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So here's how it works. At my day job, at lunch time, I heat up my food and head back to my office and settle down to eat and read my favorite entertainment blogs. I have my bookmarks list specifically set up so that my very favorites are located at the bottom, so I save the best for last. The blog run by today's interviewees is certainly towards the end of that list. Their wildly popular site, Go Fug Yourself, combines three of my favorite things: fashion, hating and funny writing. Their insight has landed them gigs like covering fashion week for New York magazine and a book deal as well. Let's fug it up.
The Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks Interview: Just Under Twenty Questions
How much do you actually study fashion vs. react to what you see?
JESSICA: I would never say I was a student of fashion, really. I love fashion and I've read fashion magazines since I was a little girl, but for the blog and our other writing, I really try and go with my gut reaction. Otherwise I get caught up in the whole, "am I SUPPOSED to like this?" thing, and I don't think that works for our particular job, since we're definitely not "proper" fashion critics, as much as we are sort of two regular girls on the street.
HEATHER: I think part of the appeal of the site is that we're all about gut reactions -- a similar experience to when somebody picks up a gossip magazine and sees a photo and thinks, "That person looks DERANGED
." I'm not a huge fan of the idea that I'm supposed to give something that looks bad a pass just because it's considered "high fashion" or because someone with a famous name designed it and can sell it for a boatload of money. Fashion mags are fun to read, but I'm not going to kowtow to them if what they're pimping looks ridiculous on people.
What's the hardest part about fashion reporting?
HEATHER: I actually wouldn't say that we're fashion reporters at all. We don't have to keep up with designers and trends for the work we do on GFY, and we're not covering the industry in any real way. When we go to Fashion Week we make sure we're up to speed, but even so, what I imagine would be the hard part of fashion reporting -- analyzing the collections -- isn't something we're expected to do, because our function at Fashion Week isn't to talk about the clothes. It's to talk about the celebs, and who is or isn't in the front row. And I'm glad of that; I think the angles we're working are more fun anyway.
JESSICA: Yes, I certainly don't consider myself a proper fashion reporter as much as someone who talks about celebrities in general via their awesome/dumb outfits. Fashion reporting would be an amazing job in many ways, and I absolutely respect fashion journalists, but I wouldn't be qualified to say what the hardest part of that job is, since I think we're on a slightly different beat...
Who have you met from the fashion world who you thought would be Queen Bitch who turned out to be unexpectedly nice?
JESSICA: You know, we don't really meet a ton of people from the fashion world. I have to say, though, that when we go to Fashion Week, we're seated next to all kinds of different fashion-y types and by and large, everyone has been really friendly and chatty.
What are your favorite other fashion-related sites?
HEATHER: I don't really read many other fashion sites. I'll surf through Fashion Week Daily's
Web site, and I read Glamour's blogs -- we met a couple of their people, and they're all really fun and friendly -- but by and large, I just stick to reading Vogue and Elle when they come in the mail.
Worst trend of late?
JESSICA: I think it's no secret that we really don't like formal shorts
. I feel like, if you look cute in shorts, you will look CUTER in a skirt, so why not look as cute as possible?
HEATHER: I am not a fan of skinny jeans and flats, both separately and together, but what might be poised to become the REAL bane of my existence is the move back toward high-waisted jeans and pants
. We saw some of that at Fashion Week in February and it drove me mental. Didn't we abandon those rises in the first place because of how unflattering they are on 99 percent of women? Lordy.
Who is your favorite person to pick on and why?
JESSICA: I find that I get a kind of Stockholm Syndrome wherein someone I pick on all the time starts really growing on me -- not that I start liking their clothes, but that I start feeling a real fondness for them. For this reason, I love Courtney and Ashley Peldon
. They look sort of clueless, fashion-wise, but I find them sweet and weirdly fascinating. Britney
used to be my favorite, because I used to write first-person pieces about her and it was fun getting inside what I imagined to be her head, but now she's sort of just making me sad.
HEATHER: I always have fun with Chloe Sevigny and Sienna Miller. When fashion magazines or insiders revere someone whose choices are completely baffling to me, I tend to enjoy fugging them the most. Because really, what's so brilliant and visionary about wearing sandals tied around the outside of a pair of jeans?
Who do you think most unfairly gets nailed for his or her fashion choices?
JESSICA: You know, fashion criticism -- like any kind of criticism of the arts -- is so personal. It's very hard to be subjective. So it's hard for me to say that another critic is wrong: it's just their opinion. However, I do think that there are certain people who are, for me, sort of immune to criticism, like Bjork. Bjork is Bjork -- you can't really rail on her for dressing like a bird or whatever because that's who she's always been. It's not a cry for attention, it's truly her form of self-expression.
HEATHER: It's tough for us to look back at our own stuff and say, "Wow, that was unfair," because we tend to agree with what's in our archives even as many as two years removed. But after the Super Bowl we got a lot of e-mails begging us to fug Prince, and my thought was, "But... it's PRINCE." If he showed up in jeans and a button-down shirt everyone would think he'd been body-snatched.
If you could afford to buy the clothes of any designer of your dreams, who would it be?
JESSICA: Ooh, I wish this were the case. I freely admit that I'm not terribly avant-garde in my personal style, which will surprise no one who reads GFY. We live in Los Angeles, so my wardrobe really needs lots of pretty, girly dresses, cute light coats, sexy tops, and jeans. Anything else here can look sort of overdone, for me anyway. I loved Proenza Schouler's
last runway show, and I'm a perennial fan of Catherine Malandrino
. They're perfect for that kind of aesthetic. I also love Milly
, and I thought that Tory Burch
's fall line was fun in an uptight 60s stewardess kind of way -- I'm a sucker for sort of vintage-y looking pieces in loud fabrics.
HEATHER: Critics didn't agree -- they thought it was derivative -- but I really enjoyed Derek Lam
's Fall 2007 show, and would love to have the budget to drop some cash on that, some Malandrino, and some of Ruffian's
stuff as well. My style isn't that far off from Jess's on paper, even if the way we enact it differs; I need all that same basic stuff, like fun dresses and skirts. I do wear my share of jeans also. I will say that I don't generally find one designer uniformly fabulous -- even with DVF, whom I love. I'm one of the few people in the world who doesn't bow down to the wrap dress, as they don't look good on me at all, but otherwise I like her style and taste fairly regularly. And if I had to work in an office, I'd love Nanette Lepore.
Her stuff is so flirty and bright. And expensive. Sigh.
Why do you think so many of your readers respond negatively to your site when fashion don'ts are a staple so many other places?
JESSICA: You know, we actually don't get THAT much hate mail. (Please, don't take this as an invitation to send us some.) I think a lot of readers who do respond negatively, honestly, are just doing so because we've attacked a celebrity that they love and they feel defensive and protective of that celebrity, which is understandable to a point. I also am pretty sure that the people at E! and whatnot get plenty of hate mail -- they just don't publish the occasional sampling.
JESSICA: We got forwarded some of that, but to be honest with you, I didn't really read it. I try to just go about my life the way I always have. I'm quite sure I'm not a misogynist. I'm sure people could argue that I am a misanthrope, but I actually just hate seeing people wearing ugly clothes when they could look so much better in something else -- men or women.
HEATHER: I don't really think about it because I KNOW I'm not a woman-hater. The whole crux of our site is that we're two normal girls who can't figure out how some of these celebs make such strange choices. And we imagine ourselves in their shoes, with trainers and stylists and makeup people and free clothes and/or a hefty bank account, and we think, "Wow, if I had all that, I would look hot all the time and I would NOT have bought that shirt." It's not about hating women; it's about wishing people flattered their assets and being confused when they don't. We put plenty of stuff up about men, also, but the problem is that by and large our photos are all from red-carpet events and it's a lot harder for men to screw up a basic suit -- and that's more or less what a lot of them wear. Women have a much broader spectrum of items and styles from which to select, and with more choice comes more potential for disaster. But I think anyone who thinks we're misogynistic isn't reading the posts where we beg the skinny girls to get healthy, or compliment women of all shapes and sizes on good choices, or point out that someone with a beautiful body is doing it a disservice. I'm not trying to pretend GFY has an underlying philanthropic goal of societal change -- not at all. But we're not all about beating down women. And I do think that shows, and the amount of mail we get in support of that far, far, far outweighs the negative ones accusing us of undoing feminism.
What is your writing background? Because while we all love pretty pictures of pretty people looking ugly, it's your writing that really makes the site.
JESSICA: Thank you! I have an English degree from UCLA and worked as a copywriter and writing for reality television for many years, so I am a writer by trade.
HEATHER: I started out in journalism, both in college at Notre Dame and professionally for a little while for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. I also worked in reality TV and have freelanced online for places like Television Without Pity.
How much promoting, if any, have you done for the blog to get it the notoreity it has today?
HEATHER: We haven't done any, actually. It's been a total blessing that we've gotten the word-of-mouth we have. We owe a lot to sites like Defamer and Gawker and LA.com, as well as Television Without Pity's recappers and forum posters, who linked to us early and often and unbidden. That gave us a huge bump and it just accelerated from there.
Speaking of which, did you make a conscious decision to keep the design relatively clean? There are a lot of other blogs that have taken off that are littered with various kinds of ads
HEATHER: Yeah. With the color scheme, we didn't want it to be totally harmonious, because the site IS about fug, after all, and we didn't necessarily think the masthead needed to be super-professional looking for that same reason. But we do want to keep the content section of the site as clean as we can. We don't want to overshadow the posts.
Since the blog became more famous have you felt more pressure to look good when you're out in public?
HEATHER: Not really. I spend just as much time hating everything in my closet now as I did before the blog. Because I'm neurotic like that. As far as going to the supermarket, though, I totally do it in my baggy jeans and t-shirts with my hair in a bun or a cap. I'm never going to be the person who puts on a dress to run errands. But I will also say that nobody really knows or cares what I look like, so there's way less of a chance anyone would recognize me. If we're going to a party representing GFY, I guess I might stress a little bit more, but there's also a point at which I have to give up and say, "Well, I have what I have, and I'm going to have to just wear something and hope for the best."
JESSICA: I always stressed out about what to wear to events, anyway, so that hasn't changed at all! I will say that I have run out to do errands, hungover in yoga pants and a ponytail, and thought, "I would SO fug me right now," but on the whole I don't worry about it more than I did before. As Heather noted, when we're going somewhere where we're meeting people for the first time and we're representing the site, I of course put a little extra thought into what I want to wear, but on the whole, I haven't increased my overall level of stress about it too terribly much.
How come you turned off the comments feature on the blog?
HEATHER: We don't have time to moderate them, and they needed heavy moderation. They took on a really hateful aura that I genuinely believe is not at all present or encouraged in our posts -- not attacks on us, but on the people we were posting about. Things like directly calling teenage girls whores and suggesting they were gonna get what they deserved for dressing like they do. I actually think that might be where a lot of the misogyny stuff started. Jess and I were writing the site while maintaining really busy day jobs, so we didn't have time to read all the comments, much less moderate them. And therefore, we weren't catching things in a timely fashion. That meant certain awful sentiments had time to blow up into arguments or nasty strings of conversation, and because Jess and I couldn't get there quickly (or even at all some days), they'd linger there and it ended up looking like our tacit approval of those sorts of sentiments. When that wasn't the case at all; we were just too busy to see them. It started happening with alarming regularity, and we didn't see any other realistic option other than closing them completely. That aura wasn't anything we wanted associated with the site, and we haven't regretted it once.
Can you share with us your typical day and how it gets divided up, writing/work wise?
HEATHER: It involves a lot of Instant Messenger. Jess and I will surf our image provider sites, and if something strikes our fancy, we'll notify the other that we're covering it. Sometimes we do stuff the night before and set it to post at particular times the next day, and let each other know via e-mail what's been set for which times. We don't edit each other, and we don't approve each other's decisions; I trust her completely. She makes me laugh every day, so she can do whatever the heck she wants, in my opinion. If we're doing a freelance assignment, we'll usually break it down together if it's a free-form piece and have one start, and the other tweak and then continue, and then hand it back, or if it's a quippy assignment (like In Touch) we'll toss stuff back and forth at each other via IM until we come up with remarks we like.
JESSICA: We also watch a lot of 90210.
What can you tell us about the book? What will it look like, when will we get it? And would you say it's going to be a book best enjoyed in bed with a lover? On the bus, trying to impress people? On the toilet, on a relaxing Sunday?
HEATHER: If we're producing good, solid bathroom reading, we've done our job. But I want to aim higher. I want someone to be spied reading it while whizzing down the Alps on skis, or hang-gliding over the Grand Canyon. Or sitting in Church. Might as well shoot for the moon, right? What's bigger than God reading over your shoulder? The book itself is in the nascent stages of design. We just turned in our first draft, so we can't even imagine what it'll look like when it's done, but it'll be all new "entries" arranged in an awards format. We'll nominate people for various facetious awards categories we've made up to honor the best -- or worst -- of the worst, and name winners.
JESSICA: I plan to force all my lovers to read it to me in bed. That's a great idea!
What's been the hardest part of translating the blog into a book? There's been a lot of hay made over bloggers with book deals, so do you feel much pressure?
HEATHER: We feel pressure in the sense that we don't want to disappoint our readers, or put out a book that will somehow do the blog a disservice. But I honestly don't think we'll do that; I have to believe that won't be the end result. By far the trickiest thing is the timely nature of the blog, which you can't translate because of the longer publishing cycle. During the writing alone, we had to rejigger stuff about Tara Reid and Britney Spears several times because they kept pulling new hijinks. We just have to hope everyone holds off on their drama until after the book is out. I mean, can't they just think of US for a change?
JESSICA: Seriously. Please, everyone: stay alive! But on a serious note, I find that I can't think too much about what people expect from the book, or it will prevent me from actually writing it. I think we just have to write something we're happy with, that we feel is true to the tone of the site, that we think our readers will enjoy, and hope for the best.
How does it feel to be the 175th and 176th people interviewed for Zulkey.com?
HEATHER: I am giddy. The room is starting to spin a little and I'm suddenly incredibly hungry for potato chips. But that might also be from all the wine.
JESSICA: You know you've spoiled us for all other interviews, right? I hope you can live with that on your conscience.
More interviews here!