A Brief History of ‘It’ Girls

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“It isn’t beauty, so to speak, nor good talk necessarily. It’s just ‘It’.”

—Rudyard Kipling

1. “Scandals of Classic Hollywood: Clara Bow, ‘It’ Girl,” (Anne Helen Petersen, The Hairpin, May 2011)

Clara Bow was the original It girl, so much so that her 1927 film, titled—what else?—“It,” more or less defined the phenomenon. This piece, from Petersen’s Scandals of Classic Hollywood series, offers a perfectly juicy take on Ms. Bow.

2. “Almost Famous” (Katherine Stewart, Santa Barbara Magazine, Oct./Nov. 2006)

Stewart goes beyond the usual Edie clichés and delves into Sedgwick family lore, as well as Edie’s post-Factory return to Santa Barbara.

3. “Chloe’s Scene,” (Jay McInerney, The New Yorker, Nov. 1994)

McInerney’s piece—a semi-seminal take on uber-It girl Chloe Sevigny in the early days of her downtown reign—captures a weird freeze-frame in time: Sevigny pre-Kids fame, and downtown New York in its last gasps of grittiness.

4. “Welcome to the Dollhouse: New York’s Power-Girl Publicists,” (Vanessa Grigoriadis, New York, December 1998)

“Perky, pretty, and remarkably plugged-in, a pack of young publicists have become the darlings of New York’s demimonde. But be careful—they bite.” Detail-packed, with deliciously good dialogue and a healthy dollop of fun, this is classic Grigoriadis.

5. “Ksenia Sobchak: The Jane Fonda of Russia’s Dissident Movement,” ( Sarah A. Topol, Vice, July 2012)

Ksenia Sobchak is the Russian Paris Hilton, if Paris Hilton all of a sudden took an interest in revolutionary politics.

6. “The Secret Life of Cory Kennedy,” (Shawn Hubler, West, Feb. 25, 2007)

Cory Kennedy was just a regular high school hipster until party photographer Mark “The Cobrasnake” Hunter snapped her picture at an LA club. And then—practically overnight and before her parents had a chance to figure out what was going on—she was everywhere, a club kid, model, and message board fashion icon, with her very own column in Nylon. This is the making of an internet It Girl.

7. “The Trouble With ‘It Girls'” (Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed, January 2015)

Update: A new piece from Anne Helen Petersen on what the label tells us about women and their work.