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Teen media mogul Tavi Gevinson: 'Don't underestimate young people'

Nov. 11, 2013 at 3:57 PM ET

At 17, Tavi Gevinson has already accomplished more than many adults ever will — and she’s just getting started.

The young writer and editor, who shot to fame at age 12 with her fashion blog “Style Rookie,” has since proven time and again that she’s here to stay, most notably with the launch of Rookie magazine, an online hub for teenage girls that counts celebs like Judd Apatow and Zooey Deschanel among its fans.

Teen writer and editor Tavi Gevinson.
Courtesy of Rookie
Teen writer and editor Tavi Gevinson.

“I think at first there was a lot of hype about my blog because of my age,” Gevinson told TODAY.com of her early notoriety, “but because I was taking this time to really think about things, my writing got better, and so I was able to last beyond the hype.”

Gevinson created Rookie in 2011 as a home for smart and entertaining essays, articles, videos, DIY tutorials, and fashion spreads for teens, and recently released “Rookie Yearbook Two,” her second anthology of the site’s standout content of the year. The book, a painstakingly curated collage, includes everything from instructions on how to make a computer from scratch to “Best BFF Forever,” an interview Lena Dunham did with Mindy Kaling in which they discuss style, role models, inspiring women, and what it’s like to be a boss.

While Rookie is designed as a community for teenage girls, its content has reached far and wide, resonating with celebrities and readers well past their high school years. Jon Hamm’s memorable Q&A video for the site’s “Ask a Grown Man” series went viral last year, and Gevinson has openly lobbied President Obama to do a future episode. She thinks Rookie’s content appeals to adults because no one really outgrows being a teenager.

“I’ve never heard an adult say, ‘Oh, you helped me relive my glory years,’” Gevinson says. “I’ve heard them say, ‘I’m dealing with that same stuff now.’ Many of the things teenagers deal with are just basic human issues — change and relationships, and finding yourself and forming your identity. I think you grow up your whole life, and those are things people deal with their whole lives.”

In the frequent celebrity interviews featured on the site, Gevinson often asks people what they were like as teenagers, and says their varied answers have proved inspiring.

“So many people, at the age of 15, already think ‘I’m not on the right path, I’ll never find my passion,’” she says. Instead, what she’s learned from interviewing high achievers is that “there’s no common trajectory for success.”

Rookie Yearbook Two, out now.
Courtesy of Rookie
Rookie Yearbook Two, out now.

And even though Gevinson established herself early on as a force to be reckoned with, she’s still intent on making her own growing-up experience as normal as possible — which these days means, in addition to running Rookie and venturing into acting (she hit the big screen alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini in the film “Enough Said” this year), she’s also working on college application essays just like every other high school senior.

“It’s exciting to think about the future,” she says, which she hopes will entail going to a college in New York where she can “take a bunch of different writing classes." Though she'll always be involved in Rookie, down the line she may take a more hands-off role as she pursues other projects: "It has a life of its own now."

Though she's made a career of being a teenager, Gevinson knows she can't stay in the age bracket forever, but hopes other teens can take advantage of these years by slowing down a little — advice she also offers to grown-ups. “I think it’s really valuable to take time to think about things, and not get caught up in the rush of everything,” she says.

As far as other advice she'd give to adults?

“Just, not to underestimate young people,” she stresses. “There are so many young people doing great things now, and I think we could all learn from them.”

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