This weekend, Lena Dunham was a panellist at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. The panel, titled “Authenticity and Media in 2018,” gave Dunham an opportunity to discuss her perspective on those issues, sharing that she is “moving away from this sense that I need to have an opinion about everything.”
As she discussed the idea of being authentic and what that means with Glamour’s new editor-in-chief Samantha Barry, Dunham admitted that she believes it varies depending on the person. “I think authenticity comes in many forms, and it doesn’t just have to be that you didn’t just do your hair right,” she said, referring to her dishevelled topknot. “People confuse authentic with the idea of messy or broken, and I think Anna Wintour is authentic and she’s had that hair for a fucking long time.”
Dunham brings up a compelling point. We often ascribe authenticity to people who go out in public without makeup or who are outspoken about their opinions. While those can be versions of an authentic person, Dunham suggests that the word is more far-reaching. People can behave and present themselves in a variety of ways while being their authentic selves. Creating a narrow definition of what authenticity means defeats the very purpose of the word.
During the panel, Dunham acknowledged her history of creating a controversy for which she later issues an apology. Rather than focus on the negative, she viewed it as a learning experience. “We try and we fail and we try again. We think the problem from another angle and we grow,” Dunham said, before poking fun at herself by saying that she now has “19 people ready to stop me from tweeting.”
The Girls creator also shared that she often oscillates between two responses to criticism. One is having “two full days of shame,” where Dunham questions whether she should’ve ever left her house in the first place. The other is a sense of frustration where she thinks, “Nobody even deserves me. They don’t deserve my truth.” One thing’s for sure: Whether it was for her wildly popular HBO series or for her opinions online, she has dealt with a wide range of criticisms.
Dunham also mentioned that her focus has shifted. “Now I find myself wanting to slow down and think about how I can give other women the platform that was given to me. How I can speak through my work,” she told Barry. “And I hope that this is maturing. I think it is. I can’t be sure. I still wear my hair like this,” she joked.
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