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Lena Dunham has never been shy about fucking up. But she’s hoping to do less of that in her 30s—and maybe to do more of manifesting her feelings in less problematic ways, like how she does her hair.
Dunham, 31, joked about the tiny, disheveled ponytail she sported at SXSW on Saturday, where she spoke with newly appointed editor-in-chief of Glamour magazine, Samantha Barry. In a conversation that hit on politics and the digitization of the publishing industry, the two media influencers zeroed in on “authenticity” in personal branding.
Barry treaded lightly to ask how Dunham—the Girls actor, director, and producer who has sparked controversy for both what she says off-screen and what she does on-screen—defines authenticity.
“You fuck up a lot, what’s your secret to continuing to do that?” Dunham suggested as a better question.
The conversation glided over but didn’t specify Dunham’s more recent anti-feminist behavior. Fans and critics alike were shocked and maddened in November when the self-proclaimed feminist defended Girls writer Murray Miller amid sexual assault allegations against him.
Dunham and her Girls co-showrunner Jenni Konner both said at the time that they believed actress Aurora Perrineau’s accusations against him were “one of the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.”
One day later, Dunham tweeted an apology about the statement, saying she was “sorry” and had come to “understand that it was absolutely the wrong time to come forward with such a statement.” But many women—including author Zinzi Clemmons, who publicly cut ties with Dunham’s “Lenny Letter” newsletter—thought the incident spoke louder volumes of Dunham’s brand of feminism than her often-voiced declarations of the term.
That kind of (frequent) gaffe, as Dunham admitted Saturday, comes from a lack of both filter and the type of self-control often required for celebrity status opinions.
“I don’t have whatever the skill set is that allows you to program your own image from the outside and make decisions about how you make calculated decisions, about how you want to come across, which isn’t always a bad thing,” Dunham said. “There are tons of women who I completely look up to who are curating their images in really fascinating ways. But whenever I’ve tried to do that, it’s been an epic fail.”
She offered the reminder that she was 23 when she reached a high level of fame and pointed to other women—Amy Schumer, Tiffany Haddish, Tig Notaro, Sarah Silverman—who she looks to for inspiration on being authentic. Also on the list: Anna Wintour.
“She’s had that haircut for a fucking long time,” Dunham said. “She’s unapologetic about being so clear about her identity and what interests her and what her personal brand is. It’s just as exciting to see that as someone on the red carpet who is willing to admit they are wearing Spanx.”
Dunham said as the next decade of her life unfolds, she’s trying to both heed the give-or-take 19 people who are tasked with stopping her from tweeting word vomit and to “slow down and think about how I can give other women the platform that was given to me,” such as with the content of Lenny Letter.
There’s a level of grown-upness coming to her work as well, Dunham said, such as with her new HBO show Camping, starring Jennifer Garner and set for October release.
“I hope that this is maturing,” Dunham said. “I think it is. I can’t be sure. I still wear my hair like this.”
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.