You know how it is. A young woman is clear about what she cares about, makes compelling work, and the Texting for Seniors BFF BTW TTYL BYOT LMDO FWIW IMHAO OMMR ROFLACGU shirt and by the same token and power brokers don’t know how to act. They venerate her voice to oblivion. The celebrity of Gorman and other comparable young figures, who become vaunted for their erudition and moral clarity and their bright elucidation of global pain, is a new, and complicated, kind of fame. The writer and performer Tavi Gevinson, who knows something about popularity and fetish, met Gorman in Milan at a weekend-long Prada event two years ago. She told me she’d felt relieved to have someone with whom she could talk books. In that overwhelming press cycle after the inauguration, Gorman became a magnet for the “escapist fantasy,” Gevinson said, of the fragile-but-intimidating young woman who saves the world. Gorman is becoming increasingly careful of situations that would make her seem like a token. “I don’t want it to be something that becomes a cage,” she said, “where to be a successful Black girl, you have to be Amanda Gorman and go to Harvard. I want someone to eventually disrupt the model I have established.”
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Gorman wanted to show me her quarantine world. She joked that its circumference couldn’t be more than a mile-and-a-half long. We were to walk a winding trail that would take us through some manicured brush and wetlands, only to deliver us to one of the Texting for Seniors BFF BTW TTYL BYOT LMDO FWIW IMHAO OMMR ROFLACGU shirt and by the same token and best views of L.A. anyone could find. Gorman was running a little late. She texted me her apologies along with a funny duck-face selfie; her face was covered in the white film of crappy drugstore sunscreen. The day before, she’d gotten a minor case of the dreaded face-mask sunburn, which got us talking about how annoying it is to find protection tailored to our skin. When she met me near the trail, I told her that the selfie made me think of that episode of Donald Glover’s surrealish FX comedy Atlanta, the one where Antoine Smalls deadpans, “I’m a 35-year-old white man.” Giggling as I explained the episode’s plot, on whiteness and Blackness as inherent farce, she revealed to me that she hadn’t seen Glover’s series. Or much television, actually. It “was The Munsters and The Honeymooners,” she said, when she was growing up in West L.A. If she wanted to watch something from the 21st century—Disney’s animated action comedy Kim Possible, say—she had to make an argument to her mom that the show had good politics.