16-Year-Old Media Mogul Tavi Gevinson Is Expanding Her Empire

Including online mag Rookie

Why did you shift from writing primarily about fashion on your blog to exploring culture and movies and music?

One thing that I always liked about fashion was that it was tied in with music and art and film. At a certain point, I think that I naturally got bored of who I was and my interests just sort of shifted organically. I did have an experience at Fashion Week my freshman year of high school where I realized how that world can make you so caught up and anxious about how you come off that you can’t really see outside of yourself, and I was just like, this is bad. I would like to avoid this.

It must have been a huge jump for you to go from writing Style Rookie on your own to managing a business.
Oh, yeah. I didn’t sleep all of sophomore year.

Are most of the Rookie writers also teenagers?
It’s pretty evenly divided into teens, 20s, 30s, and then we also have some in their 40s and 50s. But mostly teens and young women.

What’s your editorial involvement with the site? Do you read everything before it posts?
The first year, I read everything before it went up. Recently, it got to the point where I was extremely exhausted and had to reevaluate and reprioritize. But at the beginning of each month, I decide on the theme with our editorial director Anaheed [Alani], and she’ll ask me what kind of aesthetic I’m into now, we’ll find a theme that goes with it, and I’ll make a mood board and send our staffers a bunch of thoughts that I have for what I want them to write about.

How involved are you in the business side?
My dad’s office is right next to my bedroom. We have a managing editor, and [my dad] is the business adviser. All the ads go through me, and any ideas that we come up with for [advertising] content that’s not just banner ads goes through me. When it comes to planning our events, I’m involved in that, and obviously I was really involved in the book that we did.

Do you make sure that all of the advertisers on the site mesh with the Rookie message?
Yeah. It depends on how closely we’re working with them—like with banner ads, I feel like I’m standing by their message less than with a sponsored post. For example, for a few sponsored posts, we worked with that show Awkward on MTV, and that felt right to me—it’s a show around high school. We have vetoed some things, like anti-aging, wrinkle shit. I’m like, “Why would we be selling this to 13 year olds?”

Rookie has a unique publishing schedule where you post three articles a day around after-school, dinnertime and bedtime. How did you come up with that?
I remember when I wanted to start Rookie, my dad said, “How will you even be able to keep up with it yourself?” And I was like, “We’ll do it on my schedule”—which also happens to be the schedule our entire readership will be on. So it just made sense.

Another thing that makes Rookie unique among teen-oriented media is that it’s actually edited by a teen. Do you think that adults can speak as effectively to your age group?
Yeah, I mean, a lot of our writers are adults, and to me, the strength is in the balance. With adults, it’s nice to have someone who can look back on something and have a perspective on it.

Are there any teen magazines that you really connected with when you were younger, or now?
I feel like I mostly just read other girls’ blogs or zines. I had old issues of Sassy. And I like Teen Vogue—I think they have really great, creative styling, and I like their attitude about fashion.

When you originally came up with Rookie, you were working with Jane Pratt. Is she involved in the site at all?
We’ll hear from one another every once in a while, but her involvement was really important in the beginning. She’s the one who said, “Let’s do this,” so I wouldn’t have even tried to make it possible if she hadn’t, but she was also starting her website at the same time, so her time was limited. I can’t say how important it was to have [Jane’s] support in the beginning, but I would not say that she is a mentor now. That’s just how things have happened.

There were a lot of comparisons made between Sassy and Rookie. How do you think you speak to your readers vs. how Sassy did in the ’90s?
Our medium allows us to put out more content, which means putting out more points of view. I haven’t looked at my issues of Sassy since before I started Rookie just because I thought Rookie needed to have its own life. And it’s hard to compare because we have a lot more leeway. We don’t really have to please advertisers the way that a print magazine did.

Do you think that a print magazine can still be as influential as Sassy was?
I don’t know. I think of a magazine like The Gentlewoman, and it’s not on the newsstand at the grocery store, but the people who do read it really like it and take it really seriously. Then you’ll have, like, Entertainment Weekly, and a lot of people read it, but it’s not the same kind of dedication. I guess it’s different kinds of influence and in different amounts.

Considering you’re in school eight hours a day, you probably don’t have that much time to be reading blogs.
If I’m extremely bored and I don’t have a book with me and I’m being an obnoxious teenager, I’ll read BuzzFeed on my phone. But even that just leaves me feeling icky because I think for some reason my comfort zone is to just not really be in the loop about stuff like awards shows or things like that. And I think it’s so annoying when people say that! It’s like, ugh, get over it. But it’s not a moral thing—it’s just that I feel physically uncomfortable being taken out of my bubble.

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