flashback friday: mary-kate the great

photographed by jason nocito

reread our interview with the it girl from 2008!

This week’s Flashback Friday time travels back to January 2008 and stars a much-missed Mary-Kate Olsen. Now engaged and with the first flagship opening of The Row, loads have changed in her life since she graced our cover. Take a walk down memory lane as she talks to writer Luke Crisell about collecting art, her fashion line, and sharing clothes with Ashley.

Night is falling, slowly, over Paris. There’s a chill in the air and the pale autumn light in the Tuileries Garden—which stretches between the Seine to the south and the rue de Rivoli to the north—is gradually ebbing away as evening encroaches upon the marble statues and pristine lawns that have inspired countless paintings, poems, and proclamations of love. The bruised sky ripples over the glass of the Louvre’s famous pyramids as I walk past them and under the monumental arches that separate the tranquility of the Gardens from the teeming streets. Running parallel is the rue St. Honore which, this evening, is bustling with a particularly well-heeled, international throng (the city is in the throes of fashion week). Here, marked by a dark, innocuous doorway is the Hotel Costes, where Mary-Kate Olsen has deigned we meet. And she’s early.

“Hey,” she mouths from across the room, where she’s already tucked up in a corner on a black, velvet couch. I take a seat opposite her, and she extends a fragile arm; her hand is small, like a child’s, and I end up grabbing half of her wrist, too. “Hello,” she says, her grip as gentle as if she were holding the stem of a flower, “I’m Mary-Kate.” Settled in for a conversation, and apparently entirely at home in the opulent surroundings, she strikes a match, lights a Marlboro Red, and inhales deeply, closing her eyes for the briefest of moments. “You don’t mind if I smoke do you?” Her voice is soft, husky. She looks around her—it’s just us in the room. “I love it here, it’s dark and kind of romantic but still comfortable. People come here and they don’t treat them any differently. Don’t get me wrong, I love people watching, but it’s not really about that here.” She lets out a quiet sigh. “It’s kind of like a fantasy.” A drag on her cigarette. “I love living in a fantasy world.”

Commissioned by Jacques Garcia in 1991, Hotel Costes was designed around the maxim “all things in excess.” On the ground floor, rooms are set up like cloisters around a central courtyard, from which dark passageways lead off in every direction; sultry, expensive-sounding house music is piped everywhere; the lighting is low, and every surface is laid with flickering candles; there are huge gilded mirrors on every wall; the air smells of the hotel’s signature scent—a woody concoction that mingles with cigarette smoke and is so heavy it seems to settle on top of the tasseled velvet furnishings. Mary-Kate, who tonight is dressed as uniquely as ever, fits into the scene perfectly.

She is wearing studded Manolo Blahnik heels (“they’re my sister’s—she buys the most amazing shoes and I try and sneak them when I can”), tight black Kova&T pants, and a diaphanous, long-sleeved, black American Apparel top over a pink YSL tank (“also my sister’s”).

Do you share a lot of clothes?

“Yes, but we have to ask. When our closets come together there’s usually some sort of ‘no, that’s mine, that’s yours’ and it becomes confusing. I’d actually rather save my money to buy a great piece of art or furniture.”

Her outfit is accessorized with a huge gladiator-style necklace (thick chunks of gold on a wide piece of red leather), a multitude of bracelets and rings, and some peacock feathers, which she has crafted into a headband that is wrapped around her long, newly blonde hair, and one huge earring (“it’s made from some peacock-feather trim we found while we were sourcing materials for [the Olsens’ high-end fashion line] The Row.”) As dissonant as it all sounds, she is pulling off the bohemian-Gothic-ornithological-eccentric-gypsy thing well. After all, whether she likes it or not, Mary-Kate Olsen, who turned 21 this past summer, is something of a fashion icon.

“I seriously have no idea why, but it’s one of the nicest compliments,” she says. “I didn’t look at a fashion magazine until two years ago. I didn’t know many designers. I think the first time I heard they were talking about my personal style I was a little weirded out…” she breaks off, chuckling to herself. “I didn’t even think twice about what I was putting on.”

Fashion is what has brought Mary-Kate to Paris this week. She is currently staying in an apartment with her twin sister, Ashley, and a couple of other girls, while they show The Row, a sophisticated collection encompassing tactile basics in super-soft fabrics, now in its fifth season. “A woman walked in the other day and said ‘Wow, you just need to grab 10 items, a pair of tennis shoes and a pair of heels and you can go away for two weeks,’” Mary-Kate recounts. “That’s really what it is, you bring your accessories and you can match the outfits—they could be dressy, they could be casual—but they feel good against your body, and you feel good in the clothing.” Mary-Kate and Ashley personally source materials, design, and oversee every aspect of the production of The Row. They are not quite as involved in their less expensive line, Elizabeth and James (which is named after their siblings). “It’s a license deal” says Mary-Kate with the slight resignation that perhaps comes when you have many, many licensing deals. “We don’t have to do the dirty work.” The cookbook for the most recent collection of The Row featured Lauren Hutton, who Mary-Kate rhapsodizes about. “She’s one of our idols…I gave her some of the clothing at the shoot,” she says, smiling.

Are there people who ask to borrow the pieces who you refuse?

A grin. “Sometimes, but I won’t tell you who.”

Are you going to many fashion shows this week?

“I don’t like going to shows, it’s so overwhelming. I want to be there to enjoy the clothes but don’t want to have to worry about the way I look or the chaos. Thank god for” I ask how the clothing lines fit into the evolution of the twins’ image. She pauses a moment and cocks her head before answering. “Growing up we really worked and did things to please our audience and other people,” she says. “I think that as you get older you really narrow down what makes you happy and what you want to be doing.”

As she talks, Mary-Kate plays with her hair, twisting it between her fingers and examining it closely. She chain smokes, but if she’s mid-sentence the unlit cigarette will bob up and down between her lips while she speaks, until there’s a pause long enough for her to light it. Every now and then she readjusts herself on the couch; delicate, feline movements whereby an arm or a leg will stretch out before being quickly recoiled. She’s a tiny creature; both graceful and seemingly so vulnerable you wonder how she makes it through a day when there are potential catastrophes such as cobblestones and puddles lurking around every corner. Her wide eyes, the greenish gray of antique marble, are melancholy. “It’s interesting,” she says, looking down at her feet and running her fingertips along the steel studs on her shoes, “if I’m not smiling it tells a whole other story than if I am. Usually, if I’m being chased by the paparazzi, I am probably not going to be smiling.”

“It’s like, how is our leaving an airport relevant to anything? How is it relevant that I am getting a coffee in the morning?” she continues. “Most people drink coffee in the morning! They don’t know me so they have to comment on my appearance. I wear weird things sometimes. I like to drink coffee. Neither of those things have anything to do with who I am. I am a bit kooky, I am a bit wacky, and that’s how my friends know me: It’s a happy craziness and they connect with that person and respect me for it.”

Do you often feel misrepresented by the people that interview you?

“All the time! I am! It’s like I’m looking at two different people. You look at yourself and you look at a story that’s written about you and you’re like ‘Who is that? That’s not me.” The people that know me, my friends, my family, the people I care and respect and the people who respect me—they know who I am.”

And this, of course, is one of the most curious things about both Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen: despite being famous ever since they crawled into the public eye at nine months old; starting a global media empire (Dualstar, which they took sole ownership of three years ago and has helped them amass a combined personal fortunes of an estimated 100 million dollars); and appearing the tabloids every week (usually walking quickly in the other direction), the public know precious little about them. “I think it’s odd that people want to take our picture or write a story about us,” Mary-Kate says, taking a sip from a tall glass of Diet Coke. “For me there are so many other people out there that are so interesting that they could focus on instead of our shoes and my Starbucks cups, which aren’t really that exciting. It baffles my mind.”

For all its disadvantages today, however, Mary-Kate says that growing up in the spotlight wasn’t detrimental to the sisters’ upbringing. Quite the opposite, in fact. “Because we were both born and raised in front of a camera, it was the only thing we knew,” she says. “It was normal for us. We were never thrown into it at an age where there would be a huge lifestyle change. We were surrounded by adults all the time, and I think that’s why my sister and I are really grounded and focused. We never took advantage of the situation. Nothing really ever changed; it was always the same. We were never affected by things…To be honest, my parents never used a video camera or put us on film or took many pictures when we were younger, so it’s almost a good thing that our childhood was documented. It’s still part of our memories.”

As they’ve grown up, so the sisters have moved unobtrusively away from the tween-oriented image that has sold so many dolls, trinkets, and DVDs. Both are currently pursuing individual acting projects. “I went and studied at an acting school for some credit for [NYU school] Gallatin,” Mary-Kate says, “and I fell in love with it again and realized that it was actually what I wanted to do.” She just finished a well-received turn as a born-again Christian pothead on Showtime’s Weeds (“They didn’t need a face and they didn’t need a name: It was about the work and the art and I did a good job and that’s why I got the role”), and filming a part in The Wackness, penned and directed by Jonathan Levine, in which she shares a passionate kiss with that most stalwart, and bald, of thespians, Sir Ben Kingsley. “Kissing Sir Ben Kingsley: How could that be bad?” she says, laughing.

Currently, Mary-Kate splits her time between her rented house in the Hollywood Hills and her apartment in New York. Ashley does the same, but they no longer live together (they were roommates while they attended NYU—both have yet to graduate). “Our relationship is stronger when we don’t live together, so we don’t live together,” Mary-Kate says, gently. “But we see each other every single day.”

“We’re separate people, and we have separate lives,” she continues. “We have a lot of the same friends, but I like my space and I like to be able to do what I want when I’m in my space. I think that because that is my comfort zone—when I’m home—I want to do things at my own speed.” She pauses for a moment, and takes a sip of her drink. “We’re very close, we’re extremely close. I completely understand her and she completely understands me. We know what we’re going through emotionally. We deal with so many things everyday and we’re really the only two people who understands how it feels. I’m lucky to be able to go through these emotions with her—to share it, and to know that I’m not alone.”

And while the media is quick to identify this stage of the twins’ lives as a period of metamorphosis, to hear Mary-Kate tell it, everyone’s a bit late. “I know people perceive this as a transition stage right now but in fact I would say that it was four or five years ago, when we were 16 or 17,” she says. “Even before that. Now people are seeing the finished product, rather than us working on it. Everyone’s a few years behind.”

What about you, personally?

“I think I’m always going through a transformation. I think now that I’m older I’m more aware of things that make me feel more complete as a person I’m trying to concentrate on those things as opposed to things that make me feel empty or not as complete, or that don’t represent who I am.”

Do you think people are starting to see a separation between the two of you?

“Yeah, I mean, my sister and I are so different,” she says. “I think that’s why we work so well together—it’s the Ying and the Yang. When she’s up, I’m down and when I’m down, she’s up. We’re always sort of balancing each other out and encouraging each other…” She trails off, wistfully, and exhales a long plume of smoke before continuing. “It’s like talking about friends. You’re different than your best friend; you’re two completely different people. Although we’re twins it really has nothing to do with how different we are.”

But you’re still very often referred to as “The Olsen Twins” or “Marykateandashley.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” she says, sighing. “It’s very interesting because we have been trying to teach the media that it’s ‘Mary-Kate’ and ‘Ashley’ Olsen since we were 12-years-old. I guess…I guess you just learn to accept it.

The truth is that the bubblegum-pink, neon-flecked marykateandashley thing doesn’t really fit either Olsen very comfortably anymore. Mary-Kate, for her part, comes across as wise, whimsical, and wonderfully Romantic, like her character in a Hugo or Pushkin novel: The kind of girl who would sooner wait for a handwritten letter to drop through her letterbox than check her Facebook account.

“Everything I do has to be visually appealing to me,” she says, brushing a peacock feather away from her cheek. “Like when my friend was going away recently I wanted to throw him a surprise party so I filled my entire back yard with Persian rugs and feather trees and I put little flowers, deep red roses—black magic roses—all over the grass. Then I put these trees up and birdcages and scattered vintage Playboys on the rugs. I had this huge buffet with these huge candlesticks.”

“This is what I meant when I said I walk around naked in heels in my house [as a recent widely quoted, magazine article revealed]. I mean yeah, sometimes, but I think it’s about kind of always being someone else; having fun and entertaining myself.”

She’s also an avid art collector, though is understandably cagey on the specifics of her collection. “I’m always looking at different artists and photographers: Collecting art is one of my passions,” she says, cautiously. “Right now I’m looking at…or people that I collect and am really inspired by are Racki and Thomas Rolf: they’re provocative and beautiful. Warhol. Basquiat is one of my…” she stops, clearly apprehensive.

Are you collecting all these people or are you just inspired by them?

“Both. Can I go out and buy whatever Basquiat I want? No.” She laughs. “Would that be nice? Yes. I can’t do that. Probably one day I’ll be able to. I work to be able to treat myself in certain ways and to treat other people.”

In my mind, in your apartment there’s like a Basquiat here, a Warhol there…

“I wish. Maybe not a Basquiat but when I first moved into my house I didn’t have any furniture, I had a bed and there was just art leaning against every wall until I could find exactly the right pieces.”

As night sets in, the Costes is getting busier; occasionally people flutter in, recognize the little person in the corner, and flutter out again, twittering quietly with friends. The lights are lowered still further. Mary-Kate doesn’t seem to notice. She glances towards the ceiling, which is painted gold and maroon and is covered in framed prints of Roman gods, mounted on cornflower blue paper, and fingers a bracelet that spells out JE T’AIME, on her wrist. She seems sad.

“I’m a person that has high highs and low lows,” she says, slowly. “You know, I am always growing emotionally and I’m very aware of everything that I go through and that I experience personally. I’m always learning something about myself, whether it’s a good or bad thing that I need to work on. A lot of things make me sad. Sometimes it’s almost easier to be sad. But you do end up finding a balance and I think that as I get older I am learning what I can do for myself to make me happy.” —LUKE CRISELL

Photo by Lloyd Pursall.

"I don't regret it at all. I mean I'm a man, and as a man, you do real things."

In 2017, Atlanta-based artist iLoveMakonnen (or just Makonnen) had already experienced exhilarating career highs and disappointing lows. Drake had hopped on a remix of his viral hit "Tuesday," and then signed him to his OVO Sound label in 2014. Hits like "I Don't Sell Molly No More" and "Look at Wrist" on his first album, I Love Makonnen, put him on track to be the next best thing in rap. Makonnen was part of a class of rappers and producers who were expanding the trap genre to broader audiences. But problems with OVO led to a delay in a follow-up album, and so he parted ways with the label and, later, announced a short-lived retirement from music. Then in January 2017, Makonnen tweeted that he was gay.

While fans and followers voiced their support for him, there was a loud hush from the hip-hop artists he'd been so connected to in the previous years. It was as if none of them wanted to be associated with a gay artist. That is, nobody except Lil Peep, who was one of the first people to reach out to Makonnen, offering his support and asking if Makonnen wanted to meet up. What followed was an intimate friendship between the two, that helped Makonnen heal from some of the rough patches—and there have been many—in his life. But less than a year later, Peep would be dead.

Below, I talk with Makonnen about his friendship with Lil Peep, as well as that fateful tweet; Martha, the beauty school mannequin head that has become synonymous with his brand; and how he really feels about the people he feels turned their backs on him.

Can you tell me about Martha and why she's so important in your imagery and your branding and stuff?
Martha was from when I was in beauty school, and I had to, you know, make my doll one-of-a-kind, and make it into my doll for the class and stuff. And then, so I was doing that, and I was getting creative with my doll and then with my music, at the same time, I was working on that, and I was like, Oh, I don't have a model for my artwork. And at the same time, [the school was] like, "You need to take pictures of your doll to show the hairstyles." And so I just started doing these high fashion pictures with the doll outside and in water and leaves and all types of stuff. And I was like, Oh! Martha is like… she's a celeb! She's a top model! And then I started putting her on the cover of my work, and I was just like, Oh yeah, this represents me. This is me. And the face is kind of… people say it's scary, but the whole overall thing is, don't judge on the outside. Take some time to get to know somebody on the inside.

How did you end up at beauty school?
My mom was always in the beauty industry and cosmetology. She was a nail instructor for almost all my life, so I've always been around it. And then I got into my legal situation where I was on probation. I had to do something productive with my time, so my mom gave me the idea of coming to beauty school and learning a skill and a trade and how to build confidence in others and have fun in socializing.

You have a flashy sense of style. Did your mom or your experiences in the beauty industry influence that?
Yeah, definitely. My mom was always showing me artists from the '70s and the '80s and a lot of costumes, and just the theatrics of arts and stuff. Then in beauty school, you also have to have some sort of creativity and flair in there and bring flamboyance and all these types of things to capture the eye.

I want to talk about when you came out in 2017. Why did you feel the need to send that tweet out?
I just wanted to be, I guess, more open. And then, I felt like the times that we're in… people need to be braver. People need to be more open and have a sense of bravery, because I feel like a lot of people are scared. [I think it's important] especially for the younger generations coming up. They don't really have many real leaders, you know?

They just all follow one after another. And so it's like, they're following things that they may not fully be themselves, and so they're confused. I just felt like I've seen a lot of fans, I've seen myself, people before me, everybody sort of dealing with this. I was in a position in the industry to make a larger impact for more than myself. So I just wanted to take it into my own hands and share it with my fans on Twitter, rather than trying to take it to some publication or some TV show and be like..."Oh yeah, I'm out I'm gay. Everybody celebrate this."

I just wanted to be able to be an Aries and, you know, break through that, and help get some inspiration to a lot of the younger people that are dealing with some of the same issues.

How was the response from fans? Also, what was the response like from your peers?
A few people reached out, but most people just kind of ignored it. Most people in the industry just turned the other way to it. I guess they were kind of like, "I can't be around it," because that would end up making them look different. So a lot of people have to withdraw from being around me as closely as they were. The fans, I think, embraced me more, especially younger fans. They were very happy and excited and accepting about it. But I feel like the biggest issue may have came from people around my age group or people a little older than me.

Tell me more about your relationship with Lil Peep. How did you guys meet?
I actually met Lil Peep in person right after I came out as gay. He was one of the artists who reached out to me and was like, "I love you. I'm a big fan always." [He] was like that: supportive. And I was like, "Oh snap! I'm in L.A., let's meet up. I've been seeing you do your thing." So we met up. We have a mutual friend, and we went by his house. We all hung out and talked and vibed and just got to meet each other. Then in July, my manager was in London, and Peep was being managed by someone who my manager had a friendship with. They ended up meeting, and Peep was like, "Tell my manager Makonnen's my favorite artist. I was about to work with him." We got on the phone, FaceTimed, and I was like, "Oh! When we link back up in L.A., let's get up and make some music. Let's try to do some stuff."

Then we met up in L.A. around July, and we started making music and formulating this album. Then we went to London, we finished working on the album. It was a friendship, like a relationship: "You have a broken heart. I have a broken heart. Let's try to help mend each other's broken hearts." We were not boyfriend and boyfriend or anything, but we care about each other. So we were just doing that for each other, just helping each other out. Building each other's confidence back up and, you know, just two friends coming together to uplift each other

Why did you have a broken heart at that time?
Oh, I always had a broken heart since I was a child.

That's real!
[Laughs] It just keeps going on and on. At the time, I was sort of seeing somebody that I guess wasn't seeing me the same way I was seeing them. So there was a little confusion, and then I was a little down. Then I had a really close friend of mine who was with me from Atlanta to New York to L.A. We were working together at a restaurant at the InterContinental in Buckhead. Then [I made] "Tuesday," and he got to come with me and assist me. He ended up passing away in May of 2017, and then I got back at it with Peep in July of 2017. So that was very heavy on my heart at the time as well. And I told Peep about that stuff, so we were becoming friends and going through the motions.

I can't even imagine what that was like for you to have to face Peep's death so soon after that. Have you found other artists to collaborate with on that level today? Is there anyone who are you really vibing with?
I've kind of just been on some solo stuff. I haven't really been in the studio with many artists from Atlanta. Right now I'm just focusing on my stuff and trying to get my stuff together. I've worked with producers, and that's where my vibe's been at in the studio, but as far as with other artists right now... I don't know. I haven't really found another artist that I can connect with… I've felt like I've stepped into a new world of art, especially since coming out as gay. Expressing myself in these ways, a lot of the artists that I used to work with aren't trying to go in that direction as far as, you know, expressing themselves and art like that. I feel like we've had our time. If they want to come around and do something again, I'm always open. But, you know, I'm going in my own direction right now.

Do you ever regret coming out?
Nah, I don't regret it at all. I mean I'm a man, and as a man, you do real things. If [people] can't understand that, then that's on them. I have to be Makonnen, and one day when y'all reach a maturity level the same as mine, we can have conversations. But I am very hurt over the treatment and the resentment or whatever. Y'all can't fuck with me no more, especially after I was in Atlanta and came to fuck with all of y'all when none of y'all were getting fucked with at all. I was really a spearhead over there, coming to this studio to that studio, linking artists with producers. Now all these people got successes together, and they've all reached new heights, but nobody can call me to even say: "Thank you... We fuck with you... How you doing?... I hope all is well." Nothing. It's just like, damn. That's how we kicking it? I guess that's how we gonna be kicking it.

Illustration by Vivie Behrens

Liberation can come from completion, but then, we are always becoming something new

They say the full moon is about completion. About looking back at the intentions you crowned the new moon with and seeing where those intentions led you. The new moon in Gemini was the pebble that began this cycle, and the full moon in Sagittarius is her echo, the ring getting larger in the water. The new moon in Gemini asked us what we wanted to change about our habits, what we wanted to do with our hands, and our hunger for newness. The new moon in Gemini was interested in the way shifting ideas can give us the freedom to think differently and, in thinking differently, become new people. The full moon in Sagittarius reminds us that we are never not becoming new.

Both Gemini and Sagittarius are mutable signs, they exist in relation to the other and they know how to speak each other's language. But, while Gemini relishes the endless capacity of air (of thought), Sagittarius uses the energy of fire to transform thought into action. Everything Sagittarius touches can't help but change. How can this be completion? The wheel is always spinning, reader. Sagittarius marks the completion of the fire trine. Here, fire is generous and social. It means to gather and teach, to illuminate. Sagittarius lives in the sector of the zodiac chart related to education, philosophy, and the awareness of others—their beliefs and their right to freedom. Because of this, our June Sagittarius full moon is both a completion moon and a moon that reminds us that all endings create space for beginning. The more you leave behind, the more you find. There is no dead end in the universe.

If you are a seeker like me (perhaps you have lots of planets in Sagittarius in your natal chart), you have already come across Jessica Dore's Twitter account. Every day, Dore posts a tarot card and her interpretation of it. It is a gift to many of her readers. Yesterday, she shared The World with us, reminding her readers: "the moments of beauty, belonging & elation that you've experienced up to this point in your life… would still only amount to the tiniest sliver of what this world has to offer in terms of sweetness & pleasure."

I thought about this card and her words all day. The World is, numerically, the last card in the Major Arcana journey—the last card if you don't think about the Fool, who is numbered at 0 and so is the beginning and the end. The World is, therefore, a completion card too, a big echo of a full moon.

This morning, holding the sweet and expansive nature of The World, thinking on Sagittarius people and their love of travel, of reckoning with the edge of an atlas and questioning the map-makers, I pulled the nine of swords from my own Tarot deck. The other side of knowledge is to overwhelm and shut down. Gemini, ruled by Mercury, holds information in her hands. She understands duality in all things. Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, yearns for the expansion of mind and the illumination of power. The philosopher and the moralist, a Sagittarius at her best can teach anyone to break open a prison. A Sagittarius at her worst can justify any cage. Don't forget that Jupiter was the king of the gods. His lightning bolt was a weapon. Sometimes, we are too exposed to each other. We imagine we know others through the stories we create about one another. We imagine we know the future because we refuse to be humble about how vulnerable we are to the universe's ever-shifting outcomes. We refuse abundance by convincing ourselves that the cage of identity we build for ourselves is our only possibility.

For the next two days, as the Sun lingers in Gemini and we feel the effects of the moon's fullness in Sagittarius, reflect on the ways you have used knowledge. When has your knowledge been a tool of empowerment for yourself and others? When have you shared the beauty of the world and the joy of radical ideas/ways of living? When have you used knowledge to understand and relieve your own suffering and the suffering of others? And, too, when have you used knowledge as permission for self-delusion? When you have expanded so far into your idea of the world and your own work in it that you forgot how to be accountable to your daily life, your body, your friends, and the people you love? You know when Janis Joplin sings "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose"? That's only one kind of freedom, and it's the kind that Sagittarius thinks it knows very well. Freedom can be about nothing, if nothing is what you want. Then welcome to the monastery, friend. Freedom can also be another word for everything you revel in not knowing. Freedom can be about having everything because you are part of everything, even if you can't see the relation, even if you can't imagine yet how what you want also wants you.

Photo courtesy of HBO.

Kat is making me relive my fat-teen trauma

When people say that HBO's new Zendaya-led teen drama, Euphoria, is triggering, believe them. In the pilot alone we're introduced to Rue (Zendaya) and her drug addiction issues via a graphic depiction of the overdose that sent her to rehab. Then, there's the disturbing rough sex scene featuring Jules (Hunter Schafer), a teenage trans girl who has just moved into town, and a middle-aged man she met on Grindr. Oh, and don't forget the unchecked, toxic masculinity of uber-jock Nate (Jacob Elordi); or the body obsession of his sometimes-girlfriend, Maddy (Alexa Demie). For me though, the ultimate trigger came via Barbie Ferreira's character Kat's experience, as she dealt with and internalized a vicious form of fatphobia.

Kat—almost alone amongst her friends—seems self-assured and dismissive of the idea that any high school drama should be taken too seriously. "You just need to catch a dick and forget about your troubles," Kat tells Maddy, following the latter's recent breakup with Nate. But internally, Kate craves male attention, and resents the fact that she's the only virgin she knows; she hints at this when she tells Maddy that she'd "settle for, like, four Corona Lights and some non-rapey affection," from a guy—any guy.

Kat's bravado leads her into a compromising situation at a high school party; she winds up in a room alone with three boys, where she talks a big game about how she's a "savage" who watches porn and has slept with more people than any of them can count. None of this is true, but Kat is determined to become "a woman of questionable morals."

The scene shows the fine line between being an empowered young woman deciding what to do with her body, on her terms, and being a teenager who thinks she's in control but doesn't fully understand the power dynamics at play. Because, yes, Kat is trying to make an intentional decision about her sexuality and how to use it, but she's doing so with a group of boys who don't value or respect her. This reality is made clear when one of them says to her, "You know what they say, right? Fat girls give the best head."

At those familiar words, I melted into my couch and said a silent prayer of gratitude that I wasn't watching Euphoria in the company of anyone else. Onscreen, Kat, too, shrinks ever so slightly into herself, all while trying to keep a poker face about the whole thing. We don't see exactly what happens in the room, but, later, she seems happy when she shares the news with her friends that she's lost her virginity; even though she then lays down, awake, scrolling through the guy's Instagram, seeming altogether less than happy.

Kat's isn't the most violent or necessarily the saddest story line in the episode. But it showed the ways that issues like consent, toxic masculinity, substance abuse, and body image—all of which are difficult to deal with no matter what your size—are further magnified when experienced through the additional trauma of fatphobia. This is something with which I've personally dealt, and so I felt my past experiences rise up inside me when I watched how Kat couldn't build her own sexual identity without being constantly aware of the ways her body exists outside the parameters of acceptable desirability.

My childhood and adolescence are defined by my experiences as a fat girl; it was a time that often felt like a hazy battlefield, when I could hardly navigate which feelings and thoughts were my own, and which ones were the result of outside forces. My body hardly ever felt like mine, and it took years to develop the autonomy that Kat is grasping at as a teenager. Kat, like so many other fat women, has a total lack of support from her peers when it comes to body image and acceptance, and there's a devastating absence of affirmation about her own worth and the importance of her pleasure. Because of fatphobia, Kat is going to be swimming against a strong, but invisible current as she navigates the already fraught social politics of high school. It's one thing to grasp this truth on an intellectual level, but letting those principles guide your decision-making is truly difficult—even for an adult, let alone for a teenager.

Euphoria airs Sunday nights at 10pm, on HBO.

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Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Serving us two of summer's biggest trends at the MTV Movie And TV Awards

On top of providing us with consistent bops and exuding endless body positivity, Lizzo has become quite the fashion icon. The singer-rapper-flutistand now actress—has been recently capturing our attention both on, and off, the red carpet. The latest example? Her look at the MTV Movie and TV Awards this Saturday.

Stepping out in a head-turning custom Christopher John Rogers dress, Lizzo rocked a shade of Nickelodeon slime green not for the faint of heart—complete with '90s-inspired ruching and an entirely feathered neckline. In this particular getup, Lizzo nailed not one, but two of the summer's biggest trends: neon green, which has been going strong since winter, and feathers, which have become a red carpet favorite of the stars this season.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Lizzo accented her look with an equally '90s-inspired messy updo, along with matching lime green-and-sunshine yellow eye look. While she paired her getup with a pair of embellished Gucci sneakers, her actual accessory of choice? Matching honeydew.

Photo via @lizzobeeating Instagram

We are not worthy.

Courtesy of RLJE Films

White-knuckle your way through wedding season with Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid

Maya Erskine might have first come to our attention in PEN15, the hilarious show she co-created and stars in with Anna Konkle, in which they play 13-year-olds in the year 2000, but in the just-released Plus One, Erskine is all grown up and engaging in a very familiar adult activity: white-knuckling her way through wedding season.

Written and directed by Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer—who just so happen to be Erskine's former NYU classmates—Plus One stars Erskine and Jack Quaid as Alice and Ben, two longtime friends who decide to attend a summer of weddings together, and avoid any of the awkwardness that can come with finding the right plus-one. This is especially important for Alice, who is coming off a bad breakup. Of course, as the laws of rom-coms dictate, nothing stays totally platonic. Beyond that, though, Plus One doesn't fall into predictable rom-com tropes, and instead hilariously explores what it's like to spiral into a quarter-life crisis, all while dressed in optional black-tie. Which, we've all been there, right?

"We kind of use the script as its own therapy," Chan told me recently, when I spoke with him, Rhymer, Erskine, and Quaid, about the film. "We were watching friends who have been broken up for a long time get back together at weddings; we were watching people get really sad and get drunk and start crying... they were breeding grounds for lots of emotions coming to the surface."

Courtesy of RLJE Films

And those emotions have the perfect outlet at weddings in the form of toasts and other assorted speeches. Plus One makes good use of that platform by making the wedding speech the hilarious eye of the storm at each of its weddings. These toasts were delivered in the form of scene-stealing cameos—also friends from NYU, of course.

"Almost all of those speeches are based on a real speech Andrew and I have seen," Chan said. "We'd go to a wedding and [we'd think], Yep, that's going in there."

Rhymer adds that they used these speeches as metonyms for the weddings, which made sense time- and budget-wise: "Being an indie film, we obviously produced 12 weddings, but did so kind of cleverly, showing you the rooms or the side rooms where they're rehearsing. We weren't seeing 12 full-blown receptions in all their glory... that would have been, like, millions of dollars."

But perhaps what's most refreshing about Plus One is that it destroys the image of weddings—and, by extension, relationships, and women, in general—as having to be fantasies, as having to be perfect. Because nothing is perfect, and that's what makes life interesting. Erskine, for one, likes being able to show the weirder sides of life, whether as a 13-year-old girl washing a thong with hand soap or a millennial woman who doesn't know what comes next. "There's something really liberating and freeing to show and bear the ugliest parts of yourself—or what society may deem as the ugliest, weirdest parts of yourself—that no one wants to see," she said. "I'm also an over-sharer. So I am drawn to roles that expose more than is typical, and everyone is weird in one way or another."

"I think," Erskine laughed, "it's because I myself am a wacky trash goblin." As it turns out, that's exactly what rom-coms have been missing, until now.

Plus One is in select theaters and available to stream via Amazon now.

PLUS ONE Official Trailer