Article by Zara McDonald /
March 24, 2018 /
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“Lolllllll no one likes you,” she wrote.
It was a small, sharp, biting tweet that captured her allure better than a photo could. It was a little bit political, a little bit wry, firmly on the wave of public sentiment and full of as much jokey tone that allowed her to appear opinionated without being angry.
She, of course, is Chrissy Teigen. And her target? The 45th President of the United States. It banked the 32-year-old nearly 9,000 re-tweets and 36,000 likes, a couple of headlines and the coveted ‘block’ from President Trump himself.
As far as Brand Teigen goes, it was as characteristic as it was clever. In an online world full of outrage and anger, the swimsuit model has become Twitter’s poster-girl for self-deprecating, stinging humour. She walks the fine line of never being angry while consistently being no bullsh*t.
She is the ultimate Cool Girl: (objectively) hot but funny, self-effacing but successful, unapologetic but not uptight, decisive but easygoing, passionate but not easily offended.
The Cool Girl, first introduced in Gillian Flynn’s novel Gone Girl, looks a little like this:
Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want.
While Flynn’s explanation of a Cool Girl hints at the concept being less ingrained and far more of a performance, it perfectly captures the kind of woman we tend to celebrate above all others: The Chrissy Teigens of the online world; the ones who can make us laugh and drool in 280 characters.
While Teigen’s popularity is a phenomenon in and of itself, history hasn’t been kind to the women whose brands align themselves so neatly to hers. We rip the Cool Girls down as fast as we built them up; the tide almost always turning swiftly and brutally.
Consider the rise of Jennifer Lawrence. In 2013, the headlines looked like this:
Jennifer Lawrence: how Hollywood fell in love with this perfectly imperfect star
12 reasons Jennifer Lawrence ruled 2013
The rise of Jennifer Lawrence – Hollywood’s most charismatic leading lady
Two years later, they looked more like this:
Jennifer Lawrence slammed as ‘annoying’ and ‘too crass’
Jennifer Lawrence offends with story about ‘butt-scratching’ on sacred rocks
Jennifer Lawrence slammed for being rude to reporter at Golden Globes
We place famous women with charming personalities on impossibly high pedestals, then we clap and revel in their inevitable fall.
Amy Schumer, Anne Hathaway, Caitlyn Stasey – even Ruby Rose to less of a degree. We adored them all, held them high in our hands and then when they tripped ever-so-slightly, our palms gave way. We dropped them.
Meanwhile, the Cool Guys – the Channing Tatums, the Chris Hemsworths, the Ryan Goslings? They float through, scrutiny less apparent. We’re less thirsty for their blood. In our eyes, they do no wrong; the bar is set that little bit lower.
Chrissy Teigen hasn’t fallen. Yet. But she does face the ultimate personal branding conundrum: To continue on the Cool Girl strand risks inevitable backlash if her huge following sense chinks in her armour. But to sway? Well, to sway betrays our obsession with authenticity in an era of filters and FaceTune.
After all, the only thing we like less than a fallen Cool Girl is someone who is – dare I say – inauthentic.
Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, says while Teigen’s brand is a strong one, it’s kind of like walking a tightrope. One foot in the wrong direction and hungry keyboard warriors will crucify her with the force of a few biting tweets that can snowball into online hate-storm.
“Chrissy Teigen has successfully branded herself as an enviable everywoman based on a very good sense of humour, self-deprecation and a covetable lifestyle. But like anyone who is disproportionately celebrated in our culture, she’s not infallible. And if she’s shown to contradict her brand – if photos emerge, for example, of her dining with Donald Trump – she’s only a few moments away from a fall from grace.”
Rosewarne thinks our propensity to turn on a Cool Girl eventually comes down to inauthenticity. Which is interesting, of course, given they’re cast as the authentic ones in an industry full of contrived publicity.
“Audiences have become more savvy. There are only so many times we can read about a celebrity’s apparent junk food diet while looking at photos of them looking tiny on a catwalk and realising something doesn’t compute. Some celebrities – and Chrissy is such an example – try and cultivate an authenticate self on life. Such authenticity however, has a shelf-life because eventually audiences realise the kind of authenticity we’re given is often highly orchestrated and not quite ‘real’ in any meaningful sense,” she says.
It’s about here, you’ll see, we come full circle. We like these women, we’re drawn to these women, because they seem less high maintenance and more ‘authentic’ and ‘real’. And then, well, we eventually tire of them. We slam them for pushing the ‘authentic’ card so far, they suddenly appear inauthentic. It’s exhausting – not to mention vicious – and we’re not even at the centre of it.
So, while for Teigen – and any other Cool Girl for that matter – the turning of the tide almost feels inevitable, there’s merit in looking at how she’s lasted so long in a world where women with personality and opinions have a finite window of time before the public predictably tire.
Rosewarne thinks it would be a little too simplistic to put her popularity – and the longevity of it – down to her relationship with the much-loved musician John Legend. She does think it helps, however. (Especially, you’d contend, when Vanity Fair are describing you as “America’s Almost Bizarrely Perfect Couple.”)
“While it helps that Chrissy is married to a handsome nice guy, equally, I think she has been able to successfully carve out a persona – and a brand – that is separate from him: there are likely to be lots of people who follow her on social media but who aren’t actually fans of Legend. This is a true testimony to her success in being able to establish a self separate from her formerly-more-famous partner.”
So yes, Teigen may be a little more insulated from a full-blown hatestorm for a little while because she’s surrounded by others who are widely loved, but it’s not everything. Given her brand is her name and her jokes her own, it’s her own reputation on the line.
Chrissy Teigen is well-loved and truly very funny. She’s clever – because you can’t have comedic timing like that and not have a brain. She’s beautiful and a mother and someone who has, rather organically, built a following based far more on her personality than on her looks.
We live in a world where scrutiny is contagious. Where you can’t be well-liked without fear of it all falling about. Where you can’t be a woman with a personality and a woman with opinions without wondering how long you can escape online abuse.
Of course, the problem isn’t Teigen and likewise, the problem was never Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence or Caitlin Stasey. The problem was, and is, with us. History tells us the Chrissy Teigens of the world are built up, then torn down, because we’re impatient, because we assume those who are famous are infallible, because we’re unforgiving.
The brand of Teigen – the cult of Chrissy – is a strong one. But she knows, too, she may just be tweeting on borrowed time.
“It’s good,” she once told The Cut about being recognised as a Cool Girl.
“It’s scary though because you try to find a balance. What ends up happening to the cool girl is that there’s this backlash, like they’re trying too hard.
“It’s nice to be cool girl. But it’s scary, because you’re waiting for that moment when people turn.”