It’s the September issues! But we’ve already seen Beyoncé on the cover of Vogue, so now what?
This month, Interview has printed 8 different covers, each featuring a celebrity selfie. There’s Miley Cyrus FaceTiming with photographer Mert Alas (they each scored a cover), JLo, Victoria Beckham (with David and Brooklyn in the background), Selena Gomez, Zayn Malik, Madonna and Kanye West’s wife.
It’s fitting, as Andy Warhol, the founder of Interview, is largely credited for popularizing the idea of “15 minutes of fame” when he wrote, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” (A photographer has long claimed Andy stole his idea for that phrase, which, if you’ve read anything on Andy, seems plausible.)
When reality TV exploded, people thought that the future had come. Really, reality TV has nothing on the reach of social media. You can become a ‘star’ with Wifi and a smart phone, who needs to move to LA and audition to be on camera?
Would Andy have appreciated Instagram? It seems that unless he drastically changed his artistic style, he would. In his day, he was often criticized for being too commercial and obsessed with celebrity – that wouldn’t be a problem today.
There is something very pop art about Instagram, but now the subject and artist are one in the selfie. It’s also an excellent study in image control, who celebrities think they are, and who they want us to think they are. There’ve been a lot of think pieces devoted to what drives us to photograph ourselves, but it’s impossible to answer that definitively. At worst, selfies are a sign of rampant narcissism and our obsession with creating a contrived and filtered façade; at best, it’s self-expression without boundaries or outside manipulation. (Most likely, it’s just run-of-the-mill and harmless asshole behavior, like hogging the mirror in a public bathroom.)
But of course, some selfies are better than others. From researching my social media column, I’ve noticed something: actors do well on Twitter, and musicians and fashion designers and models do well on Instagram. I chalk it up to knowing one’s angles – maybe it’s from performing live or starring in music videos, but pop stars just seem more in tune with their physicality in photos. Same for models, obviously, and fashion designers tend to be aesthetically gifted.
For the covers, Interview chose a very good mix of people: Miley has a pot head, dirty hippie image she plays up; Selena is the sultry lonely girl (minus the squad photos); Zayn is the brooding but sensitive guy; JLo is the humble sexpot; and Victoria is about fashion and family.
There’s also a cover for Madonna, and she’s majorly benefited from Instagram, the most visual form of social media. From the time she writhed around in a wedding dress, she’s been about image, and image control. Insta is the perfect medium for someone like her… really, what the f-ck is Madonna supposed to do with Facebook? Post apple pie recipes? No, Instagram is where she can feed her ego – look at me, bitch – and that constant gratification (not from the audience, but the camera) makes her seem younger than most pop stars in their 20s. When you have a minute today, scroll through Madonna’s feed – her energy and her passion for herself is unmatched. No one is in Madonna’s corner more than Madonna, and every selfie she posts is to show you how amazing she thinks she is.
As Warren Beatty said in 1991, “She doesn't want to live off-camera, much less talk. There's nothing to say off-camera. Why would you say something if it's off-camera? What point is there existing?” Now she gets to be the photographer, director, editor and star. They all do. We all do.
Selfies allow us to pick the version of ourselves we want to show, and when you add in a layer of celebrity, it’s not just about what they are showing us, but what they want us to see. The shots are blurry and imperfect and just the right amount of wrong to feel real. That intimacy can’t be replicated when you add in a photographer or proper lighting or glossy paper. The intimacy may be fake and calculated, but you can’t help but want to believe it’s real. And when dealing with celebrities, should we ask for anything more?