Founded in 2011, Rookie magazine is the unspoken, definitive bible for the cult of the cool, alternative girl. Rookie, for the uninitiated, was the “Daria” wannabe’s answer to Teen Vogue and Seventeen: Lisa Simpson-themed playlists, photoshoots with skateboarding witches and essays about the importance of being awkward were the perfect fodder for a slightly pretentious teenage girl who ached for individuality amid suburban conformity.
After a day of brooding and suffering at my high school, where Longchamp bags and decadent SUVs reigned supreme, I rushed to my mom’s clunky laptop and loaded Rookie, ready to pore over every word on the screen. Between playful features that showed you how to look like Margot Tenenbaum or “Literally the Best Thing Ever: Glitter,” nothing was more comforting to an insecure, out-of-place teenager than Rookie’s relatable “Live Through This” pieces. Essays on coming to terms with being a kiss virgin and feeling alienated as an Asian American shattered the “above-this” persona I aspired to cultivate. In these moments, Rookie wrapped me in its arms and reminded me that it was OK to feel different sometimes.
I have Rookie’s Editor-in-Chief Tavi Gevinson to thank for guiding me through my teenage years, which is a little weird considering I’m only a few months older, and all of my other idols were either fictional cartoon characters or untouchable adults. I had followed Tavi and her unconventional fashion blog a few months before she launched Rookie and had no idea how much more I’d admire her since starting the magazine.
When Tavi went on a cross-country road trip during the summer of my sophomore year to meet up with readers in real life, I begged my family to drive me and my twin sister to Dolores Park so we could escape the bougie drudgery of a town full of $6 ice cream shops and “authentic” Mexican restaurants.
On the grassy lawn, Tavi flitted among the giant parade of colorfully dressed teenagers. When she eventually turned to me and my sister, I was taken aback. Actually seeing Tavi in person was unsettling; here was the girl whose words effectively made my freshman year of high school not totally miserable.
Towering over her, I was at a loss at what to say, and we uncomfortably looked at each other expectantly for what seemed like eons. I eventually resorted to regurgitating a stumbling mess that, in essence, amounted to: “Thanks for making Rookie Mag! I read it every day!” Tavi responded with an awkward yet humble “thanks” with the grace of someone forced to make small talk with a brunch friend and then turned her attention to a more articulate fan.
You know those embarrassing moments that lay dormant in your psyche and then hit you in the middle of your half-hour showers, forcing you to remember your social ineptitude? Meeting Tavi Gevinson is one of mine.
Here I am, a junior in college, and I still kick myself for not talking to Tavi like an actual human being. I had the opportunity to chat with a witty and hilarious girl, never mind that she spearheaded my favorite place on the internet, and threw it away by making her feel weird. Who knows, if the stars had aligned, we might’ve even been friends or at least partners in a group project?
Treating celebrities as mythological beings whose existence is only confirmed by tweets or magazine spreads is really, really fun. After all, I’ve spent most of that same awkward high school phase being an obsessive fangirl, devoting hours to watching YouTube interviews of “Vampire Weekend.” But forgetting that these people have a life beyond their media personas is lazy, unfair and, in some cases, dangerous. A few months ago, a group of Twitter users harassed comedian Leslie Jones with a barrage of extremely hateful and disgusting tweets simply because she was in the “Ghostbusters” reboot.
It goes the other way too, though. When we put celebrities on a pedestal and deem them untouchable, we’re prone to forgive them for awful things they’ve done. Now, the question of whether we can separate the art from the artist is a whole other debate that’s worthy of 100 think pieces. But I think the fact that artists, too, have the capacity to do truly horrible stuff (here’s looking at you, John Lennon), should not be overlooked, no matter their cultural value.
Thankfully, Tavi has been nothing less than a positive influence — even as she’s become a celebrity in her own right. Tavi and I are no longer in high school. She’s on Broadway and, well, I’m not. But her recent series The Infinity Diaries, published journal entries she penned after a devastating breakup, so eloquently and coincidentally described my own experience this summer with coping with a boy from the past. While her experience was painted with a New York City skyline and mine was lived overlooking the Campanile, in the heart of it, we were both wide-eyed young women who made some dumb, albeit still totally valid, choices.
Worshipping Tavi all these years, I realized after finishing the last Infinity Diary, was just another way of rooting for myself.
“Cutting Room Floor” columns are one-off, arts-oriented pieces written by Daily Cal staff members.
Contact Adrienne Lee at [email protected].