At 17, Tavi Gevinson already has a long list of titles: writer (sheâ€™s been blogging since she was 11), editor (she runs Rookie, the best Web site for teen girls ever), speaker (her TED talk has more than half a million YouTube views), actor (she recently made her feature-film debut in Nicole Holofcenerâ€™s Enough Said), and, oh yeah, high school student (sheâ€™s finishing up her senior year). Sheâ€™s also a book editorâ€”Rookie Yearbook Two is the second hard-copy edition of her mind-bogglingly awesome site, and it features contributions from an A-list roster of writers, including Judy Blume, Lena Dunham, Mindy Kaling, and Grimes. When Gevinson Skyped with me from her home in Oak Park, IL, she gave me a tour of her messy bedroom (which includes piles of clothes, multiple photos of Winona Ryder, and cards from Rookie readers), read me a letter she received from Stevie Nicks (!!!), and shared her thoughts on feminism, finishing high school, and the best and worst moments of her past year.
Do you get more excited about a Rookie Yearbook or your high school yearbook?
My school is so big, you can look through the yearbook and not know anyone. Especially this year for me, because all of my friends graduated last year. Now I spend lunch and study hall with my former French teacher because I have no friends. So yeah, I am a lot more excited by a Rookie Yearbook [laughs].
Rookie has so much empowering content, youâ€™ve become the face of a new era of feminism.
Iâ€™m inclined to repeat Kathleen Hannaâ€™s sentiments about being hesitant about being considered the face of riot grrrl. I think itâ€™s really dangerous. Like, I once saw an article titled, â€śIs Tavi Gevinson Girl Powerâ€™s Last Hope?â€ť And I was like, â€śJesus!â€ť Feminism is about representation by a lot of different people, and no one person can be capable of that. I think it can even turn people away from the movement if they donâ€™t relate to that specific face. One of the things thatâ€™s so important to me with how I think about feminism, especially with Rookie, is that there are options. Obviously thereâ€™s a set of guiding principles, but thereâ€™s not a right way to think.
Did you ever have any misgivings about the word feminist?
In eighth grade I started reading feminist blogs, and then I read books like Feminism and Pop Culture by Andi Zeisler and Girl Power by Marisa Meltzer. It was at a time in my life when the one person I related to most in the world was Veronica from Heathers, so if calling myself a feminist gave me a bad rap, it was all the better. It was a particularly rebellious stage, so that never fazed me. Now Iâ€™m not as stubborn and angsty, but itâ€™s just so much a part of me.
At BUST, whenever itâ€™s a stafferâ€™s birthday, we always ask what the best and worst moments of her past year were. Since this is sort of a book birthday, I want to ask you the same thing.
OK, the best moment of my life, last year or not: I gave a TED talk a couple of years ago that I concluded by saying, â€śJust be Stevie Nicks.â€ť It doesnâ€™t matter what I was talking about, â€™cause itâ€™s the answer to everything. But I got an email in April a couple of weeks before my birthdayâ€”so you may even say I was on the â€śEdge of Seventeenâ€ťâ€”and it was like, â€śIâ€™m Stevie Nicksâ€™ assistant. Fleetwood Mac is playing in a couple of days. Do you want to come?â€ť So I brought three of my best friends and my parents. Then Stevie came out to do â€śLandslide,â€ť and she dedicated it to me! We met her after, and sheâ€™s the greatest argument for meeting your idols. That was the best moment of my life. Then worst, ugh. I shouldâ€™ve started with the worst. My boyfriend and I broke up for a little while, and that sucked, â€™cause first love, first heartbreakâ€”itâ€™s hard. But itâ€™ll never be that bad again, thatâ€™s the good news, and weâ€™re back together.
Do you have any holiday rituals? Does your family do anything for Hanukkah?
Actually, Hanukkahâ€™s not a big deal to us because [she leans in to the camera, like sheâ€™s telling a secret] we are real Jews, so we know that itâ€™s just the consolation prize for Christmas. Plus, we have Jul, which is Norwegian Christmas, â€™cause my mom is from Norway. On Jul, you donâ€™t put out cookies and milk, you put out this disgusting porridge. And Norwegian Santaâ€™s not a jolly, nice, fat man. Heâ€™s a little troll who delivers presents from your family.
Like a mailman?
Yeah, right. Heâ€™s just, like, a creepier mailman [laughs].
By Lisa Butterworth
Photo Illustration by Beth Hoeckel
This interview first appeared in our Dec/Jan print edition of BUST
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