NYC's Most Famous '90s It Girls — Where Are They Now?

Downtown New York in the '90s wasn’t a place; it was a scene. During that heyday of creativity and artistry, lower Manhattan was a breeding ground for personal style, and, of course, home to a burgeoning, underground club-kid movement that took nightlife to the next level — and then some.

It was a time when Chloë Sevigny ran through the East Village in crop tops and denim jackets; when Kim Gordon rocked out at the legendary White Columns; when Rosario Dawson was just a preteen, growing up in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side. These women all became the It Girls of one of the world's most propulsive cities — though, if you'd asked any of them to admit it, you would have received major eye roll.

The city has changed by leaps and bounds in the decades since, and we wanted to pause and see where the most popular ladies of the city’s coolest generation are now. Miss the Chloës, Kims, and Rosarios of yesteryear? Click through for a dose of fashion inspiration — and a whole lot of nostalgia.
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Photo: Courtesy of Collection/REX Shutterstock.
Chloë Sevigny: Then
Some may argue that Sevigny was one of the youngest to solidify her status as the ultimate New York It Girl (The New Yorker dubbed her the "coolest girl in the world" at age 19). She was a sassy intern for Jane Pratt's Sassy, broke into the movie business with her lead role in Larry Clark's controversial film, Kids, and was a regular on the downtown cool-kid scene. The Lower East Side was Sevigny's playground.
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Photo: Courtesy of Erik Pendzich/REX Shutterstock.
Chloë Sevigny: Now
It's hard to believe that Sevigny is 40 years old, mostly because she still looks just like that downtown New York starlet of years past. With successes in The Last Days of Disco and Boys Don't Cry under her belt, she took a recurring role on Big Love, and has designed multiple collections for Opening Ceremony, and moved guessed it, Brooklyn (sorry, East Village "frat houses").
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Photo: Courtesy of Stephen Sweet/REX Shutterstock.
Kim Gordon: Then
Rochester-born Kim Gordon was raised in L.A., but moved to New York after graduating from high school. That's when she met Thurston Moore, who became her boyfriend, then her Sonic Youth bandmate, and then her husband. Their first date was in Gordon's railroad-style apartment at 84 Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side. Moore played her vintage guitar, and it was punk-rock love ever after — which is to say, very messy.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Pace/BEImages.
Kim Gordon: Now
Following the release of her hit memoir, Girl in a Band, Kim Gordon is having a big 2015. With an art rap sheet that's almost as long as her musical one — plus cameos on Girls and Portlandia under her hat Gordon is as much an It-Girl inspiration as she was in the '90s. She's raised a daughter, shouldered a divorce, undergone surgery for breast cancer, and is still as badass as ever. "She stays cool because she is cool, even in those rare moments when she’s not," Questlove wrote of Gordon in The New York Times. We couldn't agree more.
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Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.
Natasha Lyonne: Then
Believe it or not, wild child Natasha Lyonne was raised by Orthodox Jewish parents in Great Neck, NY. She attended Ramaz School on the Upper East Side, and learned to read Aramaic before she was kicked out for dealing pot on campus. Woody Allen launched her film career with Everyone Says I Love You, which was set partially in the city. The film appearance gave her the cash to buy her first apartment — in Gramercy Park, no less. In 1999, Lyonne took on the role of Jessica in the crazy-popular American Pie series.
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Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Contino/BEImages.
Natasha Lyonne: Now
Lyonne is good at pushing boundaries; her role as Nicky on Orange Is the New Black suits her as well as her gorgeous red curls. Since the '90s, she's had a few legal run-ins (Lyonne drunk drove a rental car onto a Miami sidewalk) and a stint in rehab. We're fairly certain that her experience has given her the, shall we say, chutzpah, to play Nicky so perfectly. Oh, and she and Chloë are still BFFs. Talk about a #90sDreamTeam.
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Photo: Courtesy of Vidmark Entertainment.
Rosario Dawson: Then
When Rosario Dawson was 6, her mother moved her and her 2-year-old brother into an abandoned apartment on the Lower East Side, where they squatted until her mother had the chance to renovate it. Dawson was still squatting — literally, on her front porch — when Harmony Korine and Larry Clark discovered her at the age of 15, later casting her in Kids alongside Chloë Sevigny.
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Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films.
Rosario Dawson: Now
Dawson’s roots on the Lower East Side have echoed in her on-screen work beyond Kids: In 2005 she starred as Mimi Marquez in the film adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s Rent, which was set near her childhood home and addressed the AIDS crisis that racked the city. Today, she’s involved with the Lower East Side Girls Club, whose fair-trade store, La Tiendita, you can find at Essex Street Market. "I came up in that neighborhood, I got discovered in that neighborhood, I’m known as a New York person," Dawson told New York Magazine. "This is where I come from, and I respect and honor that." Rosario: New York loves you, too.
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Photo: Courtesy of TV/REX Shutterstock.
Winona Ryder: Then
Winona was already major by the time the '90s hit, following her starring roles in Beetlejuice, Heathers, Mermaids, and Edward Scissorhands. But, it was her relationship (and three-year engagement) to Johnny Depp that had most people (and tabloids) talking in the early part of the decade. Rider was one of the '90s' hottest young stars on- and off-screen: Most of her films have garnered cult status, and her personal style (which consisted of badass leather jackets, oversized menswear-style suits, and slinky dresses) is still admired and highly influential. #WinonaForever.
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Photo: Courtesy of Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Winona Ryder: Now
Following her 2001 shoplifting arrest, Winona went through a bit of a rough patch and took a hiatus from her acting career. When she reemerged in the late 2000s, she admitted to struggling with anxiety and depression, particularly during the peak of her fame. "Even in the height of everything in the '90s — even though I was the right age, I didn't look the right age. I dealt with the age issue on the other side of not looking like I'm old enough," she told Yahoo! in 2013. "I worked very hard, and it took its toll." More recently, Ryder has resumed her acting career with roles in Black Swan and The Iceman, as well as the upcoming HBO miniseries, Show Me a Hero.
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Photo: Courtesy of X-Girl Movie.
Rita Ackermann: Then
After emigrating from communist Hungary to study at the New York Studio School in the early '90s, Rita Ackermann took a job waitressing before very quickly landing a studio and solo show at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in Soho. Her early paintings were known for featuring cartoonish "nymphets" alongside newspaper clippings advertising bras and weddings. "New York City was probably the only city where I could immediately be accepted with my accent and my weird, inferior behavior," she told her friend, writer Angus Cook, in Interview.
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Photo: Courtesy of Billy Farrell/
Rita Ackermann: Now
How Ackermann managed to land over 20 solo shows in under 20 years is pretty mind-boggling. Not to mention her 2008 spot in the Whitney Biennial. Ackermann has played in Gang Gang Dance with Lizzi Bougatsos, and has even designed underwear and skateboards. Recently, her work has gone expressionistic, though glimpses of her "nymphets" remain.