At age 11, on any given day, I could be found doing one of the following three things: 1) Hovering obsessively over my boombox/radio for the next time “Bye Bye Bye” was played in its entirety, 2) Plotting ways to avoid gym class, and 3) Convincing my parents that I was, in fact, old enough to rock some Cover Girl eyeliner (…because I was worth it). All in all, at the tender age of 11, I had a PG-rated, Lisa Frank-induced outlook on life. Give me a pack of Dunkaroos and a cheesy love story (Model Behavior was my go-to, feel-good romcom) and I was set. Throw in a pair of polka dotted Keds and an occasional trip to the public library and you were probably on my list of favorite people. I was a normal (incredibly nerdy) 11-year-old.
The same cannot be said for Tavi Gevinson, a Chicago-bred pre-adolescent who, by age 11, singlehandedly pioneered a Fashion blog that attracted attention from national media outlets.
Fast forward five short years and Gevinson is balancing a high-profile Fashion blog with the online hipster magazine, Rookie (all while attempting to live the life of a normal 16-year-old). As impossible as it sounds, she’s managed to do all of this and more while keeping a cool head, maintaining a secure sense of self, and conjuring up even bigger ideas for the future. But first thing’s first, how did a nobody from nowhere manage to transform her insane passion for fashion (she made a thrifted sweater and her mom’s vintage skirt look like a three-page foldout in Teen Vogue), into what Lady Gaga dubbed as “the future of fashion and journalism [media]?” Simple, she channeled her underdog energies into an overly-productive, always-consistent work ethic that landed her right in the middle of the fashion world. After her blog went viral and fashion’s biggest players caught wind of the small-town girl with an eye for style, she was invited to Fashion Week in New York, contributed to Harper’s Bazaar, served as a muse for Rodarte’s Target collection, and was featured on the cover of AdWeek Magazine. Not a bad day’s work for an 11-year-old with no first-hand connections to the fashion world.
Inspired by her first fashion victory, Gevinson took her artistry to the next level with her biggest project yet, Rookie. Though she was, and still is, primarily fueled by her love of fashion, Gevinson made the decision to have Rookie include topics on culture, music and movies. Why the switch? For one, “one thing that [she] always liked about fashion was that it was tied in with music and art and film.” Also, repetition gets boring! Being young gave her the opportunity and flexibility to explore different areas of interest, which happened to include all of the above. Once the central theme was chosen, the clocks began to turn, ideas transformed into tangible material, and Rookie became Gevinson’s kryptonite (she admits to not having slept for most of her sophomore year). She made it her duty to read and review everything that was published on the site for the first full year after Rookie was launched. Of course, with a growth for demand comes a need for resources, so Gevinson made the decision to hire and involve people whose opinion and work ethic she could positively work alongside (including Editorial Director, Anaheed and Business Adviser, Dad). But don’t get it twisted, Gevinson still puts a ton of energy and time toward Rookie’s maintenance, in charge of everything from devising an editorial theme for each month and handling all featured advertisements, to event planning and establishing new relationships and partnerships within the industry.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Rookie is that the publishing schedule coincides with that of a typical teenager. Each day, a different article is posted after-school (between 2 and 4pm), dinnertime (between 5 and 6pm) and bedtime (after 8pm), which encourages the type of readership that Gevinson set out to target from the beginning. Another reason why Rookie stands above and apart from other teen-oriented media sources is that it’s actually edited by a teen. Turns out, teenagers positively respond to material and subject matter written from the perspectives of fellow teens. Though it must be said, the adult writers who contribute to Rookie have a knack for balancing out the overall content of the magazine, giving readers the unique opportunity to accept advice from an older generation while still being able to find comfort in teen writers’ opinions.
As for the future of Rookie, Gevinson plans to put out a total of four yearbooks, a sort of “Best of Rookie” compilation in print, each one marking a year of high school. But what will happen to Rookie after she’s completed high school and moves on to college and life after her teenage masterpiece? Although she has no plans of ever fully cutting ties with the magazine, she is prepared to leave Rookie in the hands of those that have helped her shape the publication that it’s blossomed so brilliantly into.
To conclude, here is what we’ve learned from Tavi Gevinson (besides the fact that at this very moment, us 20somethings feel like the world’s laziest couch potatoes): 1) Embrace your inner nerd and break that tired mold, 2) Sticking to your guns is important; so is not backing down from a challenge, 3) Prepare yourself for criticism and adversity on your path toward success; it’s bound to rear its ugly head eventually, and 4) Do not lose sight of what makes you happy. Learning these lessons from personal experience and remembering them for future endeavors is one thing, but Tavi Gevinson continues to go the extra mile and assure girls of all ages that they are not alone. In spite of all the messy situations, awkward run-ins, embarrassing memories and pessimistic stares, they can –and should– press forward, bringing their passion and heart forth in everything they do. That’s Tavi Gevinson’s message.
Not bad for a rookie.