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Tavi Gevinson, New Face of Clinique, Talks Anti-Aging and Looking Like an Alien

Plus, the best beauty advice Julia Louis-Dreyfus ever gave her.
Tavi as Clinique's new ambassador. Photo: Clinique

Tavi as Clinique's new ambassador. Photo: Clinique

At 19, Tavi Gevinson has already had more titles and accolades than most people do by the time they retire. Fashion blogger. Editor in chief. Actress. TED Talk-er. She can now add "Clinique ambassador" to her multi-page resumé.

Clinique has tapped Gevinson, as well as as Hannah Bronfman and Margaret Zhang, as ambassadors for a new campaign targeting that most desirable of demographics, the millennials. Clinique is hoping to encourage a new generation to try the now-iconic three-step cleansing system by engaging with young women via its new campaign, called #FaceForward, with a call out to them to look towards the future. (You can watch a clip from the campaign at the bottom of this post.) 

I sat down with Gevinson in a hotel room in NYC a few weeks ago, and in person she is as warm, funny, frank and intelligent as you would expect. She was perfectly made up, with the exception of some old chipped and peeling nail polish, which just made her that much more charming. We talked about her experience with Clinique, her thoughts about aging, the future of Rookie and that time Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave her some anti-aging advice. 

Fashionista: What's your personal history with Clinique? Did your mom use the products?

Tavi Gevinson: My mom is a human who wakes up at 4:30 am and weaves tapestries. She would not ever use products of any kind, but when I was in high school I was once on a photo shoot where the makeup artist sent me home with the yellow [Dramatically Different Moisturizing] lotion and I started using it everyday. As I got more into doing a skin care routine, I started using the three-step program which actually sounds like an addiction recovery thing so...[laughs]

Before the campaign when I had moved here and was doing the play “This Is Our Youth,” I had to do my own makeup for it. It wasn’t stage makeup. They just wanted me to be a 19-year-old girl. I would kind of cake on the Chubby Stick and a lot of pink lip gloss on top and then I also did really chunky mascara. Then Clinique asked me to do the campaign and it felt really natural for me. [Ed. note: Gevinson Instagrammed a picture of said Chubby Stick right around the time Clinique was considering approaching her for the campaign, according to brand reps. They took that as a good sign she would say yes to the project.]

That play was set in the '80s. Was the '80s makeup hard?

I remember our costume designer showing me a photo of Debbie Harry as a reference, but our playwright was like, "I don’t want it to feel like a play about the '80s," so I didn’t get to get that creative, but I did have to tease my hair. It was always a deflated heap [by the end]. For the second act I had to wet it down like I had just taken a shower. And it was bad, every night.

At Rookie, you speak to young women your age. What’s your sense of what their skin care concerns are?

I get the sense that some just want to take care of acne and look natural and feel comfortable, and we also have a lot of readers who get a lot more creative and really respond to the DIYs we have that are like, "Put flower petals around your eyes!" There’s a bit of both. But I think that it’s pretty universal that acne is bad. I go in phases with how experimental I get with makeup, but no matter what, I just want my skin to be good. 

Have you had issues with acne?

Yes, I break out when I’m stressed, but now having a routine prevents that. Now I can suppress it more.

When you have to wear heavy makeup for a shoot or a movie, how d0 you deal with it? 

I just made sure I got it all off at the end of the night. I used to be really lazy about it and that’s why I would break out. Now it’s like not brushing my teeth or not taking out my contacts. I feel like I’m going to sleep in a mask or something. That is one thing my mom was very adamant about — face washing. And I didn’t realize that it was important for eyelashes too. I was like, 'It’s not my skin,' and my friend was like, 'You could get an eye infection.' So for a few minutes every night I look like Taylor Swift in the "Blank Space" video.

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Are you worried about aging at all?

I'm more worried about anti-aging than I am about aging. I don’t really want to be someone who — and I know it’s easy to say when you’re younger and older women tell me I’ll feel differently — but I just really don’t want to be someone who’s afraid of aging because you can’t do anything about it unless you die. So  you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s not that I’m afraid of being old. I’m afraid of being someone who’s like, "Remember when I was young?” That’s, like, hell to me. I feel like I’ve seen enough cake faces in real life. I have seen [certain celebrities'] faces in the flesh, and it’s not flesh. I'm more scared of becoming that than being like, "Hello, yes, I am an older person so I have wrinkles."

Tavi backstage at her Clinique shoot. Photo: Clinique 

Tavi backstage at her Clinique shoot. Photo: Clinique 

Who are some female celebrities you think are doing the aging thing well?

Meryl Streep seems so obviously graceful and poised. She seems to have aged gracefully. Cate Blanchett? She is not an older woman, but most actresses get an expiration date of very young so in that sense Cate Blanchett is older. Nothing gives me the heebie-jeebies more than someone fighting [aging]. It’s so transparent, it looks bad and it makes me sad. And it’s easy for me to say because I’m 19, but I’m really conscious of that. And also really aware that I’m in a certain industry where that is a thing.

I've read some studies that millennials aren't wearing sunscreen. Do you use it?

When I did [the movie] "Enough Said," Julia Louis-Dreyfus told me, “Wear sunscreen, that’s the only thing.” This other girl was saying someone told her not to cross your legs because it is bad for your skin somehow or whatever. Julia was like, “Cross your fucking legs, but wear sunscreen!”

So do you?

Yeah, I want to stay pale. I feel comfortable as an alien. I feel like I look weird when I get sun,  so I do wear sunscreen. I hope people are taking care of themselves and preventing skin cancer.

What's coming up for you in the next year?

"Rookie Yearbook 4" comes out in October so that’s really what I’m working on everyday right now and it’s really fun. Something that’s really lovely about this one is that, aside from the print exclusives, we had the most awesome people that we’ve ever had. I probably shouldn’t say who yet. I like how optimistic it is about growing up and maybe that’s just because it’s how I feel, too.

Any chance you'll be pivoting Rookie the way you did with Style Rookie and launching a different kind of magazine or website?

No, because it’s so outside of myself. Style Rookie was just about me talking about whatever I liked, but we have so many writers and contributors and readers who are not looking for something that’s just about my life. I started Rookie because it’s what I needed. It feels more sisterly. It feels good to be focusing on things outside of what you know and what your experience is.

Now please watch Gevinson in this completely adorable video: