Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes
In 2017, at 28 years of age Gabrielle Korn was the youngest Editor-in-Chief of an independent international digital publication called Nylon; she knew herself to be “younger and gayer than all the female EICs at competing publications in NYC, which was a point of pride for me but also made me an outsider. People like me were not supposed to get promotions like that.”
Nylon is an American multimedia brand, publishing company, and lifestyle magazine that focuses on pop culture and fashion. Its coverage includes art, beauty, music, design, celebrities, technology and travel. Originally a magazine, it switched to an all- digital format in 2017. In 2019 Nylon was acquired by a larger company without any previous discussion with Korn as EIC, and she felt that her entire immersion in the brand and her work made no sense any more even though she was requested to stay. Consequently, she quit her job to find herself again—and to finish this book.
The book, which is a series of overlapping essays rather than a consecutive memoir, has two main themes.
The first is her realization and analysis of the fact that even so-called progressive feminist media still promoted the values and images of the cis, white, patriarchy. As she notes that although by 2013/2014 it had become fashionable to promote diversity very few fashion or media houses practiced what they preached; “diversity was just another trend with media executives choosing to wait it out.” Korn tried before and during her career with Nylon to redefine beauty standards to embrace racial, gender, and size differences and to create media that was “actively anti-racist, progressively feminist, queer encompassing, interested in sustainability, and aesthetically oriented.”
Her own main protest took the form of luxuriant body hair, though as she notes being young, white, and skinny she still ticked enough boxes to outweigh the “largely invisible traits of Jewish and lesbian.”
The other and perhaps dominant thread running through these essays is her roller coaster ride with anorexia, originally triggered by her desire to achieve the “androgynously emaciated silhouette that all dykes were going for in the aughts,” but also promoted and rewarded by her work milieu. She recognizes that “being skinny was a weapon, a strategy, a safety net. Trying to lose weight was a convenient way to distract myself from what was really going on” in her private life and in the very pressurized work environment. A key chapter here is “Happy Weight” where she shows how happiness in her private life is always accompanied by weight gain and vice versa.
Korn has studied both queer and feminist theory and could have made more use of her knowledge, particularly of Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth (1991), which is mentioned in passing without attribution, to analyze her experience and to organize her material.
The continuing lack of diversity and inclusivity of mainstream and other media both in their own organization and the messages they convey, and the impact of this on eating disorders and other mental health issues, are perhaps becoming rather well-worn themes, but Korn explores them again with elegance and passion that take her story above the banal.