Tavi Gevinson talks 'Rookie,' We Day and Lena Dunham

By Nicole Carrington

Tavi Gevinson first burst on to the fashion scene at the tender age of 11 and, with a penchant for oversized spectacles and grey-tinged hair, made an undeniably lasting impression. While she began as a precocious young observer with an insatiable appetite for Commes des Garçons, Tavi’s careful musings and curious mind propelled her – and her blog, Style Rookie – to new heights, and the vocal feminist quickly became a front-row fixture at the industry's most exclusive events and, most recently, a speaker at Toronto's WE Day on Dec. 7.

Now 19, Tavi’s evolution has led to meaningful friendships with like-minded A-listers (she counts Willow Smith and Lena Dunham as close pals) as well as the creation of the successful digital magazine Rookie. Of her transition from fashion authority to editor-in-chief, she says, “[With] Style Rookie… I changed what I wrote about a lot. At first I was interested in fashion and then my personal style and then everything that fashion was connected to. I started writing more about growing up and high school, and I just wanted to do more of that.”

Tavi captioned this photo on Instagram: "Brainwashing the youth into keeping diaries and talking about their feelings."

As a special guest of We Day, a national Free the Children initiative that works to inspire social change, Tavi shared a special message to inspire the young audience. But first, she sat down for an exclusive chat with Hello! Canada about encouraging her peers, her celebrity role models and her biggest pinch-me moment.

Why was joining We Day important to you?
I was just excited by the idea of the stadium filled with young people who can be completely attentive and engaged in what someone is saying and also get on their feet and cheer and dance. That kind of passion … that’s why I do Rookie.

What advice do you have for your peers?
The first thing I want to say is just to go easy on yourself. Making stuff is hard! Enjoy that research period of taking in the work [and] seeing what lights you up. Also, make sure that you actually enjoy the process of making the thing because that’s why we’re here. That’s the flame you have to preserve ... doing whatever you can to block out an insecure voice that you have or outside voices that might be critical. Learning to trust yourself. Taking care of yourself throughout all of these steps.

You're an undeniable leader and you yield your power very thoughtfully. Is there a lot of pressure that goes with that?
I’m surprised to hear you say that because I so don’t feel like an alpha! [Laughs] But I started Rookie from my room. Now we’re in New York and we have an office and I go to the office and I’m the boss of these people who are all older than me … I do struggle with the idea of being a kind of authority figure, but I take a lot of comfort in knowing that I've been doing this for a few years and the people that have followed have been very supportive of the changes I go through or very helpful in saying when something feels inauthentic. And I think it’s similarly comforting that our readers have minds of their own and their own moral compasses, so if I have a blind spot, I’m glad that our readers can feel comfortable enough to say if something doesn’t feel right to them. I think that in terms of getting people excited as a leader, I just try to put it all out there and I hope that they’ll get excited, too. It’s this electrical circuit and we all work together and light up together.

Tavi was one of 12 inspiring women featured in the 2016 Pirelli calendar.

As you’ve transitioned from preteen to teen to young adult in the public eye, how has your fashion changed with you?
It changes so much. I go through periods where I don’t want to think about what I wear, and I’m fine to not wear makeup, wear jeans and a T-shirt everyday. I go through periods where I really want to feel weirder. I always feel worse when I come away from something knowing that I compromised then wearing this [for example] and being like, “Yeah, I look like a tiny ghost!” It’s sort of switching between wanting to lay low and wanting to force myself to be a bit more confident.

What has been your biggest pinch-me moment?
Well, there are the moments that really excite you. Like I remember there were certain shows like Marc Jacobs and Rodarte… These shows that I’d been following online. Now they're live streamed and everything, but before people caught on to that, you'd wait for pictures to come up. I’d go to the library in my school at lunchtime and look online. If that show had happened earlier that day in Paris, I knew the time difference. But then to actually be at one of those shows and it’s just all unfolding before me was really amazing. That spoke to my heart. And then there were some like sitting next to Anna Wintour, which was like, “Pinch me! This is just weird! Like this is amazing and also just unreal.”

Along the way, you’ve made some incredible friends. What have you learned from them?
Oh my gosh. So much! Lena pierced my ears.

She knows how to do that?
Apparently! [Laughs] I hope so! They haven’t gotten infected yet, so … She taught me the importance of holding an orange behind the ear lobe. [Laughs] No. I mean, she's taught me so much just in that I think she's so open to learn. People pick apart everything she does and I really admire her willingness to listen. She doesn’t shut down, she doesn’t get defensive. Willow [Smith] just has this amazing confidence and lack of body awareness in a positive way. It’s irrelevant to her. Just in the way she talks, it’s like there’s something more important at hand than being composed. Her momentum is insane and it really inspires me. And Amandla [Stenberg], I mean, she makes so many girls and young people feel better about themselves and safer in the world just by being visible and being herself. And I think it’s great to feel like the entertainment industry is not this impenetrable castle on a cloud. Amandla feels like someone who’s in it, but she also hears you and she gets you and she's like you, too. I think she’s an example of one way that the Internet and young people being vocal on the Internet really can make waves over into industries like the entertainment industry.

I was reading an interview with Rowan Blanchard today and she cited you as a role model of hers. How does that feel?
Oh, I love her! She's my role model! I mean, she’s incredible. I saw her with Kiernan Shipka in L.A. and both of them are amazing. I just love that she is in such a mainstream world and she's so unafraid of rocking the boat by voicing her support for Planned Parenthood or speaking out about mainstream feminism and intersectional feminism, and just in talking with her about how it feels to enter an adult world at a young age, I was just so inspired by how seriously she takes herself and how she prioritizes herself. She told me that a day before [ Girl Meets World] premiered, she wrote herself a letter. I think those acts of self-care, of reminding yourself what's important to you, even if you’re not about to be on Girl Meets World, that’s really important.

What's inspiring you?
Right now I've been rewatching and watching for the first time a lot of Carol Burnett clips. And Joanna Newsom’s new album really kills me as does Carly Rae Jepsen’s. I have it on repeat. It’s so good. It’s a perfect pop album. And Adrian Tomine has a new book out that is a real, real heart-wrenching journey.

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