Come September, Dunham and Girls producer Jenni Konner will be clogging your inbox with Dunham-branded content for people who “want to talk about radical politics but also want to talk about fashion and also want to talk about Rihanna, and understand that all of those things can be happening at the same time,” Dunham told Buzzfeed.
It’s certainly not a major departure from the mainstream feminist blogosphere.
But if the 29-year-old creator of Girls manages to revamp the celebrity newsletter-and-lifestyle-brand trope, readers may yet find novelty in familiar territory.
And Dunham has a lot to gain from marketing herself on this new platform, surrounded by a small phalanx of liberal female writers and editors like Jessica Grose, formerly of Jezebel and Slate, who will be editor-in-chief of Lenny and described the project as “Goop meets Grantland.” Other Lenny staffers include associate editor Laia Garcia from Rookie and editor-at-large Doreen St. Felix, who has written for The Hairpin and Pitchfork.
The newsletter will be self-funded at first, but Lenny will eventually acquire revenue through advertisers and e-commerce, “championing independent women designers and creators, as well as socially conscious brands,” according to the press release.
Dunham didn’t ask to be the face of contemporary feminism, with its ideological infighting and preoccupation with body image and identity politics.
Assuming that role has come with nearly as many vitriolic critics as adulating fans. (The vitriol aimed at Dunham, frequently by right-wing men, is particularly rampant and insidious on social media.)
It makes sense then that Dunham is launching her own brand of political and cultural awareness for “an army of like-minded intellectually curious women” on a platform where she can regulate criticism of herself.
Lenny subscribers are less likely to criticize her anyway because they’re her target demographic.
Lenny will surely attract Dunham haters, too. They can ridicule her all they want on Twitter, but the newsletter-website doesn’t have a comments section.
So Lenny will be a soapbox where Dunham can speak to her fans, as well as a kind of progressive-liberal online shop (buy your feminism here!) where she can shill merchandise alongside her ideology.
It’s a very smart, strategic move: Now that Dunham has been appointed the voice and face of liberal-minded millennial women, she might as well grow Dunham Operations into an empire and be her own PR rep.
Paltrow did the same thing with Goop, announcing her “conscious uncoupling” from husband Chris Martin in her newsletter rather than through a rep.
Indeed, the celebrity-branded platform is both a mouthpiece and pedestal for the celebrity. It gives her more control over her public image, and allows her to run the show from behind Oz’s curtain.
If everything goes smoothly behind the scenes, Lenny stands to be considerably more successful from the get-go than Goop was at the height of its popularity—long before Gwynnie fatigue set in and the media turned on the lifestyle guru.
Paltrow never had the cultural caché that Dunham has. Her hippy-dippy brand was popular among wealthy moms, but it had a short shelf-life in the mainstream.
Dunham, meanwhile, has nailed the zeitgeist with Girls for the last four years and grown her influence beyond pop culture to politics.
She’s recognized as much for her activism as she is for playing the stunningly self-involved Hannah Horvath on Girls.
Lenny will give Dunham an entirely new outlet to voice her political views. “With Lenny there’s no such thing as TMI, there’s no such thing as self-involved,” she told Buzzfeed. “We’ll be allowed to show the ugly and complicated thought processes that go into forming your own brand of feminism, and your own identity, because it’s not all clean back here.”
For a generation that thrives on over-sharing in an echo chamber, broadcasting hurt feelings and Instagramming body-positive selfies, Dunham’s newest project may just be more zeitgeist-y than Girls.
It will certainly mean there is no escaping her voice—nirvana for her fans, catnip for her haters, and an altogether canny, creative move for Dunham herself.