By Rebecca Goodman
*Please note that this piece is a riff off of the article of the same by Hanif Abdurraquib*
The It Girl follows me. Not literally, of course. When I look behind me, Bella Hadid is not there, draped in some combination of scarves and leather that should make her look like a frumpy lump of discarded fabric, but instead looks like the chicest thing to ever be worn. So she may not literally be there, but I feel the It Girl over my shoulder all the time. We want to be her friend, we want to be her. We live suspended in a realm of photos that are zoomed in just enough for the right aesthetic, a resurgence of 90s fashion trends that must be pulled off in a subtle way so as to not look as though one is trying too hard, and low rise uggs. Jennifer Aniston in FRIENDS. Julia Roberts in everything. Devon Lee Carlson and Lila Moss and Grace Burns. The It Girls that I, and you, ought to emanate as much as we possibly can.
In many ways, it can feel like inspiration. Who wouldn’t want to someday be living in a stunning New York City apartment that costs more than you’d want to admit, with crown molding and a million dollar couch that you can’t get anything on and so, so many clothes. Having the perfect group of friends (all It Girls, too) who always wear just the right thing when you go out to the most stylish restaurants with low lighting and an air of class. Being celebrated in your field– beloved by peers, awarded for your accomplishments, an icon to others. Being adored. I must admit to wanting that success, that admiration. How could I not? She has it all. If she can, why can’t we?
Well, not all of our moms are Real Housewives. Trust me, I am grateful mine is not. It’s just to say that the It Girl represents a particular level of social and economic class that is out of reach for many. They craft their elitism through lies, lies such as they didn’t get a nose job, and they’re just like everyone else, which, simply, is untrue. And it’s not necessarily bad, but what makes them an It Girl is how set apart they are from everyone else, a curation of perfection that they pretend came to them naturally.
The thing is, I kind of like Bella Hadid, from what I know of her as a celebrity figure. She seems sweet and down to earth and very aware of the pedestal that she lives on. The thing is, I can’t follow her on Instagram. Not a big deal, but a very real precaution I must take in order to preserve my well being. There is no logic to feeling inadequate when she is on a boat on the Amalfi coast in a dress just the right color and fit, and I am in school wearing my little sister’s stained sweatpants and a sweater three sizes too big. I shouldn’t compare myself, right? But I sort of have to. I have to because if I don’t, I’ll never work hard enough to live up to my It Girl potential. Right? And I better stay on top of it, because I can’t have one of my friends getting cooler than me. What a travesty that would be.
The It Girl breeds competition, she breeds insecurity. Even though we know– because we are told– that what we see of celebrities’ lives and what we see on social media is not the real picture, is not who they really are, the fact is that is what we get. We don’t get the full picture, so we work with what we’re offered. And if what we are offered is the most fabulous life, we will go along imagining that is the reality, despite how on some level we know it is not.
Gigi Hadid loves cheeseburgers! Good for her. We all do. Yet this emphasis that you can eat burgers and still have the body of a model is dangerous. For one thing, we imply that there is One Model Body. For another, despite opposite intentions, this feeds diet and eating disorder culture. The It Girls set a standard for what we should look like, a standard they meet due to ample resources, access to personal trainers and high quality food, and often, genetics. Real problems occur when an It Girl’s brand isn’t what she wears or how she wears it, but that she is wearing it. Style should rely on clothes, not the body wearing they’re on. When young girls wear the same outfit as their favorite It Girls and find that it simply doesn’t look the same on them, they will assume they are the problem. It disregards the fact that one body eating a cheeseburger looks different than another eating the same thing, which is not a problem at all. The It Girl should eat her cheeseburger, and she should enjoy it. But others shouldn’t punish themselves for eating the same thing in their own, different, beautiful body. Even It Girls fall victim to It Girls. Take Taylor Swift: one of the, if not the, most successful artists of her time. She developed an eating disorder when she spent too much time with her It Girl model friends. People would kill to be Taylor Swift, to have just one ounce of her talent and charisma, to be It the way she is. Yet amidst a swarm of It Girls, even she saw herself as not enough.
I wish I could love all It Girls for who they are. That would probably make me a better woman. Sometimes I do (I feel bad that Kendall Jenner is frustrated by the world’s perception of her as a “mean girl”). At the very least it seems to me that the It Girl is slowly revolutionizing, which gives me hope. The position of It Girl has been opened up to people from different backgrounds. There is slightly less judgment concerning race, class, size, and gender identity, mostly thanks to different social media platforms and a greater acceptance of difference in the modeling industry. Still, there is so much exclusion, and so many lies.
Here is the reality: we naively wish celebrities would give us the truth, and when they do, we hate them for it. The real truth is that we don’t really want it at all. So maybe it’s better that the It Girls stay It, and give us something to believe in.