5 Signs Lena Dunham Is Building a Media Empire

Following the success of her TV show and bestselling book, she launched a newsletter and a podcast this year. Up next: she's set to direct another sure-to-be-hit HBO series. Is there anything Lena can't do?

Girls, the show that launched a thousand panicky think-pieces about millennials, may also have created the perfect groundswell for co-creator/showrunner/star, Lena Dunham to parlay all that pearl clutching into countless other projects across pretty much every medium out there. It happened so quickly, we almost didn’t notice, but when we take stock of everything L-Dun is up to these days—from a new TV series to her podcast and newsletter, it’s clear that her fledgling media empire is expanding—and dominating conversation, one pull-quote at a time.


On Screen: Lena has the joy and pain of having created one of the most heavily scrutinized shows in the history of television. Girls’ take on sex, body image, privilege, friendship, money and careers is so closely tied into Lena’s real-life persona that it’s taken time for audiences to separate her from her character Hannah Horvath. Often, critics downplay the show’s cultural impact because of the confessional nature of its storylines as somehow self-indulgent, so we can’t wait to see them eat their words when her next venture debuts: Lena is directing a pilot for HBO for a show called Max, which centres around feminism in the ’60s and stars Zoe Kazan. Will two hit shows be enough to quiet her critics? Let’s watch and find out.

In Print: The literatti lost its collective mind when Lena’s book advance was leaked—it was hefty, sure, but not much more than Aziz Ansari’s advance, which didn’t really cause a stir. Gawker went so far as to publish (which was pretty much akin to mocking) her unedited, unauthorized book proposal, much to her embarrassment. But it turns out that being in business with Lena pays: Not that Kind of Girl sold 38,000 hardcover copies in its first week alone. SO THERE.



On Social Media: Lena’s use of social media is strongly tied to the causes she holds dear. Her Twitter and Insta feeds are a heavy dose of real talk on body issues (including unfiltered and unedited selfies), misogyny, LGBTQ issues, police brutality and women’s reproductive health. She’s also a giddy fan, often praising the work of other media bosses including Shonda Rhimes, Miranda July, Taylor Swift and Rihanna. But it’s not all hearts and likes—Dunham writes her own tweets but has an assistant post them because the level of online toxicity directed at her accounts is way harsh. She’s also been known to pull posts from Instagram lest her young fans internalize the cruel comments trolls leave.

Over the Air Waves: Can’t stop, won’t stop: Lena recently added podcasting to her overflowing portfolio, partnering with BuzzFeed on “Women of the Hour.” In Lena’s own words (via Twitter), “In honor of the Not That Kind of Girl paperback release, I decided to explore the themes of my book further, talking to an array of women I love and admire in order to bring you an audio collage/feminist variety hour in the form of this podcast: Women of the Hour.” Her longtime friend and Girls co-star Jemima Kirke has already been a guest, and Oscar nominees Emma Stone and June Squibb (who played Hannah’s grandma on Girls) offer advice each episode. Actress and comedian Amy Sedaris has made an appearance and listen for author Zadie Smith on a future episode.



In Your Inbox: When Lena and Girls producer Jenni Konner decided to launch Lenny Letter, many wondered what she could offer in the crowded “celebrity lifestyle” market. It turns out that Lena and Jenni aren’t so interested in Jo Malone candles and cashmere throws as they are in producing thoughtful, feminist content that has the ability to go viral. Some of Lenny’s highlights so far include an interview with Hillary Clinton, Jenny Slate getting a vajacial (so you don’t have to) and Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on wage inequality in Hollywood. Less than a year old, this newsletter is all grown up.

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