Photography by Daria Kobayashi Ritch
Fashion by Chris Horan
Calling Rowan precocious feels like an understatement, though I’m reluctant to dwell too much on her age, or the notion she’s ‘wise beyond her years.’Doing so almost negates the fact she’s wise full stop, which is absolutely the case, however remarkably well-formed her ideas may be.
She herself has only recently begun to understand the constant media focus on her age in relation to the issues she’s been known to discuss—to her, blogging about intersectional feminism at age 13 was just a natural extension of the conversations she and her friends were already having at that time. We share an eye roll as we discuss the trend of older journalists, constantly labeling her generation’s ideas as ‘radical’—“I know!” she says.
“I get told that I’m a radical thinker all the time. I’m not radical. People are just consistently shocked that teenagers are on the front lines of things, and speaking about certain issues, or forming movements, but historically that’s always been the case! Young people have always been responsible for those conversations. I guess we do wear sincerity in a different way, just because we’re experiencing lots for the very first time. Rage is rage. Sadness is sadness. There’s something about that genuine lack of a filter that creates the perfect starter pack for rebellion.”
For years now, Blanchard has been recognized not only for her work as an actress—having starred as a regular in Disney’s Girl Meets World for several years, before landing a role in the feature A Wrinkle In Time earlier this year—but for elevating issues close to her heart to a wider audience.
She’s been vocal about her views on women’s rights, gay rights, and gun violence to name a few, but even after having delivered a speech on gender inequality at the UN Women’s conference (again, aged 13. I know) she’s uncomfortable being labeled an activist.
“I guess what’s irritating about the context of the word ‘activist’is that so many of my friends whose identities are more fragile and more destructed by this [Trump’s] administration are forced to have the word activist attached to them just because they’re trying to survive and be who they are. So, like, yeah, they might be trans because that’s who they are, but if they speak about that they’re automatically a trans activist and so on. That’s what makes me feel weird about the term—who gets to decide to be an activist, and who just has to be one because they’re forced to fight?”
Hearing Rowan discuss the fight she and her generation face in Trump’s America is deeply upsetting, not least because of the fact that she’s still too young to vote. There’s a tangible tension in her voice as she speaks about the anxiety and dread she feels when she considers the political landscape, but she always keeps in mind her privilege, and how differently this presidency affects certain groups over others. “What’s happening isn’t good for women. I’m really scared about things like birth control being taken away. That’s something that could affect me soon. I’m queer, all of my friends are queer—in that way the administration is very personal for me, but in other ways it’s not. I grew up in L.A., I make my own money…I’ve had so many advantages that others haven’t. Honestly it’s just so frustrating to me that older people haven’t bothered to learn the true history of their country; families being separated at borders and put into detention centers isn’t a new thing, yet people are so shocked by it. There’s definitely moments where I’m like, Fuck, there’s literally nothing I can do.”
So what does she do? For Rowan, the consumption of art and literature has been crucial in providing some hope amongst the doom and gloom. Her eyes light up as she tells me how much reading has "saved" her, as she lists titles like The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson and White Girls by Hilton Als as, "necessary texts for living.”
Earlier this year, she released her very own book, Still Here, a collection of her own diary entries, poems, and photographs with contributions from her friends, including fellow September L’Officiel cover star Gia Coppola. Formatted like an intimate scrapbook, the opening page reads, poignantly, in a handwritten scrawl, “I AM NOT TOO YOUNG TO KNOW A LIE.”
In this work, Rowan has captured something truly magic and just flicking through the pages of doodles and musings on post-its, I’m hit by a wave of nostalgia—Rowan, of course, is modest to the point of nonchalance in discussing it. In her introductory note to the reader, she perfectly sums up the magic feelings of adolescence, and how desperate she is to harness it and dissect it. When we talk about the experience of curating the book, she explains that the thoughts and ideas that go through her head at this age are so fleeting, that some of the book seems sort of old to her now, despite only having come out this year.
Rowan’s desire, energy, and excitement to move on to the next thing, and look forward, is palpable. Between talking about her experiences of schooling the world on feminism and growing up in America in 2018, I’m heart-warmed when I see the glimmers of the completely unguarded 16-year-old schoolgirl in front of me.
Jewelry: Tiffany & Co.
Makeup: Amy Strozzy
Hair: Laurie Heaps
Casting: Jen Jalouse
Production: Joshua Glasgow
Photo Assistant: David Lopez
Stylist Assistants: Tyler Cunningham and Alizée Hénot