I owe Lena Dunham an apology. An apology for underestimating her.
I was lucky to get two tickets to the Southbank Centre event on Friday night during which Caitlin Moran (of How to be a Woman fame) interviewed Lena Dunham (of GIRLS and Not That Kind of Girl fame). I essentially begged one of my bosses to stalk the internet until the “purchase” button came up when I was in a meeting (professional).
But here’s the thing: As excited as I was about the night, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. People have either told me they LOVE them – both Lena and Caitlin – or they didn’t really get them. I found myself with super high expectations for no real reason.
So when my friend Tatiana and I sat down, we braced ourselves. And then we laughed for 1.5 hours (along with Miranda Hart, the cast of Call the Midwives and Sara Millican who had come along to see her.)
For someone who launched a TV show at 23 years old (and who is now looking back at it all at only just 28), Lena has an inordinately gigantic sense of perspective. She read a passage from her book which explains why she is so comfortable with nudity. She asked why we’re perfectly OK with male CEOs on their yachts with their mistresses but why we all give Sheryl Sandberg such a hard time. She noted we’re living in a golden age of women taking action. She gushed about how much she loves being friends with Taylor Swift: “I would like to tell you guys that you’re not missing out on much but its the best.” And she laughed when Caitlin asked her if she finds herself saying things in rhyme just in the hopes that one day her words make it into Swift’s songs…
But Lena was at her best when in short little bursts, she managed to mix the poignant and hilarious together in quick succession.
She joked about the hard time she gets for her fashion choices and said she’s sorry to disappoint everyone, but she just kinda doesn’t care what they think. If people complain, she just does it again at least 8-10 times. When she wore “that pink dress” to the Emmy’s and everyone thought she was doing it to ruin their day, she was thinking “nailed it”. Laughing about peoples’ expectations she added “people love a Pgymalion story: ‘she was quirky and then she came to California and now she is normal!'”
She described 2014 as her “year of saying no” partly because, for some silly reason, women often find it hard to. She wondered why she felt the need to apologise for her success, why women have to either “suffer or prosper in their profit.” Talking about how the entertainment industry gets paid inordinately insane amounts of money (when those like social works and teachers don’t), she went on to describe how she is founding a production company to encourage more female creatives to succeed.
But my favorite part of the evening came when Caitlin asked her what she thinks when she looks back at her old work. Lena said she looks back in sympathy at her former self, because its brave to create at any age. It was said so truthfully, she had me hooked. It takes loads of bravery. As it did to sit with 2,500 of us at the Southbank Centre on Friday night.
I, for one, felt lucky to be there.
PS – My favorite Caitlin moments of the night were 1) when she described why she leaves all of her work until the very last minute: “You get cleverer every minute. The longer you wait, the cleverer you get.” 2) when she encouraged all actresses to wear floral ballgowns like the one Sara Millican did to the BAFTAs to get back at everyone who criticised her for wearing it. She hopes to see a “big floral army” at the BAFTAs.