It’s hard to pass a pharmacy counter without seeing magazines targeted at teenage girls who wish to become someone hotter, happier, sexier, or stronger. Every teen-aimed publication seems to want to do nothing more than change its audience into a mass of perfect, beautiful clones. Rookie Magazine, an online fashion and life blog (http://rookiemag.com), wants none of that. Instead, Rookie aims to foster independence and creativity in teens as they try to carve out their niche in the world.
Rookie’s founder, Tavi Gevinson, started her fashion blog “Style Rookie” when she was 11 years old, and soon became a style sensation, attending New York Fashion Week at the age of 13. “Tavi is one of those people who emerged from the womb fully formed, fully her own person, ” said Emma Straub, one of Rookie’s contributors. “Everything she does really reflects that.”
Rookie, originally conceived as an independent magazine, premiered as a blog at the beginning of the current schoolyear, as, “a place to make the best of the beautiful pain and cringe-worthy awkwardness of being an adolescent girl,” wrote Tavi, then 15, in the inaugural issue’s Editor’s Letter. “Rookie is not your guide to Being a Teen. It is not a pamphlet on How to Be a Young Woman. It is, quite simply, a bunch of writing and art we like and believe in.”
The content, ranging from personal essays and memoirs to themed playlists and life tips, is posted by people of all origins; a quick glance at the list of contributors reveals designers, authors, poets, musicians, and even some people not yet out of high school. “There’s a bunch of teenagers, but then there’s a bunch of old ladies like me,” Straub said. “But we all understand what it’s like to be a teenage girl.”
Some articles are more lightweight, such as “How to Run a Movie Marathon,” while others discuss heavier topics, including a recent series of three articles—“Me, On Drugs,” “Mission Control,” and “Medium Cool”—about substance use and abuse among adolescents, based on the personal experiences of the three writers. In pieces like these, Rookie’s individual touch shines through—the essays don’t come across as preachy or judgmental, but as friends talking with the reader. This personal feel is also vibrant in columns such as “Friend Crush,” which asks readers to share a friend they adore, and explain why.
Even its fashion tips and style suggestions come with unusual flair, dismissing the hype hawked by mainstream media. “The girls who do the fashion pieces have fabulous style and always look amazing, but it’s bought in a thrift store or bought on eBay or made themselves,” Straub said. They write about things such as turning a pillowcase into a skirt or dressing like the glam-rock girls and guys of decades long gone.
The photography takes fashion shooting to a different realm, one of ethereal reality rather than high-class celebrity. Slideshows capture teenage girls in everyday outfits, and are lit and edited to achieve a certain mood – whether it be dirty club glam or an overexposed, sun-streaked fairytale. “The photography is always really strange and also feels just really real and naturalistic,” Straub said.
Despite its close relationship with the fashion world, the website isn’t solely for girls. Q&A sessions with well-known authors and reviews of the best video games for all-nighters appeal to many boys as well. “I think the kind of teenage boys who would read Rookie are the kind of teenage boys I would really want to hang out with—sensitive guys who know what’s up,” Straub said. “If a guy reads Rookie, you know he’s basically got a heart of gold.”
Rookie also reaches out to its readers, asking for contributions and hosting several themed advice columns to answer their questions. The magazine’s take on the world is something that wants to nurture the inner star of each self-conscious, self-questioning teenager. “I think it presents an entire worldview,” said Straub, who wishes she could tell today’s teens to trust themselves more. “It is feminist and silly and glittery and smart. Because there’s no reason that smart girls should not like glitter and eyeliner, you know? There’s no dividing line.” While other publications have yet to cross this boundary, Rookie proudly embraces both sides.