On meeting your idol

Art by Gianne Encarnacion

It’s a warm afternoon in New York and I’m sitting across Tavi Gevinson in a crowded SoHo restaurant. I had just handed her the beaded “Emotion” bracelet I made (“It’s such a good album”), and we’re now discussing the best way to listen to Lorde’s “Melodrama” (“It’s a spiritual experience”).

If this was a dream, I’d probably have woken up by now, bummed that it didn’t really happen IRL. Only, this isn’t a scene that I’m envisioning while procrastinating another college paper. In this edition of “Things you’d never think Gaby the introvert would end up doing”, I am actually having a lemonade with Tavi in the flesh, listening to her views on Lorde and Carly Rae Jepsen.

To borrow from classic meme speak: Freeze frame, record scratch. You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this position.

I’ve been a fan of Tavi (actress, writer, and editor-in-chief of Rookie) since I first read about her in Total Girl as a wee ‘lil tween. The feature led to me discovering Tavi’s (now defunct) blog, Style Rookie, which was the jump-off point for Rookie Mag, an online magazine for teen girls that she founded at 15.

From then began my obsession with Rookie, for reasons which I gladly summarized in a writeup for Young STAR back in 2015. That article led to Tavi following me on Twitter (guess who chucked her phone after getting the notification), which then drove me to try contributing to Rookie, which then led to a couple of email and Twitter exchanges between me and Tavi. Throughout those instances, I’d always had this idea of wanting to meet her someday, somehow. But living in the Philippines, those dreams might as well have been dashed before completely forming.

The chances of an awesome writer/musician/artists are slim — especially when they’re from a country halfway around the world. I’ve bitterly “liked” Instagram posts of concert meet-and-greets, book signings, and exhibit launches, knowing full well that the main limiting factor was my location. Westerners have no idea how lucky they are to have all these opportunities.

I thought that this was how she must’ve felt meeting her idols, like Winona Ryder and Stevie Nicks. But at the same time, I knew better than to create an image of her according to the little snippets I gathered from her social media and interviews.

Some of us at the Young STAR team were fortunate enough to have had some almost-encounters and actual encounters , but it’s normally pretty much impossible from our side of the world unless you have the right connections.

When I started writing for Rookie, the dream seemed a tad bit easier to reach. And so after graduation, I booked myself a round-trip ticket to NYC as a “you’re free from school forever!” gift, but also with the hopes of getting to meet Tavi. I sent her an email, waited with bated breath, and got an affirmative response (to which I internally screamed for a couple of days). Who would’ve thought? All it took was an email and a whole lot of confidence (a.k.a kapalan ng mukha).   

I didn’t let myself believe it would push through until I was in line to say hi at the signing event for Janet Mock’s new book. The idea that this was really happening only sunk in when I was one person away with no idea what to say to her. This was a person whose work had inspired me to continue writing when I was thinking of quitting. I’m still convinced that her “How to Not Care About What Other People Think of You” piece is the reason I’m less self conscious today.

All those concerns evaporated when she greeted me with a smile and a hug. What followed was mostly small talk about my work for Rookie and scheduling our lunch date. At first, I didn’t want to build up expectations of how our second meeting would go because I wasn’t even sure if it’d push through at all (the universe always has its ways of cancelling my plans at the last minute). Then there was the matter of digesting the fact that one of the coolest girls I’ve ever known was game to spend time with the mess of a person that I am.

I’ve bitterly “liked” Instagram posts of concert meet-and-greets, book signings, and exhibit launches, knowing full well that the main limiting factor was my location. Westerners have no idea how lucky they are to have all these opportunities.

On the bus going to the restaurant, I thought that this was how she must’ve felt meeting her idols, like Winona Ryder and Stevie Nicks. But at the same time, I knew better than to create an image of her according to the little snippets I gathered from her social media and interviews.

I remembered a short Twitter exchange we had two years ago about how we shouldn’t be putting our idols up on pedestals. They’re human too, so we should accept that they make mistakes and have flaws unless we want to be set up for disappointment. With that in mind, I kept my outlook that day very chill.

We sat at a table by the restaurant’s window. I was in my pink Puppies Not Patriarchy shirt. She was wearing the multi-colored dyed shorts I once saw on her Instagram. This time, I was a bit more prepared, and she seemed genuinely interested in what I was saying. Her voice was exactly like I expected it to sound from listening to the Rookie podcast and watching all her interviews. I couldn’t have dreamt this stuff up if I tried.

Just two years ago, I was freaking out over Tavi greeting me a happy birthday. 16-year-old me would flip if she knew that I’d be starting my 21st birthday week hanging out with her for an hour or so.

The significance of the moment really struck me as I flipped through a 2015 issue of i-D that I’d picked up on the way home. I didn’t know it when I got it from the magazine rack, but it had a Q&A with Tavi.

After the meeting, a friend asked me, “Did you ever, even once, fangirl a ‘lil bit like ‘Wow I can’t believe I’m meeting you?’” And that’s when I realized that I hadn’t. Maybe it was the adrenaline of the moment, or the relief that my admiration of her stayed intact even after. To be honest, I was just happy that it pushed through. Consider my whole year made.

Tags:
#self #travel

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