The Girl Crush Uncovered

Every girl has at least one ‘girl crush’. 

To clarify, this is not an article about fancying girls (once again, sorry to disappoint). Instead, a ‘girl crush’ is someone you admire to the extent that you half want to be them. Most likely, it won’t be the hottest girl on campus, but that isn’t the point. The term ‘girl crush’ is synonymous, in my vocabulary, with a type of ‘role model’. That person you admire because they look like they have got life in the bag; and not just a great Instagram account. 

However, my taste in ‘girl crushes’ has changed over time. For example, if there’s anyone that inspired the female generation of the 90’s…

It’s Britney, bitch. 

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Britney simultaneously won the affections of every schoolgirl who wanted to be a popstar and a drooling reception from every adult male with a penchant for paedophilia. She was the reason that every self-respecting 14 year old during the 90s mutilated their navels in an attempt to emulate her toned abs. She then performed at the MTV awards to a crowd of squealing teenage fans, half-naked and dripping with sweat whilst writhing around with a long, thick…snake. 

Like many teenage pop stars, Britney’s image was overtly sexualised from a young age. Her record label shrewdly cultivated a ‘double audience’ for her, consisting of polar opposites. The former audience was the likes of myself and my pre-teenage peers, who would rush out to buy her album the first day that it was out, in order to blast out those insipidly sweet lyrics on repeat. And the interesting thing was, that although Britney’s album artwork has always resembled a still shot from soft pornography, the actual content of her first two albums tapped into the innocent musings of young teenage girl with homework, after-school hobbies, and a number of unrequited crushes on the boys in her class. For hardcore fans like myself, even additional album track ‘Dear Diary’, co-written by Britney herself, was met with respect and a straight face. But I do suspect that these lyrics weren’t tailored to the latter audience, who were still dwelling on that latex catsuit.

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In 2001, ‘I’m A Slave 4 U’ came out. And then, I had reached a ‘Crossroads’ indeed (to quote the title of Britney’s film debut flop) in my appreciation of this particular role model. Whilst, at 10 years old, I did not understand why lovely Britney was panting and gyrating among a mass of sweaty men (I now understand it to be a unisex bikram yoga session), I was still at that age where the opposite sex may have cooties. So, whatever she was up to, it scared me.

This rapid transition from an innocent Louisiana teen into FHM’s sexiest woman threw us all a little, not to mention Britney herself. The shit really hit the fan in March 2007, when Britney publicly rushed into a hair salon and shaved her own head, to the delight of the paparazzi and the horror of her waning fans. Call it what you want: drugs, drink, or just the effect of the age-old exploitation of young pop icons, who become too old to soon in order to meet the growing demands of a sex-crazed public, but Britney lost it.

In present day, Britney’s one lasting legacy as an inspirational figure is the mantra:

‘if Britney can make it through 2007 then you can make it through this day’

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She Was A Skater Girl

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In 2002 came the antidote to Britney: Avril Lavigne. Avril was more risky than risqué; more inclined to fall off of her skateboard than into the trap of being exploited for her sexuality. Instead, she appealed to the sullen, acne-ridden teenager. Perhaps this was not as diverse an audience as Britney gathered, but there sure were a lot of us. I even looked a bit like Avril Lavigne. Okay, that’s complete bullshit. But I did imitate her panda-style black eyeliner and poker straight hair with the best of them.

With her pseudo-punk style and her tomboy image, Avril opened minds. Sure, she climbed the top 40 and appealed to a mainstream audience. But her appeal was that she offered an alternative to sexy, ‘pop princess’ icons like Britney (who, by this point, I was sure I had lost to a terminal case of cooties). Avril was kooky. She played guitar. She stood for the outcasts, as she sidled off, a fearless nomad, into a dark street with no sign of a parent or guardian present. She was a girl with attitude, as she pursued her one-time lover with rage in her eyes and a strident disregard for traffic safety. In short, she was everything I wanted to be.

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At the time, that is. As I say, things have changed somewhat, in relation to my role models: these days I’m more sucked in by impressive IMDb pages than record label images.

So here are my present day ‘girl crushes’:

Lena Dunham, writer, producer, director of the groundbreaking, brilliant Girls series. Victoria Pile, creator of Green Wing (not to mention the seriously underrated Campus, my favourite series ever). The redhead in the year above me at school who could sketch better than anyone I know. Edith Wharton, the great social commentator of twentieth century New York high society. The maniac lead singer of Sam And The Womp, who ‘dances like no one is watching’ in front of thousands. And last but not least, any female able to pull off dreadlocks.

In a society where women are conditioned to bitch about each other, it is so necessary for us to be able to step back and, with sincerity, praise each other for our strengths. It takes maturity and real confidence to be able to admit, without gritted teeth: ‘she’s a cool girl, and she deserves everything she achieves. Maybe I could learn something from her’. 

Because, sure, we could so easily aspire to emulate the vacant, glassy-eyed Millie Macintoshes of this world, conversationally incompetent unless it comes to Chanel handbags. But to what end? The trivial, hapless pursuit, at all costs, of being the most popular, the most desirable…the most unfulfilled.

Millie Mackintosh One Day Premiere

We need to learn to help each other out. To extend camaraderie outside of our tight comfortable friendship groups. To appreciate ‘role models’ who may not conform to the male standards of beauty that are constantly imposed upon us; they may not even rock a pair of tight jeans. But whilst such ‘girl crushes’ might lack vanity, strength of character, talent, and a bit of panache prevail. And that, above anything, is worth our admiration.

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