On September 1st 2011, fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson published the first three articles for Rookie Mag, a free online magazine specifically for young girls. The magazine would continue posting articles in this many, three a day by different authors once a day. The articles would vary in nature, some would be playlists, some would be thinkpieces, some would be photo diaries, etcetera. Something they did have in common, however, is they always had the well being of their readers at heart. Whether they were encouraging creativity, giving thoughtful advice, or championing strong women, it was clear that they not only took their audience seriously but respected their intelligence.
One of the things that made Rookie so popular is how they encouraged teen contribution. Not only did they have various places for advice (Ask a Grown, Just Asking, Damn Girl Ya Look Good), but they would publish what readers sent in, whether it be short fiction, essays, comics, or poetry. Other than the readers, though, the writers at Rookie also mostly consisted of teenagers. Tavi herself, after all, was only 15 when she started it. This created an authentic environment that felt as if it was specifically for young people, instead of just some corporate take on youth culture. The age of the columnists, however, did not negatively affect the professionalism of the magazine. A majority of the pieces were well worded, thorough, and always, unfailingly honest. Sometimes the pieces would be brutally so, detailing painful stories and experiences. The unyielding nature of these was never excessive, though, rather making sure they told how they lived through it. After all, the goal is not to shock but empowering kids who may have gone through similar situations.
Because Rookie cared about their readers, they were sure to represent all different cultures and backgrounds. When recommending books, movies, or music, they did not shy away from being inclusive. Likewise, when interviewing specific artists they would always be sure to include people of color, queer folk and people with disabilties. This being said, Rookie’s efforts always paid off. Some of the celebrities they featured included Michelle Zaunher from Japanese Breakfast, Amandla Stenberg, Teagan and Sara, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Kumail Nanjiani; who all gave excellent advice and insight. Meanwhile, writers like Hunter Schafer, Jamia Wilson, Jenny Zhang, Marie Lodi, Tyler Ford provided a variety of different perspectives . If Tavi Gevison had not made an extra effort to seek out a diverse staff and featured guests, the magazine would have still been good, but would have been far too one sided. Instead, she strove for excellence and it more than paid off.
By respecting different demographics of people and maintaining an accepting atmosphere, they promoted unity and camaraderie. One of the ways that they managed this was their segment “Friend Crush”, where they gave girls the opportunity to talk about how amazing their friends are. They then contact the friends and ask them questions about their friendship with the girl and what it means to them. This segment attracted all manner of friendships, whether it be between sisters, childhood friends, new friends, or even online friends. It was a wholesome way of celebrating different types of bonds and what makes them unique. Though it was just for fun, their small act in celebrating the friendships of women came a long way. By depicting relationships between women as positively rather than negatively, they chose to focus on viewing fellow women as allies rather than competition. Considering the fact that their audience was mostly girls, and society often tries to pit girls against each other, this was and is a refreshing stance for them to take.
Rookie Mag officially shut down in 2017, but it left quite a legacy. It promoted teen power, diversity, and solidarity between women rather than resentment. With the helpful advice, educational articles, fun crafts, vulnerable stories, and fun environment, it was a source of life and light. Best of all, it was absolutely free, making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Fortunately, though they are no longer updating it, the site has been archived making the articles still available for viewing. Needless to say, Rookie Mag will continue to be a beacon of hope for teens for years to come.