Last year, after Jennifer Lawrence interviewed Emma Stone for ELLE and Beyoncé interviewed herself for Vogue, Jon Caramanica asked in The New York Times whether or not the celebrity profile was dead. And then in November Allison P Davis took up the mantle with her outstanding piece on Lena Dunham and the celebrity profile made a comeback.
Taylor Swift’s essay for American ELLE this month, released yesterday, might resurrect the debate – and give it another dimension: the rise of the celebrity self-profile. Which is not the same as Beyoncé answering her own questions or having someone transcribe her thoughts into an article. Taylor’s article about Taylor was, in some ways, as satisfying as a classic Vanity Fair celebrity profile because she tapped into what people love about a classic celebrity profile: it has to be dishy, it has to tease, allowing space for the gossipy questions without overindulging, not because the inclination isn’t there but because you don’t want to give everything away at once. She’s really, really good at this. And because she’s so good at it, she makes you forget temporarily that she’s left no room to be challenged and/or countered which, obviously, should exist in a proper conversation that forms the basis of a profile.
Is this how celebrities will start circumventing the celebrity profile? By self-profiling? Well, I’m not sure everyone can do it. I’m not sure we want them to do it. I don’t know if we want to open that door because we might not be able to contain what ends up coming out of it. Like more Sean Penns. Sean Penn thinks he can write. And now it won’t stop, he keeps writing – books, articles, maybe poetry will come next. He already thought he redefined journalism with his El Chapo interview, can you imagine what he’d do to the sonnet? As Fran Lebowitz said in Public Speaking, "There are too many books, the books are terrible, and it's because you have been taught to have self-esteem."
Is that what we’ll say one day about the celebrity self-profile? Back in January, Broad City’s Paul W Downs wrote a parody celebrity profile about himself for Playboy, exposing the most derivative qualities of the format. How long before we get a parody of the celebrity self-profile? I actually can’t wait to read that.
Yours in gossip,