that’s what it is. I mean, I do believe in what I do, and I am proud of stuff I’ve done. It’s little things. It’s just little Liz Lemon-y things. But that’s also why it’s fun to be someone else and get into someone else’s mindset."
Is there anything else you want to check off your to-do list? Not to say you have a formal to-do list…
"Well, I do have a folder on my desktop called 'World Domination,' but there’s not much in it. I actually cannot take credit for that idea."
Photo: Courtesy of Michelle King