Although my age (19) means that I'm still technically a teenager, it doesn’t feel like it. I think of my ‘teen years’ as really being between about 12 and 16 - but how that interval is defined differs for each individual. I think I was always desperate to escape the label; move beyond the associations of secondary school.
Throughout this time, I can’t really think of a singular role model or celebrity I really admired – at least, none that were current (or alive). I adored Audrey, dabbled with Marilyn, discovered Grace Kelly, and had a soft spot for Moira Shearer in The Red Shoes. These were adult women – glamorous, well dressed, clad in technicolour. Others were on the periphery. Kate Bush and Twiggy come to mind. But were there contemporary women, particularly younger ones, who I also admired? I can’t think of any.
However, maybe that’s because there was no one like Lorde around at that point. Or, if there was, I didn't know of them. Instead of seeking out new bright young things, I was stuck into The Beatles and David Bowie.
That lack of knowledge may be partly due to the way in which communication and visibility have changed. I was perhaps among the last generation of teens who didn’t have the means to follow celebrities or musicians ardently on Twitter or to scroll through their Instagram posts. That level of access, the semblance of an insight into the lives of these profile names, is still so new.
The relationship between celebrities and the internet is a subject explored by many elsewhere. The point here is that I wish I'd stumbled across a figure like Lorde when I was a few years younger. At a point where I was figuring out my identity, I would have found her both aspirational and affirmative. I’d have loved to see someone still in their teens who was not only successful, but also creatively dressed and very outspoken - someone willing to point out when her spots had been retouched, someone who was discussing the significance of feminism, someone with that keen mix of individuality and intelligence.
But here’s the great thing. I can appreciate all those qualities now, and know that there are plenty of teenagers (and adults) who feel the same. I can listen to her music, with those thoughtful lyrics that kind of capture what it’s like being on the cusp of adulthood, the beats catchy enough to dance to around my room. I can get a little bit too excited every time I read an interview with her. For the first proper time in my life, I can admit to being something of a fangirl.
One of the things that really cinched my respect for Lorde was this interview on Rookie. Now there’s another platform I so wish I could have been reading when I was 13. I really admire Tavi Gevinson, particularly in her transition from style blogger to professional in a range of fields. Rookie is fantastic in its range of voices, perspectives and experiences. It covers issues that teenage girls actually want to read about (kissing, sexuality, mental health, DIY manicures), but doesn’t have an age limit. Many of the ideas highlighted and written about in Rookie are ones that are relevant long into one’s twenties and beyond.
In that talk with Tavi, the combination of these two smart, engaging individuals just having a conversation – unspooling their thoughts on aesthetics and confidence and music – was so refreshing. It made me realize how rare it is to have interviews that are primarily about ideas – and particularly ones interested in what young women think about and feel, rather than which stereotypes they either fit or transcend.
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about teenage girls – for reasons that will become clearer soon. Lots of time has been spent mulling over how they’re portrayed, generalized and written about, as well as what’s significant and pressing for them at the moment. So it’s heartening to see prominent young women like Lorde (and Tavi) who are creative, who speak up, who achieve things - and wear some damn good outfits along the way.
I am dressed, of course, in homage to Lorde - complete with vaguely witchy vibes and flat shoes. The dress was from Reign vintage in London - I have a real love for the translucent spotty sleeves. The black Bally men's brogue loafers were from a vintage shop. The ring was my mum's. Realised in retrospect that my lipstick was not as purple as I thought it was.