26 August 2013

Tavi Gevinson at Melbourne Writers Festival 2013: a wondrous conversation.

"Meaning lies in the magic of the coincidence that you should come across work at just the right time."

~ Tavi Gevinson at Melbourne Writers Festival 2013

I have spent the weekend soaking up inspiring conversations at the Melbourne Writers Festival. The weekend started with Tavi Gevinson's keynote and interview with Estelle Tang at the Athenaeum (view part of Tavi's keynote and audience interviews on the Melbourne Writers Festival blog, and view a picture of Tavi and Estelle on Tavi's Instagram). This was Tavi's second major keynote in Australia - she spoke at the Sydney Opera House the previous week, and was present at a number of events, including afternoon tea at Wesley College, inspiring girls who look up to her in adoration. That quote above sums up my thoughts about everything I've heard at the Melbourne Writers Festival so far. I've come across these conversations at just the right time. I feel inspired and motivated, and have a head full of thoughts. Like Tavi, I have much wonder for what's to come. I took notes furiously, and here's what I took away.

Lady Gaga called Tavi Gevinson "the future of journalism". After seeing her on Friday night, I'd say she's the future of the world - definitely a positive role model. She's 17, edits and art-directs online magazine Rookie Mag (with 80 paid staff on the books), maintains her own blog The Style Rookie, has written for magazines including Harpers Bazaar, Garage and Lula, is a stylist, and moves between being a fangirl and BFF to her idol Taylor Swift ("Taylor Swift was a good girl to consult on the breakup [with her boyfriend] front", Tavi quipped).

She spoke intelligently and maturely - far beyond her years. She was funny and self deprecating, yet maintained that teenageness - smatterings of "whatevs" used throughout her talk. And she's so busy! She said that she goes to school, goes home to do work for two hours, fits in some homework, and manages to spend time with friends (as long as she can respond to important emails on her phone). She gets stuff done by not procrastinating on Facebook. Wouldn't we all?

Tavi has grown up on the Internet. She said if it wasn't for the Internet, she wouldn't have been taken on this career path. Because she has grown up online, and that's where her career is, she tries to maintain some privacy by keeping special moments to herself.

She started her blog age 11 - launching a career as a stylist, and being invited to fashion shows such as New York Fashion Week, much to the disdain of some experienced editors in the fashion industry. To this Tavi said she can't believe that adults can be so childish. She gave some great advice about criticism: "you don't have to seek out criticism [by reading comments]." "I think, would Beyonce be doing this? NO! She'd close the computer and go and be awesome." Love that!


Tavi spoke a lot about her work on the Internet being a blocker to authenticity and originality: "it was intimidating to write when I feel that everything has been said", she said. A year ago she was diagnosed with depression - she thought that it may spur on some creativity, like so many of the troubled artists that have been members of The 27 Club, but she still felt overwhelmed, saying she felt "nothing I wrote was good." I listened to an interview with Tavi on a podcast where she said that she worries about no longer being good at what she does, but then said that overall she just wants happiness - that work doesn't have to have public acclaim for the creator to be proud of it. Tavi's candidness and introspection shows that while she is intelligent, driven and successful, she is also fragile.

Still just a teenager, still at high school, Tavi said "being a teenager is just like being a caricature of a real [adult] person." She said that teenagers' feelings are heightened because they are experiencing everything for the first time. I can't get over her level of analytical thinking, intelligence, introspection and comfort in being herself at such a young age.

She seeks solace in fangirlism - something I can relate to so much. She calls herself a "professional fangirl", and said "being a fangirl is one of the most happying things anyone can do." Fangirlism is both an expression of individuality and something that brings people together. Tavi said "you might look uncool for expressing enthusiam" - I identified with that a lot. Tavi said that it's ok not to like high-brow everything - she juxtapositions her fandom of One Direction alongside Fleetwood Mac. She also spoke about how fans of one idol can tend to look down on fans of other idols - "let others like stuff", she said. And lastly on fangirlism, for now: "stop worshipping idols, humanise them, and realise you've got a place next to them", she said. My heart skipped a beat hearing this. I have so much more to write about fangirlism after seeing Tavi - I thank her for the inspiration!

While Tavi spoke of fangirlism, many of the audience members were fangirls toward Tavi, cheering and laughing, and also spoke of their fandom for their own idols. An audience member asked her if she'd like to return to Australia to attend a Beyonce themed party later in the year. Tavi said while that sounds awesome and she'd love to, it doesn't sound like a realistic venture for her.

Her keynote showed how well read she is, referencing JD Salinger, Chris Kraus (she showed a quote from I Love Dick that I cannot stop thinking about and need to find now! - something like "there's one of you and a million of us". Does anyone know?) and Rashida Jones. Tavi finds a way to make everything she's inspired by relate to her experience - song lyrics, light in film and quotes from literature. She spoke of cataloguing and journaling - almost to the point of obsession. She said that with every journal she starts, she reinvents herself to match the theme of her journal - her style, handwriting, soundtracks. Her deep-thinking nature, I am sure, is both a blessing and a luxury.

Tavi's got the rest of her life before her - it's hard to believe that she's only 17 - but she's already accomplished so much. She said apart from "having a folder on my desktop titled 'World Domination'", she doesn't know what she wants to do in the future. She will finish her last year of high school when she returns home to Chicago from this trip to Australia, and take a year off before going to college. I expect she's driven and intelligent enough to educate herself to an academic standard without formal education.

I did not meet Tavi but Cheryl snapped this photo of me with Tavi in the background. The queue (full of extremely stylish girls and women) to enter the Athenaeum for both her talk and signing was enormous - Cheryl was kind enough to get the Rookie Yearbook One signed for me. The Rookie Yearbook is a compilation of the first year of Rookie Mag's writing and art - a beautiful package. While it's aimed at a teenage audience, I can relate and feel inspired, it seemed that from the age of the audience (an equal mix of teens and adults) do too. Rookie Yearbook Two will be out in September - Tavi said it will be more for girls and boys than the previous issue.

Rookie Mag holds meet-up events for young Rookies (there was one at the Melbourne Writers Festival over the weekend - check out Carolyn's blog for awesome photos of Rookie Day). The event at the Athenaeum felt like a Rooke meet-up. There was so much inspiration, enthusiam and community spirit in the room. One of my favourite things about seeing Tavi was meeting all the wonderful people at the Athenaeum. I met bloggers I already knew: Cheryl, Carly and Pip - who wrote an amazing wrap of the Tavi event - and had a lot of lovely women coming up to me to tell me they're fans of my blog. Hello and thank you Estelle, Norma, Ash and Rachael!


PS: listen to Tavi at the Opera House here. Or watch the speech and interview here. It's the same speech as she gave in Melbourne.



  1. Hey Carly, thanks for the mention, lovely!

    I loved your own self-reflection in this piece. You ARE a professional fangirl already - look forward to you writing more about that!


  2. This was an amazing wrap up! And thank you so much for the mention!
    I had a friend record her talk for me so I can revisit her amazing wisdom when I'm having periods of doubt.

    I'm a little sad you didn't get to meet her, she was absolutely charming! I'm also totally inspired by what she said about fangirling as well. I loved her quote 'the object of your fangirling is a direct reflection of yourself' which is both mind blowing and really good food for thought! :)

  3. Incredible young woman. What a great role model for young girls today. Great post Carly.

  4. Oh I wish I went to this! What a great round-up, thanks, lady! x

  5. Brilliant post, loved the wrap-up - would have been amazing to be there.
    (Btw you asked me about the bunny mobile in our nursery on my blog, I can't find yor original comment sorry Hun - it's from Etsy seller LoveBugLullabies) xx

  6. Such a good post!!! Wish my thoughts had been this composed about the event! Well done :)

  7. What an incredible girl. I've heard so many amazing things about these Tavi talks - so pleased you had an excellent time!


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