Tavi Gevinson Is Still Figuring It All Out

The mini media mogul talked to ‘Chicago’ about meeting Stevie Nicks, taking the SATs, and her role in ‘Cadaver’ at a screening in the city next week.

PHOTO: ANTONIO PEREZ/CHICAGO TRIBUNE
 

She might just be “the most precocious teenager in American media.” Tavi Gevinson, the 16-year-old Oak Parker, has been called “Oracle of Girl World” by the New York Times and the “future of journalism” by Lady Gaga.

But Gevinson is also just a really cool high school junior who’s (begrudgingly) studying for her SATs, worrying about life after high school, and just figuring it all out. (In fact, she titled her 2012 TED talk “Still Figuring It Out.”)

Chicago checked in with Gevinson to talk about books, high school trauma, and being a culture vulture. It was a brief talk—after all, it was a school night. Next Tuesday, Gevinson takes the stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art to screen Cadaver, an animated short in which she plays a lead role.

I want to ask you about your film, but first I have to ask you about last Saturday when Stevie Nicks dedicated a song to you.
It was the best moment of my life. By far. It felt like every mistake I ever made, or like every song I ever listened to, was a star in the constellation that led to Stevie Nicks dedicating a song to me. We got to go backstage and meet her afterwards. She took me in her arms and said all these nice things and gave me a necklace of a moon that I’m wearing right now. I’m going to wear it forever.

Okay, now we can talk about your new film Cadaver. What drew you to the film?
I really like things that are bittersweet. Things that hit you in a way where they’re not necessarily happy but there’s still something kind of hopeful. This film sounds like it could be really dark, but instead it is hopeful—with a little bit of cheesy. And that’s a really hard balance to strike. Plus, I got to sing a Neil Young song.

I know you’re a Lena Dunham acolyte (like myself), and I think she really strikes that balance you’re talking about. Your comment made me think of the season 2 finale of Girls. It’s cheesy, but somehow really dark too.
Really? I thought the ending of Girls was too cheesy. But, I re-watch every episode over and over again and I’m constantly changing my mind about things. In generally, though, I think that show does do that really well.

Last fall, Rookie, your online magazine, celebrated its first anniversary. Was it a purposeful decision to move from fashion to culture, or was it a natural shift?
One thing I always like about fashion was that designers were always citing film and music as inspiration. For me, fashion was an introduction to all the movies and bands that became important to me. In middle school, fashion was an escape—I hated middle school. But in high school, I found that I actually wanted to be part of life here at home. I wanted to be in a band with my friends. It was all just a very natural shift.

Speaking of high school, aren’t the SATs coming up?
Ugh. Yes. They’re next week! I stopped going to my prep class. I’m the angstiest test-taker. If students are going to school for two extra hours a week, it shouldn’t be part of an industry that’s literally based on bullshitting a test. And that’s so upsetting. I’d rather use that time to be doing something I’m passionate about.

I imagine you spend a lot of time reading. What are you reading right now?
I’m reading Lolita. I also re-read all my old diaries the other day. They’re both better and worse than I remember. One running theme was how I live with myself. It’s really kind of scary when you realize you have to live with yourself for the whole rest of your life. That’s when things start to become really panicky and anxious. It’s especially like that in high school. It’s really hard to see life after high school.

Well, you’ve still got a year and a half to go. But seriously, are you going EGOT before you graduate from Oak Park River Forest?
[Laughs]. I would love to EGOT. Some variation of that, maybe. But I might be perfectly content living alone in the woods by the time I get out of college.

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