In many ways, Lilli Hymowitz is a typical 16-year-old, particularly one made and manufactured in my native New York City (and its nearby suburbs), a place where we seem to tackle everyday tasks -- you know, like growing up -- at twice the speed of the rest of the country.
Her parents are divorced; her Sweet 16 was pretty sweet; she and her best friend didn't speak for nine months before they made up again; and she's not above taking a good bathroom selfie. These are just a few things about Lilli that should sound familiar to anyone in the throes of their adolescence or who've survived it.
But this week New York magazine's The Cut profiled Hymowitz in a lengthy feature titled "The Prom Queen of Instagram," singling her out for her 7,800+ follower count and peeling back a few filters to explore how a teen whose last name isn't Jenner or in possession of a popular YouTube channel had come to be so, well, popular.
"Everyone wants to know about her," one 15-year-old boy gushed to the mag. "She's like a celebrity."
And while the writer falls short of declaring Hymowitz the "most popular teenager in New York City," she probes Hymowitz's tightly curated digital existence to try and make the case anyway. Lilli's life, of course, reflects the perks that wealthy parents can bring, from living in a $23 million townhouse to access to exclusive NYC nightlife (a fake I.D. helps).
"She’s rich and she’s pretty and she does whatever she wants," her aforementioned 15-year-old admirer summed up neatly.
Still, while I can appreciate why Lilli would be an appealing subject to The Cut, I don't necessarily agree with the magazine's assessment that she's fresher than you. Lilli's mix of apparent laid-back chill and vulnerability (her dad gifted her with Eckhart Tolle's all-important "The Power of Now" to help her cope with the stresses of teendom) may make her worth a follow. And most of us acknowledge that the "famous for being famous" thing isn't much of a slur these days.
But my gig at MTV means I get to spotlight teens doing cool sh-- every day, and their follower counts may be but a fraction of Lilli's. Even Hymowitz seems to get that, in a sense, our digital footprint isn't the only defining measurement.
"[Tolle] thinks that if [your social media is] a true representation of you then it's not that big of a deal," a thoughtful Hymowitz relayed to The Cut. "If you're not, and you're trying to be something for Facebook or Instagram, then it's really poisonous."
So, what if you're a teenager who's not the star of a bestselling app or the subject of a glossy spread in a major magazine like Lilli? It's good to remember that you might some day be coding that app or running your own online mag. Racking up "likes" feels good but they shouldn't be the defining metric for what makes you a superwoman.