Teen fashion icon Tavi Gevinson on Rookie and why she was born at the exact right time

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First aired on Q (30/10/12)

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Tavi Gevinson was a fashion star before she even hit adolescence. She burst onto the international fashion scene at the age of 11 with her blog The Style Rookie, which featured photos of her own outfits and experiments with hair colour, as well as commentary on her favourite designers and fashion inspirations. She quickly won legions of fans and was soon being invited to sit in the front row at runway shows around the world. She was even a special correspondent for Fashion Television. But when you've done all that by the age of 14, how do you follow up? Gevinson, now 16, has expanded her interests. She's the founding editor-in-chief of Rookie Magazine, an online magazine for teenage girls that delves into topics beyond fashion such as sex, feminism and how to look like you haven't just been crying. Now, Gevinson has published some of Rookie Magazine's best content in a book called Rookie: Yearbook One. In a recent interview on Q, she spoke to Jian Ghomeshi about her burgeoning media empire.

Gevinson has written that she started Rookie because she didn't feel there was a magazine out there for teen girls that respected their intelligence. "I felt like there wasn't anything for me or the girls whose blogs I read or my friends...we weren't interested in stuff to do to get back in shape right before school or something like that," she said. "And I felt like there were a lot of sites online that I read that were very smart and wrote about movies and music and things that I liked but they were all for adults and I was never comfortable engaging in the comments or anything, so I wanted to create a space where that would be OK for a teenager."

A common complaint about content for teenagers has always been that it's produced by adults who talk down to their readers. There are teens and adults on staff at Rookie. "In some cases you want to hear from someone who has years of experience behind them, and then in some cases you want to hear from someone who is going through something like you are right now," said Gevinson. "I found that a lot of media about [teenage life] is either about full-on hating it, like Daria, or full-on glorifying it, like everyone's really attractive even though they're supposed to be 16 and have acne, and I felt like I just wanted something that was in-between." Rookie tries to offer a realistic portrayal of both the positive and negative aspects of teenage life.

Gevinson doesn't like the way that youth tends to be glamourized and fetishized in mainstream culture, but it can be hard to walk the line between authentic celebration of experience and glamorization. The photos on the site are — for the most part — taken by teen girls of teen girls, and sometimes do veer into the risqué, as is occasionally the wont of teenagers. "Rookie isn't a part of that [fetishization], we just want to make the best of it," she said. "We did have one shoot where they were dressed as schoolgirls and someone was like, 'This makes me think of '70s porn blah blah blah,' and I'm like, 'Schoolgirls were a thing before '70s porn.' So I have to wonder what of it looks provocative because it's been appropriated, and what of it is just girls wearing, say, girl scout uniforms."

As for Gevinson's personal style, it is, in a word, eclectic. Most of her influences are from previous generations —1960s London, for example. Does she ever feel like she was born in the wrong time? "I feel like I was born at just the right time, because I get to do all this," she said. "A lot of the things that I like I wouldn't know about if not for the internet."






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