the it girl issue

Chloë Sevigny, ‘It’ Girl to End All ‘It’ Girls

Photo: Harmony Korine/© Harmony Korine. Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth.

“Certainly anyone who has heard Chloë’s laugh — which alternately suggests a mallard surprised into flight and a drowning victim gasping for air—would be hard-pressed to call her jaded. But it’s probably her spacey air of mystery and reserve as well as the street chic that keep causing people to ask, ‘Who is that girl?’” — Jay McInerney, “Chloë’s Scene,” The New Yorker, 1994

After I graduated from high school, I moved to Brooklyn Heights and had five roommates, all working at the Peter Gatien clubs: Limelight, the Tunnel. I spent a year working at Liquid Sky and Madison Square Garden, standing in line for ticket scalpers and going out, dancing, making out. That was my big year of going out. I do know for my mom it was very terrifying, but I checked in a lot, and my dad would always remind her that there was more good in the world than bad. They were pretty worried about drugs, but I just never liked doing them. I’ve never even done cocaine. I partook in other things: acid, ecstasy, candyflipping.

I was initially supposed to be a small part of Kids; I was supposed to play one of the girls in the pool. Then Harmony Korine called me one day and asked me to play Jenny. I said I had to ask my parents. I remember going to the beach with my dad with the script printed out. He loved Harmony; everybody loved Harmony. He said, “Yeah, I think you should do this.” My dad was really cool. He was a hipster.

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It was confusing when Jay McInerney decided to call me an “It” girl. I was in this club scene, but it was very niche. I surfed through it in a very quiet way and was kind of infamous within that scene, but it wasn’t like I was on “Page Six” — yet. He didn’t really get my essence. It just wasn’t me. I was being very guarded. I wasn’t as blasé as he was making me out to be. I felt uncomfortable bringing him to Darien, where I grew up, for the profile. The only reason I agreed to do any of it was because he promised to buy me a Helmut Lang dress. But he never did. I ended up buying it myself: red latex with pink lace on top. I still have it, but I didn’t properly care for the latex and it glued itself together.

I wanted to be a working actress, a character actress. I wanted to be Gena Rowlands. There’s been all the stuff that came out saying they didn’t look after us after Kids, but that’s not true at all. They really looked after everybody, found me an agent and a publicist and a manager. But the “It”-girl thing was confusing for Hollywood to wrap their heads around because I think they associated it with turnover, not with a working actress. I think the label did hurt me a little bit in Hollywood — they couldn’t project things onto me.

I did turn a few things down because they felt too mainstream or a little too popcorn for me. There was a part in Legally Blonde that Selma Blair played in the end, and there was a small part in Never Been Kissed played by Leelee Sobieski — things like that. I feel like that staunch aversion to anything popular was maybe the wrong choice. Now I’m always like, If I’d been in movies that made all this money, then I would’ve had more opportunities to be cast in these other things. I would’ve been bankable just because of those. So I’m often kicking myself.

Then the early aughts got kind of crazy. I recently made this fanzine where I put all of my old “Page Six” clippings in it so I could reclaim the narrative from, like, “Chloë Sevigny and Natasha outside a party at Sundance where they can’t get in, begging to be let in through the velvet ropes!” And Us Weekly really had it out for me. They always put me on the “What Was She Thinking?” page, it seemed like every single week. I felt like I couldn’t really wear what I wanted to wear. My publicist was like, “You could get more parts if people can project onto you. You’re dressing too crazy.” I was wearing these white Ray-Bans all the time that my mom had bought me at a Boy Scout tag sale in Darien, and there was so much negative press around the stupid sunglasses that my publicist and my agent conference-called me telling me to stop wearing them. I’m like, “Have you seen Björk? You don’t know what radical is!” Now I see these girls, like Hunter Schafer, and I can’t imagine how much fun that is just to be able to not even worry.

I remember early on in my career, I had dinner with Frances McDormand because we had the same manager or agent at that time. She told me if I wanted to make it as an actress, I should fire my publicist and not do publicity because then you’re taken more seriously. Sometimes I think about it and I wonder if she was right. But when people are like, “Oh, wouldn’t you like to be young again?” I think, No, my youth was perfect. I don’t need to do it again.

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Chloë Sevigny, ‘It’ Girl to End All ‘It’ Girls