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Chicago Crush of the Month: Jamie Lauren Keiles

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Can an upstanding werewolf-owning writer who is kind (enough) to (dress) animals (up in her own clothing) and donates money to NPR have a crush on a college student?

Yes. If that college student is the preternaturally poised, focused and articulate Jamie Lauren Keiles.

As a senior in high school, Jamie began the Seventeen Magazine Project, a social experiment which functioned as a sort of pro-teenager, feminist analysis of Seventeen Magazine and media culture at large. Since then, she has gone on to run the Chicago SlutWalk and write for Rookie, a website for and largely by teenage girls spearheaded by the equally poised, brilliant Tavi Gevinson who, side note, I sometimes think might be a robot. Fashion, writing and now singing? Save some attention for the rest of us, Gevinson!

But back to Jamie. Now a student at The University of Chicago (to which I absolutely did not lure her with promises of meta-feminist analyses and string cheese), Jamie is December’s Crush of the Month!

Hometown: Doylestown, PA
Profession: student mostly; writer when I’m feeling legitimate
Hobbies: hypothetical questions, food, hoarding jam jars and yogurt containers in case I need them in the future

Our Town What’s your experience been like at The University of Chicago?
Jamie Lauren Keiles Academically, masturbatory. I spent a lot of time sitting around and reading things with no apparent bearing on my future. I’m never really sure if I’m getting smarter, but sometimes when I’m drunk at parties I argue about theory, so I think I might be. Or maybe I’m just getting more pretentious.

OT You’re known for your Seventeen magazine experiment. What inspired it?
JLK Senior year of high school was boring and easy. Spent a lot of time in the library reading magazines—most of them of the non-teenage variety. Eventually I ran out of content and moved on to Seventeen. I was sort of dumbfounded at how inane the content was. It was like, I go to high school with tons of interesting and brilliant young women and the content being sold to us was 99% crap. The project just kind of seemed like a logical next step.

OT At an age when most teens are just scribbling in their journals, your writing was widely read. Any regrets?
JLK Looking back I’m embarrassed to have taken such public and definitive stances. I think I knew the “right answer” to things before I had the reasoning/historical perspective to legitimize my opinions. Reading some of my older stuff reminds me how much I have to learn before I’m actually smart enough to make such concrete statements again. I don’t think I would have changed anything though. Writing for a large audience taught me how to take criticism [and] made me more willing to put myself out there. I got a lot of the uncomfortable things about creative work out of the way early on.

OT What was it like to organize Chicago’s SlutWalk?
JLK As a learning experience, fantastic. I got to meet tons of people from all over the city. I learned a lot about managing conflict. Something our planning team really struggled with was being attached to a larger, global movement. The name recognition of SlutWalk came with a lot of baggage that we didn’t necessarily endorse, specifically in regards to trans and race issues. I think if I were ever to venture into large-scale organizing again I’d be more careful to have more control over the messaging of the event. The media (and the blogosphere) has the ability to take things out of context and use parts of a discussion to discredit an entire movement. Obviously SlutWalk wasn’t perfect, and it didn’t satisfy or meet the needs of everyone, but I think it was an important part of a conversation on feminism, and that sometimes got distorted.

OT You write for Rookie. What’s the site’s mission and how did you get involved?
JLK I’d say Rookie’s mission is to just make a badass, non-patronizing magazine for young ladies. We aren’t creating content based on what advertisers want. We aren’t writing for some singular conception of what it means to be a teen girl. We are just producing interesting, thoughtful content for young people. When I was doing press for The Seventeen Magazine Project I spent a lot of time lamenting over available media for teens. Tavi and I talked over Twitter a little bit, and in December of last year she reached out to me to be a part of Rookie.

OT So, what do you want to be when you grow up?
JLK Something that simultaneously inspires people and validates my massive ego.

OT Describe your perfect day:
JLK I’d wake up at 10ish and have breakfast at Valois in Hyde Park. Then, maybe, I’d go to some sort of convention, doesn’t really matter what kind. Just one where I could walk around and look at neat stuff and interesting people. For lunch I’d have grilled cheese. Then I’d read or write, preferably in a quiet public place like a library. At night I’d go to a good movie at a small theater. Then, I’d get dinner with friends at a nice restaurant. Everyone would agree that they still had room for dessert, so I wouldn’t feel weird being the only person who ordered something. I’d take a cab home instead of the CTA and I’d be in bed before midnight.

OT Relationship Deal breaker?
JLK I don’t like dating people who need to be coerced into maturity. I think it is sexy when someone is actively and independently exploring his or her identity. I like things in my life to be forward moving. It is a deal breaker if I have to drag someone along with me. On another note, I’m really hard to date.

OT Who was your first crush?
JLK In elementary school I had a lot of crushes, but I think I just chose them arbitrarily because I felt like I was supposed to have crushes. Still not sure if I’ve ever had a legitimate crush, or if crushin’ is just a social construct.

OT Why are you crushworthy?
JLK If we are on a train, I will push someone out of the way so you have a place to stand. If we are waiting in a line, I will cut the line and then when people argue with me I will pretend I have no idea what they are talking about. I own a lot of books and most of them are in great condition because I don’t have a lot of time to read. You can borrow them. You can also borrow my clothes, regardless of gender, if you think “Urban Mennonite” is an appealing look. I read all of the ingredients on all of the foods I buy, so if you don’t like high fructose corn syrup, I might be the crush for you.

OT Any questions for me?
JLK Have you taken that photo of me out of your locket yet?

Follow Jamie on Twitter.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," is forthcoming from Soft Skull, an imprint of Counterpoint Press. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Terez-Rosenblum published on December 1, 2011 3:24 PM.

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