SXSW 2018: Lena Dunham on her hysterectomy, why Anna Wintour is as authentic as it gets
A messy ponytail doesn’t make you authentic.
In a packed room at Saturday’s South by Southwest with the new editor of Glamour magazine, festival veteran Lena Dunham said longtime Vogue boss Anna Wintour is about as authentic as it gets.
“She’s had that haircut for a (expletive) long time,” Dunham says. “She’s unapologetic about being so clear about her identity and what interests her and what her personal brand is. It’s just as exciting to see that as someone on the red carpet who is willing to admit they are wearing Spanx.”
Dunham, who has only missed one or two SXSWs in the last 9 years, joked that she wore her hair in a messy ponytail because how else would you know the panel was about authenticity.
Samantha Barry took the helm at the 78-year-old women’s magazine six weeks ago, and she led the conversation that included the importance of diversity in media, including Dunham’s newsletter, Lenny Letter, and her recent story in Vogue about a hysterectomy.
Barry said she aims to bring even more accessibility to Glamour, from the fashion and beauty pages to the profile. “Glamour isn’t Vogue,” she says. “I want people to look at us and see themselves.”
What can we do for each other to support more authenticity in the world? If you’re in a position of power, make sure you’re paying different kinds of women to tell their own stories and giving back to causes that you care about with both money and time, but Dunham says that the greatest gift we can give each other is to normalize what we’re going through. “I’ve often joked about starting a website called Isthisnormal.com where you can type in your emotional state or symptoms to find out if it’s normal and go on with their day,” she says. “But authentic people and authentic brands make me realize that isthisnormal.com isn’t needed because we can do that for each other every day.”
Some other takeaways:
Amy Schumer, Tiffany Haddish and Sarah Silverman might live their life outloud, but authenticity comes in many forms, not just “I didn’t do my hair right.”
On her recent hysterectomy article in Vogue: “You sometimes feel terminally unique, where you feel like they are your issues and yours alone, but the response to that article was one of the most warming things I’ve ever experienced. Now, people will come up to talk to me about their gynecological health in the most open places.”
Authenticity doesn’t mean one thing to everyone. “With Lenny, I knew what I was capable of, I knew what my process was,” Dunham said. She wasn’t going to recreate GOOP, but that’s not what people expected from her because that’s not her authentic story to tell.
On being raised by a feminist mom: “I learned that we try and we fail and we try again and we rethink the problem from another angle and we grow.”
“I have two modes: Full of shame, thinking nobody even deserves me. And then I think, ‘They don’t deserve my truth’.”
“It’s OK to be open about things that aren’t going great in your life. We need to do that more.”
From Barry: “I cry when I’m frustrated at work. I think this idea that people at work don’t cry is antiquated.”