Checking in with Jezebel's "tabloid whisperer" on Kim and Kanye, Kinja and the MET Ball
by Rebecca Carroll photography Mike Vorrasi
Jezebel Deputy Editor Dodai Stewart is very busy. She writes a lot of copy, spins a lot of provocative, quippy language and understands traffic-friendly headlines like nobody’s business. She’s also very funny, abundantly expressive and driven in a way that is both guileless and winning, even as she is feeling slightly concerned about the state of the union between Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. With Jezebel in the early weeks of a new platform design, we caught up with Stewart to find out how it’s all going.
RC: In an outtake from our first interview for The Aesthete a few months back, you said this about the coupling of Kim and Kanye: “She’s a love addict. He's a narcissist. He’s a Gemini and she’s a Libra, and that’s one of the best matches you can have. She has a huge family, and he has no family. It could actually work. It could be forever. It’ll be beautiful.” So I have to immediately give you props for being kind of spot-on about that—nicely done. They're going to the MET ball next week, what should they wear?
DS: I’ll admit I'm a little worried now! He is a bit of a control freak and nothing is as out of control as an unplanned pregnancy. I’m hoping the fact that he looks up to Jay[-Z], who is a father now, will spur him to man up. As for the MET Ball, Anna Wintour must be livid that she had to invite Kim. If Kim were not pregnant, I'd say she should be wearing a Vivienne Westwood corset. But since she is carrying, maybe not. I know Kanye likes it when she wears black and he wears white? Maybe leather pants for him and a stretch dress for her? Or empire waist and flowy?
RC: But also, MET Ball—PUNK theme! Thoughts?
DS: The MET Punk exhibit is subtitled “Chaos to Couture,” which might be interesting. Kids and musicians stuck clothes full of studs and safety pins, and the DIY eff-the-establishment aesthetic eventually became part of the high-fashion repertoire. The same has happened with grunge and urban street wear—there were oversized jeans in the hood before Hilfiger and Girbaud marketed them as chic—but punk certainly has a different low-or-no-budget spirit. So it's fascinating how its elements are co-opted for pricey high fashion garments. How did we go from Sid Vicious wearing a ripped T-shirt held together with safety pins in the late ’70s to Liz Hurley's Versace safety pin dress of the late ’90s—worn later by Lady Gaga?
RC: Jezebel recently changed its layout—what was the thinking behind that? Is it working?
DS: All of the Gawker Media sites are now on Kinja, a discussion platform that allows users to create their own blogs and become part of a larger conversation. The best part about blogging is how interactive it is, and Kinja steps that up a notch. Commenters contribute to the site in a whole new way—we’ve posted stories and discussions by commenters on the front page of Jezebel.
“How did we go from Sid Vicious wearing a ripped T-shirt held together with safety pins in the late ’70s to Liz Hurley’s Versace safety pin dress of the late ’90s—worn later by Lady Gaga?”
RC: What is happening in the digital sphere at large right now? What are your concerns, and what makes you feel glad to be so neck-deep in the online space?
DS: Digital sphere at large? I honestly don't know what that means! I only know that there’s so much going on and it happens so quickly. Information overload. That said, though I loathed it when I first joined, I now really like Twitter and think it's turned into a really interesting barometer-zeitgeist reader-conversation. Vine is also turning into one of my new faves. RiFF RAFF and Adam Goldberg have become experts at creating mini-narratives. But one of the best things is connecting with cool people I would have never met otherwise. When I was in high school I had a pen pal, now I have Twitter friends and follow people on Instagram. I recently met someone I’d seen only on Youtube—Caitlin, the Mortician of "Ask A Mortician." We lead completely different lives—she's in a funeral home in LA and I'm blogging in NYC, but when we met in person it was almost like we already knew each other. And she's awesome.
RC: Jezebel’s Editor-in-Chief, Jessica Coen, refers to you as “the tabloid whisperer,” which is kind of awesome. Thoughts?
DS: [Laughs] For some reason, I feel really strongly about tabloids. It's very complicated. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with The World Weekly News—“Bigfoot!” “Batboy!”—as well as some of the old-school tabloids and the way they could turn nothing into something and create succinct, attention-grabbing headlines. Remember “Headless Body Found In Topless Bar”? I love block font nonsequiturs like “DREAMS CRUSHED” or “CRACK RAMPAGE.” In college, I used to cut out huge text headlines like that and tape them to my wall above the bed. It conjures up all kinds of things! I don’t even want to read the story, I just want to cut that headline out and frame it.
I started doing “Midweek Madness” at Jezebel after working at a teen magazine owned by a company that also has In Touch and Life & Style. The formula is so clear: Screaming yellow headlines, weight loss, weight gain, pregnancy, marriage, cheating. “Stabbed In The Back” and “Storms Off” are popular. These publications are marketed to women, read by women, and, a lot of the time, written and edited by women. No one admits to liking them, and I see people on the buses and subways and beaches and airports, tearing through issues. We love a soap opera—a heightened, melodramatic version of everyday life—and the tabloids build a narrative that plays like a soap, like a Douglas Sirk film. Powerful people in messy situations, love lost and found, jealousy, desire, loneliness. It's the modern day version of epic poetry, and as much as I loathe the direction it takes, I'm fascinated by the process, machinations and larger meaning.
RC: We're coming up on summer in the city—how do you survive the heat, smelly sidewalks and envy of people with homes in the Hamptons? Or do you have a house in the Hamptons?
DS: Movies at a discounted rate before noon, cool afternoons in museums, rides on the breezy Staten Island ferry, eating popsicles. I’m not interested in the Hamptons, really, but I’ve spent a few different summer visits to Fire Island, which I love because there are no cars. But I love the weekends in Manhattan when everyone is away and places are less crowded. And if there's a heat wave, I just hole up in my apartment with TCM and the AC.