Tavi Gevinson: Actress, magazine editor, fashionista—all before age 20. One would think that all her accomplishments would be cause for major celebration on her 20th birthday. Instead, she was doing press at Sardi’s Restaurant (including this interview) before a Thursday evening performance of The Crucible on Broadway and a low-key post-show outing with friends.
She’s already “over it.” And, by over it, she doesn’t mean work life. She refers, instead, to parties and playtime.
“I mean—tale as old as time—a lot of things that are exciting at first or tempting get old pretty quickly,” she admits. “It’s just not a sustainable habit. Now I have no fun partying because it just feels like… I love what I do. I love work, and I don’t just mean going to work and doing the play, but being able to wake up in the morning and work on something I enjoy doing. It feels like such a loss to [waste time]—I’m really not trying to be self-righteous; it’s probably connected to some sort of fear of wasting time, which is a fear of death. But, yeah, that spell was broken pretty quickly.”
She’s signed off of social.
“I’ve stopped using Twitter, Instagram,” she explains. “I only sign in to post something, and then I stop looking at it. It’s a game-changer. I feel so much more human. I would recommend it. I mean, I know for work [some people] have to do it… But, you experience actual solitude instead of this weird half-solitude where you’re still afraid of just being alone in your apartment and [you’re] checking your phone.
“I mean, life is short. It’s so sad Prince is dead…” she continues. (She had just learned of the popstar’s passing seconds before sitting down for this interview.) “But, when Bowie died… It feels so dramatic to be like, ‘I quit Twitter because of David Bowie’—it seems so narcissistic making it about me—but when he died, I got really into his Berlin phase because we were all going back and listening to him, right? [At that time] he was basically in L.A. and had done so much cocaine and was amazed he hadn’t died and was sick of hanging out with all of these hangers-on, so he went to Berlin, got clean and just worked and would be found in the back of a club drinking carrot juice. And my friends and I were like, ‘We should all do our own Berlins and just get rid of the stuff that’s really excessive.’
“Working in media or entertainment, you have to put up with a degree of those fluffy things, but I really think that life is short, and I have a much happier day—and I know a lot more about who I am—if I’m not constantly checking [social media]. [With social media], it’s not even being aware of other people; it’s being aware of fragments of other people. … I do think all of it adds up to something that could hold one back creatively from some kind of abandon. And you have to have that onstage.”
Maybe Gevinson feels the way she does because her career took off at age 12, when she started the fashion blog Style Rookie—which evolved into Rookie Magazine by 2011 and now “runs itself.” She started the blog as a community for young women such as herself to sound off on style and social issues, and she always hoped to make Rookie “a space for other young people to inherit.”
“My parents were totally befuddled by it,” she says of her young success. Her father is a high school English teacher, and her mother is a visual artist; neither were interested in fashion. But, their creative background and support helped pave Gevinson’s road to Broadway.
“The stuff that I’ve been involved with—theatre and film—is right up their alley,” she says. “My dad has taught a course on [This Is Our Youth playwright] Kenneth Lonergan, and my dad has taught The Crucible for over 20 years.”
This Is Our Youth was Gevinson’s Broadway debut; she moved to New York City from her hometown of Oak Park, IL, to pursue theatre full time at age 18.
“I moved here knowing exactly what I would be doing for the first six months of my time here, so that brought a lot of security,” she explains. “But then, once [This Is Our Youth] closed, I felt kind of drifty and confused and leaned on my parents a lot more. ... I was doing a play every night, about a young woman in New York who was my age and dealing with the male species, and then I would go out and do the same thing.”
Now, starring as The Crucible’s Mary Warren, Gevinson describes herself as a hermit. Her free time is her me time.
“When I was in school, work was my free time because I started my blog and started Rookie after school. That was my hobby, and it was what I loved doing. I do take a lot of time for myself, and that wasn’t always easy because living here, especially, you feel like you need to be social, but…everyone who’s really close to me knows I’m sort of a hermit, so if I disappear for a while because I really like being at home and watching movies and writing, then that’s fine.
“When I lived in Oak Park, IL, I was angsty. I didn’t love school, so the Internet was how I connected with people. But now I live here, and I do what I love every day, and I don’t need to check in with other stuff as much.
“Here, I can come out of doing this play ... and I get on the subway, and everyone has their own life, and no one gives a sh*t. I think that’s great.”