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How The Fug Girls Went From Working in Reality TV to Running a Beloved Red Carpet Recap Website

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan share how they've put nearly two decades of experience at 'Go Fug Yourself' — and a handful of successful novels to boot — under their belts.
Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself.

Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan of Go Fug Yourself.

In our long-running series "How I'm Making It," we talk to people making a living in the fashion and beauty industries about how they broke in and found success.

Where once the world of red carpet critique was ruled by Joan Rivers and her acid tongue, these days, it's the internet that reigns supreme. From YouTubers to bloggers to regular ol' Twitter users, celebrities no longer hold their breath waiting for the "Who Wore It Best" pages to publish in the weekly tabloids: They're getting real-time feedback from the second they step foot in front of the cameras. But back in 2004, Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan didn't know they were paving the way for this brand-new forum for discourse when they launched the blog Go Fug Yourself. They were just indulging themselves with an inside joke.

"We would refer to it as the equivalent of sitting around with your girlfriends reading Us Weekly and being like, 'What in the hell is that? This woman has a clothing budget and that's the best they could come up with?,'" Cocks says. "That sense of a layperson's perspective on celebrity styling."

"We really did just start it as something amusing to do while we were at our day jobs," Morgan adds.

Said day jobs involved working as story producers in reality TV, for shows like "America's Next Top Model" and "Growing Up Gotti," and freelance writing for the site Television Without Pity, where they first crossed digital paths. Morgan was a fan of Cocks's writing and invited her out to drinks to meet IRL — and the rest, as they say, is history.

"I just thought, 'I don't know anybody in LA, and she seems nice and funny and normal. It's a minimum risk. I'm pretty sure she's not going to turn out to be a serial killer and murder me,'" Cocks says. "It's a beautiful love story — thank you, internet."

With Go Fug Yourself, Cocks and Morgan opened the door to a new generation of red carpet criticism. Over the course of nearly two decades, they've evolved their tone and writing style while staying true to that original purpose: making it feel like a place where you could talk about fashion with friends. Undoubtedly, that's what led the site to accumulate its very own group of loyal commenters. 

I myself have been a fan of The Fug Girls for well over a decade now, and, after reading an interview with the duo in Amy Odell's newsletter, I was eager to chat with them about building one of the internet's most beloved red carpet recap sites. From struggling to get a subscription to image services to writing multiple successful novels together even as they lived in different countries (Cocks now lives in Canada while Morgan holds down the fort on the West Coast) to scrambling for celeb content in the age of Covid-19, we got into it all during our phone conversation. Read on.

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Would you say that the two of you were interested in fashion, or was it more an interest in the fashion aspect of Hollywood and pop culture?

Heather: I, as a person, had never been that plugged into fashion, which I feel like you can tell — I've never been great at shopping for myself, and a lot of the trends that I try I'm like, 'Yeah, that doesn't make sense for me.' I've never really paid a lot of attention to that, and in the end, that's part of what my impetus was with this. It was a lot of, 'I don't need to hear somebody telling me how directional this outfit is and how aspirational and how cerebral this approach to fashion is.' We were just having fun with it from that perspective: 'We're going to give you the straight truth, and the straight truth is that we have absolutely no idea what this person's doing or where you even buy that, or where you even find that article of clothing, and why you would look for it.'

Jessica: I was interested in fashion, but not in a super intense way. I had a Vogue subscription, and I like to read fashion magazines, but I'm more interested in the pop culture aspect of how celebrities decide what they're going to wear in public, to be completely straightforward about it. I find the celebrity machine to be really fascinating, and fashion is a big business and a big part of that. From sort of an anthropological standpoint, I think it's really interesting how people in the public eye choose to present themselves. 

Heather: She just hit on what I think has made it continually fun, which is that when we started GFY, it was 2004, and the business of styling almost certainly existed, but it was very much more behind the veil. There was a period where Rachel Zoe was incredibly famous for being a celebrity stylist, and she was the only one anyone could name, or one of very few; the others, you might see a name in a magazine and be like, 'Oh, Jessica Paster, I know that name.' Now, they're personalities of their own, and some of them are doing product deals of their own. A lot of them have a whole part of their business that's just based on who they are and not necessarily who they style.

Styling has grown so much, and with that has come this increased fascination in the why's. I think people were worried, as styling evolves, that fashion was going to get more boring, because everything on the red carpet is less spontaneous now — or so it feels. But the flip side of that is: Maybe now there's more of an articulated statement happening here, and what is that? What can we read into that? There's still something fun to analyze there. It's just a different thing to analyze.

Tell me a little bit about the inside joke. What made you want to start working together?

Jessica: I cannot stress enough how dumb this is and also how unintentional it was. We were at the Beverly Center one day, both four iced coffees deep — so very caffeinated — and there were all these terribly styled movie posters. We were cracking on them, then we started joking that maybe we're these old ladies and this is the trend, that you're supposed to look fugly and we don't get it. This is 2004, back in the day when people started blogs in a way that doesn't really happen anymore. We didn't really think that many people would read it. We did have some readers from our recaps at Television Without Pity, so we knew maybe some people would look at it, but it was never a grand plan to it be our jobs, ever.

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How did you ultimately build that readership, pre-social media?

Heather: We got lucky because we were already on the internet. We already were writing for Television Without Pity; we knew writers on that website, and many of them had well-read blogs. That was a really supportive group of people that threw us links without us even asking because we were each other's online social sphere, professionally. There was a message board where all the recappers could chit-chat with each other. If we all had a new project or whatever, people would read it, and occasionally you'd get some of them linking to something we'd written in one of their recaps. That did a lot for us. Defamer was a big deal back then, and Defamer was always really great at scouring the internet for stuff, so we got a lot of links from Defamer. Little by little, that's how we built up. We were lucky that we knew people who were generous, and we didn't have to go around and do a lot of asking — and I'm grateful for that, because I don't know how smooth either one of us would've been at that if we needed to.

Jessica: To be totally frank, I think we were incredibly fortunate that we started the blog when we did. There wasn't a lot of content on the internet at that point that was just celebrity fashion. Nowadays, there's so much to read, I think it would be very difficult to build a community via a website. I'm sure it's all on TikTok or Instagram or something right now.

Heather: Right — it's the same principle, though, where instead of throwing each other links, the people in visual forms of social media are tagging each other and getting tagged back, and all that stuff creates that feedback loop. We were in the early version of that.

How were you getting access to images at this time? 

Heather: 2004 really was the wild west. When we started, we would just go on Getty Images and grab an image; you couldn't fully download a clean image, but you could save the watermarked version to your desktop. We would post once or twice a day and thought, 'It's a watermark image, so it's clearly getting credited.' After a couple months, Getty Images basically was like, 'No.' They just didn't want to engage with our blog, because I don't think Getty was really in the business of blogs, and they assumed all blogs weren't professional media outlets. 

So we found a website called Daily Celeb. I think they were charging us like $10 an image; whatever it was for the amount that we posted at the time — which was not much — that seemed really reasonable. As the website grew in popularity, the Wall Street Journal approached us and a reporter there wanted to talk about the rise of the blog. Part of what came up was the photo rights issue; we were like, 'Yeah, we can't get anybody to work with us.' That story ran on the print page of the Wall Street Journal, and Getty Images contacted us maybe a week later, like, 'Well, we could work with you guys,' because being in the Wall Street Journal had given us some legitimacy that apparently we were missing. That was a stroke of luck — always do the interviews, guys.

Who was in the same space as you? And how was that evolving as time went on?

Jessica: I was paying more attention to celebrity blogs, pop culture blogs. Obviously, this is when Perez Hilton was called Page 666, before Page Six told him to cut it out. We started about the same time as he did.

Heather: And Pink is the New Blog. 

Jessica: I don't remember when Lainey [Gossip] started, but I think it was around then. Heather and I were both working in reality TV and were very busy, and I was also still recapping for TWOP, so I wasn't even really spending that much time reading other blogs. I was paying less attention to fashion blogs than I was to celebrity gossip stuff. A few years after that, New York magazine sent us to fashion week, so as their family of blogs really started to grow, I read a lot of New York mag as well.

Heather: And then obviously, Tom and Lorenzo; when they were Project Rungay, they transitioned into being a full-fledged fashion blog. They call us their fairy blog mothers, which is really funny, but we were only really a couple years ahead of them. 

When we started, it was a lot of just E!. They would have the red carpet slideshow, and they had the live on the red carpet with Joan and Melissa. Other than that, there'd be the odd slideshow here and there, but it wasn't the industry it's become. We got lucky to get in when we did to something that was really just starting to take off.

Tracee Ellis Ross Valentino Emmys

At what point did you realize you could do it full-time and stop the reality TV gig? 

Jessica: It certainly helped us so much that we were writing for New York magazine because that gave us a lot of cred. In terms of monetization, Heather and I have a friend whose name is Jason Toney — he's very smart and does this sort of thing for a living. He said it much more gently than this, but was basically like, 'You guys are idiots. Why don't you run ads?' So we started running Blog Ads.

Heather: It was literally a company called Blog Ads, which was everywhere. All of the sites of that era used it. It literally just ran along your sidebar; you could click on a link and it would be like, 'How big of ad would you like to buy on this website? Which size? Which height? Here are the prices.' It made it really easy. 

Jessica: Our line used to be, 'It's more than beer money, less than rent,' which was accurate at the time. But we started getting more popular around 2006, and we had a blog book deal. We had to write this book based on the blog and we realized, 'Oh, we cannot do this and run the website and go to our day jobs at the same time.' Working in reality TV, the hours are very long. It's pretty demanding in terms of your time and attention, and it's also very unpredictable as to how much time you're going to be at the office. Sometimes, you don't have anything to do, and then sometimes, you get notes back from the network and you're going to be there for 20 hours. 

We were fortunate enough to both be working contract gigs. It was not unusual to take time off and then be able to go back to getting another gig on another show. We knew that if things totally went to hell, we were not leaving our TV career forever. It would be very normal for us to pop back six months later and be like, 'Hey, I need a job,' and someone would probably be able to hire us. We were in a very fortunate situation where the blog was making some money, we got some money from our publisher and we were in a career space where taking some time off to do something that was a personal project wasn't that weird.

How do you think the site has changed, and how have you seen the industry change around it?

Heather: Obviously, the thing that anyone who's written on the internet for as long as we have will tell you is that we've grown up. When we were first starting out in 2004, that was an era where people were pretty much saying whatever the hell they wanted on the internet, and nobody was really thinking about what that meant or what the consequences of that would be or whether you were a jerk or not. We were definitely not as kind back then as we hope to be now. For us, it was the evolution of understanding that being kind doesn't mean being a sycophant. You can still have an opinion about a dress or a show, and do it in a way that isn't taking a personal jab. We always tried to do that, but I think back then everybody was a little bit lazier about it, and you learn as you go where you need to kind of rein yourself in. 

Some of those lessons we learned quickly, some took longer to learn. Sometimes, it's really hard to divorce yourself from something you're writing that people really respond to, and then you're like, 'Oh, I really should've stopped writing that a couple years ago. That's not a very funny joke.' We're always trying to continue to evolve in that way, where it's like: We still want to be funny and be place people can come to laugh at something when there's nothing else funny happening in their lives, but we're not out to be unkind. We're really just talking about the fashion and trying to have fun with that and the images and what all of it means together. 

It's a good creative challenge, to figure out ways to do that, trying to remain self-analytical every day, as opposed to being like, 'Nope, we've figured it out. We're on cruise control now.' It's always wanting to be like, 'No, there's always more we can learn. There's always going to be another fuck-up that I'm going to make, and I need to be on lookout for those so that when I see them, I can fix and learn from that and be maybe a little bit swifter in preventing the next one.' But if I'm the same person on the internet at 44 that I was at 26, then I'm missing something.

If I wrote something and it pissed people off, I felt awful for them, and I felt awful for Jessica because I was like, 'We don't copy edit each other's work. And we trust each other.' That also helps keep you honest, in terms of like, 'I want to do right by the people who read our site, and I want to do right by my business partner who has trusted me with half of this company and is one of my best friends in the universe.' 

Having an audience is weird. We never liked to think about having readers because we didn't want it to go to our heads or anything like that. But if you don't ever think about that, you're not taking on these larger issues of responsibility. That's always a tightrope that we've sometimes walked better than others: Needing to be responsible to your readers and to your business and to yourselves and to each other are things that we've learned over the years that are important to keep in mind. 

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What does the day-to-day of GFY look like for you?

Jessica: During the beginning of the year it's all hands on deck: fashion week, awards season, crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy — this is obviously in normal times, not Covid times, when it's a nightmare to try to find anybody having left the house. Then you get your little lull, and then you get into Cannes and Venice Film Festival. In August, nothing happens, then it swoops up again in terms of just the rhythm of stuff that we have to cover: There's a lot of celebrities leaving the house, big awards shows, tentpole movies, stuff like that. Then there are times where nothing's happening and you're like, 'What am I going to write about?'

In terms of literal day-to-day stuff, we've never worked in the same room together. We always work at home. What I do is: I go on Getty or Shutterstock — two big image providers — and look and see who went out wearing something and what happened that's kind of interesting for us to talk about. We don't really run it past each other. As Heather mentioned, we do our own thing and keep an eye on the CMS and see what the other person is doing. 

We don't work very much in advance, obviously, because most of what we're doing is stuff that happened the night prior. We can do some stuff in advance, and I wish I was on top of my business to-do list more often. Our editorial calendar could be considerably more organized, but it's not. We're very like, 'Well what happened last night? Let's go.' Some of it we do the night before, so we don't have to get up super early, but we're very much at the whims of Hollywood's calendar.

Heather: It's funny because when Covid hit, all of these skills we'd already honed came into play, like, 'We're used to working from home. We're used to having to budget our day.' We often work weird hours, but we also are used to trusting each other. like, 'Yes, I'll get my part of the post written for tomorrow. She'll get her part of the post written for tomorrow. It's going to be fine.' Structuring a day of work-from-home was something we had a lot of practice doing, so when the events went away, we were already used to digging around. There was less of a learning curve for us.

Lupita Nyong’o attends The 2021 Met Gala

Jessica: However, having everything shut off was another challenge. So much of our content depended on like, 'Oh, Lupita [Nyong'o] wore this amazing dress last night. Let's look at eight pictures of it.' To not have anyone leave the house was extremely challenging to keep the business up and running. We really did depend on a lot of archival stuff. At the beginning of the pandemic, I remember saying to someone, 'I'm sure we can just run archival stuff for three weeks. It'll be fine.' Fast-forward three years later.

Heather: For example, May 2020, when there was no Met Gala, we covered every stinking Met Gala in history. I thought, 'It's a good thing we're not going to need to save any of these for next year.' Then the next year rolled around, and I was like, 'Oh, it's May, and the Met Gala's not until September.' Things were at least getting better by then, but we burned a lot of the archival content in the course of a very busy year thinking we might not need it again, and now we're coming up on this month of January where stuff's getting postponed and we're like, 'Oh God, we already did flashback upon flashback of this thing. Now what am I going to do?'

If nothing else, it's a good mental exercise for us, because when you're relying on fresh news and fresh content, it's found content that makes it a little bit easier for you. It's a different creative muscle, to be like, 'Where should I reach for a story idea? What can I do?' And it's a muscle that I think had gotten a little loose for us, so hopefully that'll help us with going forward, even when events come back. As it turns out, people like reading about different kinds of stuff, people like to be reminded of the crazy shit we wore in the nineties, and that interest isn't going to go away just because the Grammys are back. We tried to make the best of a really crappy situation, and in the end, hopefully, it will make us better website purveyors.

Jessica: I will say, obviously, I hate the reason we had to do it, but we've covered a lot of old movie premieres, and they're really fun to look at. On one level, you look at people and think, 'Oh my God, the early 2000s, why were we putting large belts over nothing?' But it's also fun to look at big premieres from the nineties and how so many people just rolled up to them in whatever they happened to be wearing. There's not really any styling happening at all. Luckily, we do have a hundred years of premieres in our shared past, and I hope we don't have to cover every single one of them. 

Where did the idea come from to work on your novels together?

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Heather: I can speak for Jessica when I say she's a very avid reader — we both are, but she's particularly voracious. I love writing, but never really trusted my creative instincts when it came to plotting or anything like that. But our book agent at the time was like, 'What I'm hearing from some people in publishing who are familiar with your website and have read some of the parody dialogues that you've done on GFY is that they'd read a book proposal by you if you ever want to actually write fiction, because you can imitate dialogue and  have a fun sensibility.' And Jess and I turned to each other and were like, 'Well, that's scary as hell, but it would be fun.'

We've talked a lot about the ways that we've flown by the seat of our pants or been a little bit too ignorant to have had a proper business plan or have done market research or anything like that. In some ways, I think that's a detriment and you shouldn't do that, but there's a happy medium between that and having a rigid plan. Let's sit down and talk about why, even if it's something we haven't done or I never thought I could do, maybe we can.

That's what happened with us for books. At the time, it was chiefly YA. YA was having a big surge, but also when we first started the website, so many of our references were Sweet Valley High and "Beverly Hills 90210" — all that stuff that feels very historically and iconically YA. We sat down and tried to brainstorm some book ideas together, and it took a while to come up with a good one or one that we were really excited to write. But we did and we sold it. Spoiled came out in 2011.

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By then, we'd been writing for New York mag since 2006, and we'd done some other freelance pieces, always under a joint byline. We had had several years of practice of writing together and understanding how to fuse our sentences into one cohesive piece that sounded like it was written by one person, that didn't feel like you were flipping narrators from sentence to sentence. We had also had some practice in editing each other and understanding that the goal is a good piece that makes people want to read more pieces by us, not a piece where 75% of the words came from me and 25% came from her... So by the time we actually sat down to try to write a book together, that growing pain was out of the way. 

What's the process of writing these novels like, and how do you balance that with running GFY?

Jessica: I think the answer is, 'Not well,' I have to be honest. When we wrote The Royal We which is definitely our most successful novel, that came out in 2015 — it's very long and it required a lot of work and a lot of research. Basically, we were working insane hours, and I would say I quasi-ruined my health. I don't advise that particularly. I mean, I'm fine, but it was really bad for me.

Heather: We were literally texting each other like, 'Hang on, I need to go change my compression socks before we keep going.' That's how sexy that time in our life was.

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Jessica: We're very proud of it. I'm very proud of it . I think it turned out well. I do remember when we finished it, thinking to myself, 'If this doesn't do well, I'm going to be pretty upset,' because it was a lot of work. A lot of people work really hard on stuff that's great and, for whatever reason, maybe doesn't take off — that doesn't mean that the work they did wasn't great or useful or important or whatever, but at the same time, you do think, 'Shoot, I hope people like this because I worked on it for a long time.'

All that aside, logistically, the way we do it is: We write a very detailed outline — we're not married to it, it does evolve over the course of writing the book, but we have to have an outline because we split up the writing. You've got to know where you're going, because otherwise, with two people writing, it would just become totally out of control. We have to have the same destination, essentially. Then, we would basically just trade off... I'd write the first chapter until I got exhausted, then I would send it over to Heather. Heather would edit through it, write through it, change it, do whatever she needs to do to it. She'll write the next chapter, send it back to me, and I repeat the process. It goes on and on and on until we're done. Basically, we've both written every page of the book. 

When we were in really hardcore deadline situations, it would be like, 'I'm going to work on the book, Heather's going to write the whole website.' 

Heather: It's a luxury, but also it was kind of a slog at times, because you're like, 'I don't have any more words left for our fake Royal family. Do I have any words left for the premiere of this Blake Lively movie?' The beauty of it is that there's no guilt, because when you put your book down to work on something else, someone else is picking your book up. It's still moving forward. There's none of that sense of like, 'Oh my God, my project is stagnating. It's waiting for me.'

It's cool, because sometimes we'd each have it for as long as three weeks, just to really go through the chapters that we'd already done and then add something. That gives you a really wonderful mental break from the project. By the time you get it back, you're ready, you get to read it and it's like reading something by your favorite writer, like, 'Oh, that's really funny turn of phrase,' or, 'I love that she took that there,' or, 'I didn't think of putting a scene there. That's a great idea.' It makes you excited to jump back in and add your own stuff and tweak and move and add another chapter. 

For whatever reason, with the two YA books, we were actually able to outline it and do more of like, 'I'll take this chapter, you take that chapter, and whoever finishes first, send it to the other one and we'll put them together.' That somehow worked better. But with The Royal We and The Heir Affair, our outlines were so ambitious or sometimes just not right, and we would learn that as we went. We couldn't just split it by chapter.

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With The Heir Affair in particular, there was confrontations we thought we could put off for the middle of the book, and as we started writing, we were like, 'No. There's no way these people would wait to have that argument. That's going to all come out in the first chunk, and then we're going to have to figure out another way to deal with the fallout.' I wish the answer wasn't so convoluted and I wish the process wasn't so convoluted, but it's worked for us. We get better and better about having those kinds of creative discussions with each other.

I'm not confident in my plotting skills or any of that, so it's been good for me to have someone I can always bounce ideas off of, who always knows what and where the book is. I can just text Jessica and be like, 'I'm working on act two. And you know the thing with X? It should happen Y.' It's really lovely to have a creative shorthand with somebody. Part of it is that we're just well matched as a pair, and so we both care about that kind of stuff. It's not like I'm sitting here banging the drum for less word repetition and she's going, 'I like word repetition.' It's really like our weird interests are the same. 

Jessica: I think every writer does this in their own head, but one of the reasons that hopefully the books do read as though they're written by one person is because Heather and I have discussed every single word that is in the book, which is crazy, but that's how we get it.

Getting back to the site, I remember the whole kerfuffle with Olivia Munn and was curious what you feel people commonly misunderstand either about your site or the nature of what you do.

Heather: I would say one thing that often comes up — and especially it's come up during the pandemic or during natural disasters or attempted government coups and whatnot — is, 'There's so much going on in the world. How can you care about something as shallow as this person's skirt?' On the one hand you think, 'Well, people are capable of carrying more than one thing at a time.' But we would all go crazy if all we were doing was doom-scrolling and focusing on what's wrong in the world, and not taking a second to sit back and scrub your brain and just let yourself laugh at something that ultimately isn't going to have a material effect on your day. It's okay to take that time for yourself as self-care. 

It certainly doesn't mean that we aren't serious people who aren't capable of caring about serious things, but there's also that whole discussion where people think fashion is silly, and it's not. We've seen it in election cycles, when the female candidates make very pointed choices with what they wear — all of that stuff is important. Stuff is chosen carefully. Michelle Obama wore a lot of American designers; that was on purpose. 

More and more, especially now that styling is a business, fashion is telling a story. It's art. People say, 'You're a woman. You shouldn't critique other women. You should support everything. Women should support women.' It's not taking away from anyone's achievements if I don't like the dress that they wore that day. Criticism is fair. Criticism isn't 'haterade' — those two are not synonymous. Now more than ever, when we're dealing with a society that's less and less media literate, and maybe less and less discriminating about where they're getting their news or who they're believing, I think developing and keeping and maintaining a critical brain is so important. People have to be able to work through their critical feelings and think, 'Well, why isn't that working for me?' People don't go after art critics for critiquing art. A woman can write a critical review of another woman's movie. I don't know why fashion in particular rubs people the wrong way. 

But I will say, we apply that to ourselves in reverse. If someone doesn't like something we're doing, okay, that's cool. Nothing is for everyone, nor should it be. If you're doing something that's for everyone, what are you doing? I just think it makes the world more interesting when everyone has different opinions, and that's always going to apply to us, too. 

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, U.S. President Joe Biden, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff, husband of U.S. Vice President Harris

Jessica: You're not coming to Go Fug Yourself for a trenchant analysis of the attempted coup on our government, nor should you. This isn't what this website is for. This website is for talking about stuff celebrities wore on the red carpet. If you're in the mood to do that, come on in. We'd love to have you.

What would you say to someone looking to follow in your footsteps and get into red carpet critique?

Jessica: I don't really know what to tell people. I think right now is a very difficult time in history to be a writer who's supporting herself with her writing. Heather and I were extremely fortunate in terms of the timing of this. The media landscape is obviously not what it was in 2004, 2006, when you could just be like, 'Start a blog and everything's going to be great. Don't quit your day job until it takes off.' 

I was the guest in a college class on Zoom, and they asked me about fashion journalism. I was like, 'I don't know if I could tell you to do it, in terms of making it financially. Everybody's got bills. Being a freelance celebrity fashion writer doesn't come with health insurance.' I know this sounds like a bummer, but it's a tough road to hoe. That doesn't mean it's impossible, but if you have a good day job, hang onto your day job until you're sure you can not have that day job.

It's so difficult out there right now. Freelance rates are very low. Media isn't making a lot of money. Websites aren't making a lot of money. It's just a different time than it was when we started out. I know that this is kind of a downer and not very helpful because I think you always want to be positive and be like, 'Follow your dreams, you're a great writer!' But I do think people need to have very open eyes about the fact that now is not a super good time to be making money as a journalist. I wish it were otherwise.

Heather: Or do it on the side. Have a side hustle. It feels like, in a weird way, it would be the same now as it was when we came up: It was the side project, and we made it our full-time project when it was clear it could sustain itself. The people that you want to be paid the most are the journalists and the teachers, and none of them are getting paid what they need to. It's tough.

But if you do it, make sure you have a point of view. We came in at a time when people weren't really poking holes in fashion so much. Everything was sort of like, 'Look at this glorious dress.' We were the bucket of cold water that was like, 'She looks like a parade float.' That was our point of view, and that was all we really needed at that time. It should be organic to who you are. It shouldn't be somebody trying to brainstorm a gimmick. 

There's probably a lot of room for that, especially as more and more celebrities are incorporating cultural influences into their dress in ways that we want to see meaningful analysis of, and that Jessica and I would not be able to do. Let's be real: We're two white ladies, and that's a limitation in terms of understanding some of the background that's coming into fashion these days. The more people that can explore that stuff, the better. Let's get different voices in there. So, think about what your perspective is and how you can hone that to enhance the conversation in a way where it isn't currently being enhanced.

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What's something you wish you'd known before starting out?

Jessica: One thing I wish I had known was I don't have to say everything I think. Sometimes I can just keep my mouth shut.

I love my job — I want to be clear about that — but when Heather and I decided to do this full-time, I didn't know that I would basically never have two days off in a row ever, ever again. I have taken time off, and Heather is very generous about telling me to take a vacation. When you work for yourself, there's no one really to do it but you. It's me and Heather. If we both get sick, well, I guess we're going to be working while we're sick, which is a trade-off that we've made for other personal freedoms and stuff that's worth it to me. But being your own boss has a lot of stuff you never know you're going to have to do until you're in the middle of it. 

Heather: There's also going to be a lot of people who don't understand that you're actually working, who are just like, 'I have the day off of my job today. Let's go day drinking.' And I'm like, 'I know I work from home, but I have stuff to do. I'm on the clock.' Knowing and accepting that there are going to be times when you have to defend what you do as an actual job, that it's not some silly little thing... It's like, 'No, it's a little bit more demanding than that.'

Like Jessica said, in our case, we've decided that the trade-offs are worth it. But that may not be true for everyone.Sometimes you just want to have a job that's 9:00 to 5:00 and you clock out, and that's fine. 

Jessica: Yes. You have a 401k? That sounds amazing. Stay.

Would you have done anything differently?

Heather: With anything, you wish you'd learned the lessons faster. You wish you'd done it perfectly from the get go. And I think it's natural to wish that, to be like, 'I wish we had always been our best version of ourselves. I wish we had never had to go through X, Y, and Z.' But going through the X, Y and Z is what makes you the better version of yourself, and it's just impossible to start at the top and stay there. So while the dream version is like, 'I just wish I'd been more sensitive from the jump,' or, 'I just wish I had never made those mistakes,' — I actually think that we're better now for having made those. That may sound hackneyed, but I do think that's true. It's good advice to not be afraid to make the mistakes, just as long as you're prepared to deal with whatever comes with them. But, boy, it is sure tempting to be like, 'I can think of like six posts that I wish had never seen the light of day.'

Jessica: And my advice is: Don't delete any of your emails. You're going to want some of them sometimes.

What are you most proud of achieving?

Jessica: I'm very proud of The Royal We. I'm also very proud of the blog; I think the fact that we have kept it going this long is like, pat on the back to us. 

Heather: Obviously, I'm really proud of the work that we've done together, and the books in particular. But I'm really proud of the community that we have on GFY. We got really lucky. I'm really pleased and proud that FUG Nation, the commenters on our website, make it worth reading the comments, because we've seen so many incredible relationships develop there. We've seen people come in and quietly admit to some trauma that they're going through, or even just a basic rough day that they're having, and others rally for them; they've come back and said, 'You guys really got me through,' and they're not talking about me and Jessica — they're talking about each other. People are there for each other. 

No one's encouraged to brag anymore about the good things that are happening in their life, so brag about yourself. Talk about how rad you are. Sometimes we do posts for bragging, and they're some of my favorite posts, because we'll have bajillions of comments from people talking about these incredible things that they're working on or things that have happened to them. We just have so many cool people from all over who read the website.

Jessica: One of our readers literally won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Heather: And it's luck, but they came here. I know we've had people come and go and get impatient with us and whatever, and that's totally fine, too. It's just wonderful that we have a community of people who will jump for each other when they need it. 

I specifically remember realizing how special it was when we did a book signing for Messy, which was our second YA book, in Boston, and were blessed with the wonderful turnout. The line was long and snaked through the bookstore. We had multiple instances of people coming through the line next to each other and being like, 'We didn't know each other, but now we have each other's numbers. We made friends in the line, and I think I've made a friend for life.'

The generosity of spirit and community that the comments have engendered is wonderful. I don't know if I can say that we did that, but I'm really proud that we run the website that's the home to that.

Jessica: I take mine back. That's my answer, too.

Heather: Both are valid. In the spirit of the brag post, we could totally be proud of our own work as well.

What is the future of GFY, do you think?

Jessica: I hope we could keep it kicking. We'll see what happens — I don't mean that to sound ominous or anything, but it's year three of a pandemic, and the website's 17 years old. I certainly think anyone who works at media sometimes looks out at the world is like, 'We'll see how long this train keeps running. I'm going to stay on it until it runs into the wall.' But we'll see where that wall is.

Heather: Photos don't get any cheaper, so it's just a question of how long we can sustain it with online ads, which are very precarious. But I hope it can keep going... I feel like there's a point in the fall where we're like, 'Okay, we're paid up for next year, so we know there's at least one more year of this thing.'

We're turning 18 in July, and if that's the year that GFY toddles off and goes to college, good luck out there, sweetheart. We raised you as best we could. But we really enjoy it. And what else am I qualified to do at this point? I don't know. 

The big joke between us is: At what point is it unseemly for Fug Girls to be our handle? And what would we change it to? Fug Crones — is that our next evolution? How many years will we have outlived the cuteness of Fug Girls as our moniker? 

But I hope we can keep going. May the red carpet last long and be jolly and fugly for centuries to come.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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