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Whatever happened to last year's breakout stars?
“Is this a feminist publication?” asks Bryan Goldberg, the 30 year-old founder of Bustle. “You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.” To illustrate this point, in the photograph accompanying his profile in the current New Yorker, Goldberg is pictured using a high-heeled, short-skirted young female colleague as his laptop desk. And the image of Goldberg, surrounded by a total of nine females and one wineglass, lounging on the floor and typing on a Mac perched daintily on a purple-clad female’s legs, isn’t the only incongruous aspect of Lizzie Widdicombe’s fascinating feature on the man “looking to redefine what ‘women’s interest’ looks like.”
Bleacher Report co-founder Goldberg raised eyebrows this summer when he announced – in a post he would later admit came across as pretty “pandering” – that he’d raised $6.5 million to start the site he vowed would “completely transform women’s publishing.” He said at the time, “Most women are completely open to the idea of a man starting a company aimed at women, and hiring a large team of women,” and he was likely correct. The idea of a man starting a site for young women – huge, advertiser-friendly demographic that they are – makes entrepreneurial sense for the person launching it and potentially good business sense for the women who work for it. But it was his apparent initial enthusiasm to create something that women hadn’t long already been doing that struck a concerning chord. “Yes, we believe that a partner-track attorney can be passionate about world affairs and celebrity gossip,” he’d written, as if this had been breaking news. “On the same day. During the same coffee break. And there is nothing wrong with that.”
There’s a similar air of self-revealing cluelessness that permeates Widdicombe’s piece. She introduces Goldberg with his observation that “The schlubbier you are, the more credibility you have” – credibility he seems blissfully unaware is not traditionally extended to females. She sets the scene at Bustle’s “newly renovated four-story town house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn … all decorated in a funky flea-market style” like a postmodern TGI Friday’s. (You’d think with $6.5 million, they wouldn’t have to use the staff members as tables.) She nods to “the Web development team, which is all male” and lands at an editorial meeting, in which Goldberg is, in constrast, “the only man in the room.” And in the space of a single feature that Goldberg on Monday described as “a fun read,” she reveals the peculiar, seemingly contradictory philosophy of Bustle and its head honcho.
“I am a dude,” Goldberg boldy reveals. “I don’t have a lot of overlapping interests with most women my age. I’m really into history. I’m really into markets and finance. I don’t know a damn thing about beauty, but I don’t need to.” Yet if that sounds like the statement of a man who assumes women his age aren’t “interested” in markets and finance — and that what he deems women’s true interests are somehow beneath him — that conclusion is upended later when he says that women ”understand this industry better than a lot of Wall Street media analysts.” But then when you think maybe he’s aiming for something meatier, on a site that he insistently “didn’t want pink everywhere,” he describes his vision of “a thousand articles a day” on “every topic that young women care about — all their favorite shows, all their favorite celebrities, all their favorite fashion brands, every news story that’s relevant to them.” So, to be clear: Young women care about celebrity, shopping and news, in that order. Later in the piece, he expands on that theme, unflatteringly to both sexes. “If you told nine guys to sit down in a waiting room in a dental office, they’ll probably start talking about sports,” he says. “For women, there’s twenty things it could be. ‘I like your earrings. Where did you get them?’ Or someone sees a People magazine and talks about Amanda Bynes. It could be —someone mentions Zumba, and ‘Oh, I’ve been thinking of doing that.’” He adds that “Men, to the best of my knowledge, don’t even read.” And he explains the site’s name, noting “the common thread between women in the professional world and stay-at-home moms” is that “They’re very busy. There’s always bustle in their lives.” He also says, of the word’s other, restrictive clothing connotation, “It’s also a type of old-fashioned dress accessory. I did not know that. I know now.” On Twitter Monday, Goldberg seemed pleased with the piece, and when Rachel Sklar asked him directly about the bizarre accompanying photo, he genially noted, “Team of professional photographers came to house and staged hundreds of pictures.”
In the feature, Goldberg says that he wishes he’d reached out more to “the feminist community,” admitting, “Honestly, nothing would have been more helpful here than for some highly regarded feminist writers to say, ‘Bryan’s a good person.’” Perhaps if he had, he would have received that “He’s a good person” endorsement he currently wishes for. Perhaps not. But it’s a good bet someone would have told him it’s not a great feminist statement to use a woman’s body as a sexy prop in a photo shoot, like it’s a Robin Thicke video or something. Yet that image seems to beautifully illustrate the sentiments contained within the feature itself. The women Goldberg surrounds himself with – both as workers and readers – seem to exist to him to reinforce his particular vision of the world, not influence or challenge it. They’re just the decoration, like his “vintage globe, watercolor paintings, and mod yellow couch from Macy’s.”
The star of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” charmed practically everyone at the Oscars, where she was the youngest best actress nominee ever; she went on to film a remake of “Annie” opposite Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Jepsen, who had 2012’s song of the summer with “Call Me Maybe,” released the fifth and final single from her debut album in January 2013. She toured the U.S. in mid-2013 -- just as Daft Punk and Robin Thicke battled to succeed her as icons of the summer.
Honey Boo Boo
2012’s biggest reality star, the young pageant contestant Alana Thompson, had a quieter time this year, with a second season whose ratings were strong but whose buzz was a bit muted. America was, by now, accustomed to young Thompson, and outraged or scandalized reactions were reserved for other TLC programming, like “The Man With the 132-Pound Scrotum.”
Ocean missed out on the top Grammys for which he was nominated in early 2013; he bounced back quickly with featured appearances on albums by Kanye West, Jay Z and Beyoncé, and is at work on a new album. Things are looking up!
The “21 Jump Street” and “Magic Mike” star had a marginally less charmed 2013, with “White House Down” failing to connect with moviegoers and “Foxcatcher” delayed until next year. It may get worse before it gets better: His big 2014 sci-fi flick, “Jupiter Ascending,” looks … well, a little weird!
With their third album in 21 months hitting No. 1 immediately upon its fall 2013 release, the boy band that broke into America in 2012 would seem to be here to stay for a while. Still, they looked a bit nervous in their reaction shots during the Video Music Awards’ ‘N Sync reunion; maybe not this year, maybe not next, but eventually, the Justin of One Direction is going to break out. For now, though, things look good!
Lana Del Rey
The famously uncomfortable “Saturday Night Live” musical guest overcame endless mockery from 2012 to land her first top-10 hit in the summer of 2013 -- a remix of a year-old song, “Summertime Sadness.” As the co-writer of “Young and Beautiful,” the love theme from “The Great Gatsby,” Del Rey is such a front-runner for the best original song Oscar (last won by Adele) that there has been a direct-mail campaign to academy voters against her. The song was also played at the most romantic event of the year: Kanye West’s stadium marriage proposal to Kim Kardashian.
Wilson, who charmed fans of 2012’s “Pitch Perfect,” had a rockier 2013, with her sitcom “Super Fun Night” struggling creatively and in the ratings. Her next planned movies are both sequels, to “Kung Fu Panda” and -- hoping lightning will strike twice -- to “Pitch Perfect.”
Another 2012 music icon, Gotye won the record of the year trophy at the 2013 Grammys for “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He released no new singles in 2013, and has told the press he has been struggling to complete new material. Good luck, Gotye!
The golden boy of the 2012 Olympics, without feats of aquatic derring-do to distract the public this year, saw his always-tenuous persona completely shift from “amiable jock” into “utter dolt” with his E! reality series. Worst of all, the series was canceled.
In 2012, the young actress -- best known for her role in the indie “Winter’s Bone” and a supporting part in the “X-Men” franchise -- had marquee roles in the first “Hunger Games” film and in David O. Russell’s comedy “Silver Linings Playbook.” In 2013, she played to her strengths: After winning an Oscar, she starred in the second “Hunger Games” movie, on whose publicity tour she managed to charm everyone in America, and had another role in a David O. Russell comedy, “American Hustle,” for which she might just win ANOTHER Oscar. By 2014, she may end up running a major studio, or serving as president.
The breakout bikini model of 2012 made a repeat appearance on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue -- and got to do high-fashion spreads in Elle, Vogue and Vanity Fair. She was cast in a Cameron Diaz comedy, too. Some types of appeal are eternal!
E. L. James
The “50 Shades” novelist now gets to help share some input into a movie adaptation set for release in 2015. She probably never needs to work again! Isn’t that great? Isn’t that … just … great?
The “Gangnam Style” phenom performed at New Year’s 2013, but will spend New Year’s 2014 flipping channels to find his pistachio ad, his goofy antics having been outdone in the past year by “The Fox” singers Ylvis. Nothing meme can stay.
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