First things first: You can see in the subscribers’ cover here (scroll down) that the armpits on this dress have been SUPER photoshopped for this cover, and as soon as you notice that, it’s all you can see. Once The Powers That Be chose their favorite close-up shot of Selena’s face, I suspect the dress was gaping, and felt like too much pit, and then someone lost their mind trying to pretend this dress allows for no pit gap at all. In reality, I suspect we wouldn’t have even noticed. After all, Selena Gomez did a Vogue cover that was ALL PIT last year, and it was great. But beyond PitGate 2018: This cover is just kinda generic. Selena is lovely, but that dress — Coach, to whom she is contracted — doesn’t really pop. The inside photos are much better, and also make it clear that someone also Photoshopped out the dark roots of her hair, for reasons I don’t understand. Her hair is cool as it is; it certainly feels more editorial than this is, and what is Harper’s Bazaar if not at least somewhat editorial?
The interview is conducted by Katharine Langford, the star of the Gomez-produced 13 Reasons Why. Heather and I are both on record as feeling that celebrity interviews conducted by celebrities are rarely a very good idea — because interviewing is a difficult job and not one that just anyone can do with satisfactory results, and also because, jeez, it’s hard enough out there for journalists right now, please stop giving their jobs to actors. Katharine Langford is a VERY good actress, but she’s not a seasoned celebrity interviewer and THAT IS OKAY NOT EVERYONE CAN BE EVERYTHING and maybe a cover interview for a major glossy magazine needs to be in more experienced hands? For example:
KL: You’re the undisputed queen of Insta, of course. How do you draw the line between the public and the private Selena?
SG: I have a complex relationship with Instagram, to say the least. It has given me a voice amid all the noise of people trying to narrate my life for me and allows me to say, “Hey, I’m gonna post this, and this is gonna take care of the 1,200 stories that people think are interesting but actually aren’t, and aren’t even true.” So it empowers me in that way because it’s my words and my voice and my truth. The only thing that worries me is how much value people our age place on social media. It’s an incredible platform, but in a lot of ways it’s given young people, myself included, a false representation of what’s important. So, yeah, it’s a complex relationship. Probably one of my most difficult relationships.
That’s a really juicy answer. The follow-up:
KL: What is a typical Saturday night for you?
Honestly, this is not me criticizing Langford as much as it is me bemoaning that this sort of thing keeps happening. This is not her job, and of course when she was approached to do this, she said yes. The questions she asked weren’t bad; she is not dumb. But interviewing people is REALLY HARD. (I am personally pretty bad at it, which is unfortunate for me given my chosen profession.) It takes practice; people do it for years, sometimes, before they’re any good at it. It’s just that Selena is actually really quite open and thoughtful in her answers, and I think that in more seasoned hands, this could have been a great profile. For example, this is a really good bit from her:
KL: What do you think distinguishes our generation from the ones that came before?
SG: Mainly I think it’s the freedom to express ourselves and be who we are in an unapologetic way. Thanks to the Internet, no matter who you are, you know you’re not alone. Maybe a young boy or girl growing up in the South or wherever is confused and terrified to be who they are because they don’t think it’s right. Now they can see all around them people living free of pain, of hidden agendas, of secrets. I think secrets kill people, I really do. You end up trying to cover up so much of who you are for the sake of your family or whoever, and you think you’re bad for being different. So it’s powerful to see our generation breaking those boundaries and encouraging other people to do the same. There’s a sense of freedom that past generations weren’t able to have.
But again, there is no follow-up question at all. It sort of makes me want to scream. “Secrets kill people” is a statement that you take and delve into more deeply, but instead this whole interview reads like it was done over email, and maybe it was. Regardless, I truly don’t know why women’s magazines keep doing this. Carvell Wallace’s interview of Mahershala Ali on GQ last year was fantastic; Caity Weaver’s profile of The Rock for Esquire was likewise tremendous. A good celebrity profile is great for a magazine. People will read it and share it and talk about it, and they will take your publication more seriously, which is a hill that so-called “women’s magazines” are always struggling to climb. But so, so often, those so-called “women’s magazines” fall back on the conceit of having one celebrity woman interview another celebrity woman and it rarely turns into a real piece of writing, and I honestly do not know why we’re still doing this in 2018. Glenda Bailey is the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar and she is a very smart woman; her Marie Claire was full of beautifully reported news pieces, for one thing. Surely she trusts that Harper’s readers would be interested in a properly-written profile by a professional writer? Do they just not want to pay for it? Do they think that adding someone from 13 Reasons Why to the Selena Gomez stew is going to bring in the younger demo? (Because, honestly, I think if you’re into Selena, you’re into Selena, and Katharine Langford probably isn’t going to push you over the ledge into spending the $6. It’s not like asking Selena Gomez to interview Meryl Streep, in the hopes that Selena will bring in a younger reader.) I’m honestly at a loss anymore. And, listen, I’m sure having Katharine Langford interview Selena Gomez makes the PR people at Netflix very happy, and it probably made both of those women happy enough, but I don’t know if it did anything for Harper’s Bazaar and ultimately, that’s bad for business, isn’t it? Just as I’m sure Selena wearing Coach on the cover made the people at Coach happy, and made her some money, but, damn, is it boring in the long run. I just want to know: Is EVERYTHING just going to be an endless cycle of PR favors and Dressing By Contract forevermore? Because honestly, it’s boring as hell.