Last fall, I passed Chloë Sevigny—40 years old this year!—walking east on 16th Street in the golden hour with a giant Chloé shopping bag slung over her shoulder. I forced eye contact; she did not return my smile, but locked eyes anyway. Her red lipstick was lacquered on, complimenting a white ensemble, if only to say, “No, darling, I’m not worried about getting this on my shirt,” or “You’d be lucky if I get it on yours, to remember me.”
Jay McInerney, a fabulously flamboyant and intrepid journalist, crowned Chloë the It Girl in a 1994 profile in the New Yorker, and then, with methodical schoolboy precision, went about proving it. And you know I give him a real A++ for effort: “Watching Chloë read a fashion magazine makes you think of Alexander Woollcott devouring a ten-pound lobster a l’Americaine or Casanova undressing a servant girl.” Now, “the coolest girl in the world” or not, one still cannot elide the fact that he’s really saying: I’m watching a 19-year-old from the suburbs read Vogue.
But for the past 20 years, Chloë’s more or less eschewed the fan-celebrity pact with her public that usually means employing a publicist with a direct line to Us Weekly. If you want to worship me, she seemed to say, sing The Bluest Eyes in Texas at Karaoke like in Boys Don’t Cry, refresh eBay for that pink Supreme skateboard with my high school yearbook photo, DVR Big Love.
Until this year, where seemingly out of the blue she released Chloë Sevigny, her Rizzoli picture fan book “for the kids.” It’s a beautiful gingham artifact but, to quote the writer Amie Barrodale, if you’re like me then be like me and immediately start clique stalking her photog-y friends who provided the candid snaps on Instagram. There’s bestie from the tri-state area, musician-artist Lizzi Bougatsos, who posted these cheeky outtakes that didn’t make it in the book; here’s our lady chilling with skater-chronicler William Strobeck, who just so happens is friends with the “mystery man”, i.e. civilian Ricky Saiz, Chloe’s been dating this year.
Then—because there’s nothing chicer than doubling down—she gifted us No Time For Love, a zine of the men in her life (with stickers over their faces and newspaper clippings from Page Six). What’s worse—or what proves her to be the ultimate celebrity, I think—is that her primary sources serve only to heighten her opaqueness, her coolness, her unattainable celebrity-ness.
The actress Natasha Lyonne, writing the afterword to Chloë, addresses the Chloë je ne sais quoi: “You can live in her house, drive her car, listen to her iPod, and wear her clothes—none of that makes you Chloë.” To which I almost screamed: Yes, yes, but tell us what’s on her iPod! Lyonne gives up a little, but not much: “No matter what her particular obsessions are—the film Picnic At Hanging Rock, the novel The Executioner’s Song, Morrissey, Fassbender, Depeche Mode, Judy Garland—it’s all in her lifeblood…I could go on and tell you how much she loves fennel. Or that we eat a lot of watercress together.” She doesn’t go on, though I wish she would.
In her “where-is-she-now” New Yorker profile this year, 20 years after the premier of Kids, she defined cool: “Cool has a certain mystery to it. It’s being removed. To me, the coolest thing is to keep something to yourself.” In her zine, she clipped her quote in a New York Post article: “’I don’t like Sean Penn talking about how much he likes [poet] Charles Bukowski on Charlie Rose. To me, I’d rather not hear that at all. I’d rather not know so much about actors. It makes it harder for me to enjoy the characters they play.” (The Post gets the kicker though: “Thanks, Chloe [sic] — now we know a little more about you, too.”)
I see Chloë as a celebrity quite tuned in to the whitewashing effects of the Hollywood machine. In the Spring/Summer Issue of Purple, she flips this worry onto her interviewer’s lap: “How does one maintain their weirdness over time?…How do you stay in touch with the people on the weirder side of life? Do you know what I mean? I often think about that when I see performers and people that I admire getting older. Women always start to do an Asian influence, like kimonos…” (In a classic Chloë I-change-my-mind-when-I-want move, she also told Leandra Medine this year that “as I get older and dress a little more ladylike, maybe I’ll buy into more Japanese designers, I think that might be the route for me…”)
In Chloë’s case, you maintain your weirdness by all of a sudden taking your foot off the peddle whenever you feel like it. You move from the East Village—her East Village—to Park Slope, with nothing more than a shrug. You get an Instagram account and sign up for Facebook after decrying the lack of privacy on social media. You give us, in 2015, a weird a wacky body of work as a model, actress, designer, It Woman on top of all this self-released media: via Opening Ceremony we American Girls can finally pull off the trench coat and beret in America; she got ugly ugly for American Horror Story; she teamed up with pal Natasha Lyonne for a horror film called, duh, #horror; she posed naked with a lobster as underwear a la Dalí; she smoked a cigarette with Kristen Stewart; she got a “screwball thriller” movie where she plays a character named Chloe crowdfunded on Kickstarter (girl, we support you)…
Which is all to say, the coolest thing Chloë could do at 40 is do what she never did before: give us everything we want, then shrug as if to say, “You’re the one that wanted proof you couldn’t be like me.” And so—my zine shredding its staples from heavy flipping; my Chloë book at a friend’s house because she wanted to “borrow” it—I think I’m just going to have to go back to watching her movies, wearing her clothes, refreshing her friends Instagram feeds, and praying that Gawker Stalker will come back!
Photo via Getty.
More on online admiration: what it means to be someone’s #Mom.