There was much discussion in our production meetings about whether or not Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of a hockey legend whose current fame is largely based on revealing photos she posts online, was an appropriate FLARE face. “Our cover subjects should inspire women!” was the general plaint.
I’ll admit that my heart dropped a little when, as we were closing this issue, she posted a picture of herself giving the finger to a puppet of Obama sitting on her lap, hours after the U.S. presidential election. She promptly took it down; I guess she realized it lacked decorum (she wouldn’t let us know her reasoning). But I thought more about it, and although I don’t share her political leanings, I do share her penchant for reckless, impulsive self-expression that I sometimes end up regretting. (Gretzky talks about this in an intimate conversation with the writer Olivia Stren, on page 94 of our February issue.)
In fact, my character has been forged in the crucible of bald statements, brash critiques and the ensuing shame hangovers. Whether or not Gretzky is making the best choices as she pursues her dream of pop stardom remains to be seen, but I can’t say for certain that if I were 24 right now, I wouldn’t be posting risqué pictures of myself online; admittedly fewer people would be interested, but I’m still glad I didn’t have the option!
We paired Gretzky with photographer Caitlin Cronenberg for two reasons. For a young artist, Cronenberg has already developed an original, strong point of view on “sexy.” She creates nuanced, dreamlike stories that tease out the unconscious tensions lying beneath erotic desire (see her work with Paz de la Huerta on caitlincronenberg.com). She cast Gretzky as a beautiful young actress tinged with the poignancy that comes from carrying hopes and expectations of fame, which worked particularly well with the season’s poignantly pretty dresses. And she’s also the daughter of a famous dad, the director David Cronenberg. I knew she’d have a smart, sensitive approach to Gretzky as a subject because she has a similar challenge: making a parent’s name be her own—which she’s well on her way to doing, as you can see by her intriguing portrayal.
Since when did it become a fashion magazine’s job to drape the world around us in feel-good messages and exclude any complex topic (or person) that doesn’t conform to typical ideas of model behaviour? (Speaking of, look at Kate Moss!) God, how patronizing to female readers! How claustrophobic. Fashion evolves from inappropriate behaviour, from risks, mistakes and craziness, as much as from restraint. No, our concern is what’s happening, which is the fundamental definition of fashion. And in particular, what’s happening in terms of the images that surround us, which Gretzky’s certainly have been, at least for those of you who might have peeked at your partner’s Twitter feed. It’s up to you to decide what you want to rip from that as you experiment with your own style.