For those of us who are prone to distraction via the Internet, it can be hard to resist the allure of celebrity gossip. The entertainment value of fluffy nothingness is surprisingly high when that which is actually relevant—i.e. climate change, gun violence, my bank statement—is highly disappointing. But who said procrastination material should be entirely mindless? Enter Go Fug Yourself, helmed by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks. Since 2004, this impressive duo has delivered uproarious fashion commentary that appeals to a surprisingly wide demographic, breathing wit and meaning into what is, essentially, a guilty pleasure industry. Morgan and Cocks, whose satirical prowess has been lauded by The Guardian, Time magazine, and the New York Times, also regularly blog as “The Fug Girls” for Nymag.com, and have recently expanded into the realm of YA publishing with two novels, Spoiled and Messy. The busy duo took a quick breather from bemoaning J-Law’s poorly breasted Globes dress to break it down for us.
Where did the idea for Go Fug Yourself come from? How did you take that idea and transform it into a successful media platform?
HEATHER: We never actually had what you’d boil down to a proper business idea. Jessica and I are friends, have been for years, and we were wandering around the mall one day poking fun at the awful movie posters aimed at teens. They were styled so badly that we wondered if we missed a memo somewhere that looking fugly was the new pretty, kind of like how, you know, orange is the new black, or whatever. We took it to the Internet just to amuse ourselves, maybe give our friends a laugh. Suddenly we found ourselves with a blog people seemed to want to read, and we had to become businesspeople. Not a natural transition for us. Our basic mantra was just to make sure we took our time with the major decisions, put our friendship before the blog, and kept having fun. We’ve had to make some compromises over the years with ads, but we have always, always tried to avoid doing anything that would compromise reader experience, or their trust in our editorial independence. We try so hard to protect that, always.
You’ve witnessed firsthand the rise of the fashion blogger. What was it like to transition from recapping reality TV shows to actually appearing in them?
HEATHER: Well, the only actual reality show we’ve appeared on was All On The Line, with Joe Zee, for a brief segment with his designer, but we don’t count ourselves as insiders at all. Honestly, we don’t really have an increased proximity to our subjects in any real way—we’re not going to Hollywood parties, we’re not trying to be their best friends (well, unless Emma Stone wants to hang out, obviously). I actually think that remove is really important. Readers have to trust that our opinions are honest, and not built on an attempt to join the In Crowd. When we interview a celebrity at Fashion Week, we wouldn’t turn around and be like, “… and her outfit was PERFECT,” if we didn’t like it. There are ways to be appropriate without compromising your integrity, and we are always conscious of that. I don’t actually count us as fashion bloggers, as much as pop culture bloggers whose focus is on celebrity clothes; we’re not blinding anyone with our awesome analytical science or anything. But we’re thrilled fashion bloggers’ voices are being heard, because you really don’t have to have bled all over Anna Wintour’s second assistant’s desk, or something, just to have a smart opinion and be able to express it eloquently.
JESSICA: I definitely would not consider us insiders, truly. I think almost all writers always feel like observers, don’t they? Our proximity to actual celebrities is not that much different than it used to be. We get to go to Fashion Week, which is so fun and awesome, and we attended the Emmys red carpet this year for a story we wrote for New York, which was really fascinating. But other than that, we are basically just hanging out with the same people we always hung out with.
Describe a day in the life of Jessica and Heather.
HEATHER: And THIS is one reason we never tried to have our own reality show. You would be so bored. Because photos roll in during the evening from various events, we have the freedom to write up posts the night before, and set them to post at particular intervals the next day. This frees us up if we have personal business to do during business hours—kids’ doctor’s appointments, etc—or if we need to hunker down for a freelance assignment or a book. But generally, I am at my computer checking e-mail, making sure nothing is on fire, etc., and then rooting through our photo sources to see if anything must-see popped up that we missed. The rest of the day is just cycling between the blog, Twitter, Facebook, reading and managing comments, adding content, working on our outside projects, handling our business affairs, and of course drinking Diet Coke. And the cycle continues. We communicate with each other all day over IM, and it’s very much first-come first-served in terms of who writes up which pieces. It’s like calling dibs, basically.
JESSICA: My day is basically the same, without the challenge of juggling the kids. Unless I decide to go over to Heather’s house and actually juggle her children, which happens sometimes. It is mostly just all typing. With a few breaks to stare out the window.
What would you say are the biggest challenges of working in the online sphere?
HEATHER: You really do have to be disciplined enough not to treat working from home like a paid vacation. We often get people inviting us to go out day-drinking, or whatever, and we have to remind them that working from home doesn’t mean we don’t actually work. We have a really busy job and we have to do it. Beyond that, I think for your average blogger, it’s just being taken seriously. There’s this bias—STILL, unbelievably—that if you dare to call yourself a blogger, you’re a pajama-wearing miscreant with no intellectual merit. It’s tough to transcend that still, and make it known that not everyone who knows how to use the Internet and type is doing those things carelessly. There are as many smart people on the Internet as crazy ones.
JESSICA: Yeah, for me, it’s more challenging to actually keep my work life and my personal life in balance. It is just me and Heather—if we don’t do something, it simply does not get done. If we are both sick at the same time, we’re both working sick. We don’t have any backup. So it’s really easy for me to slide into a mode where all I do is sit at my laptop and work. That’s not healthy for anyone.
You’ve blogged through many years of fug. What fashion missteps do you foresee for 2013?
HEATHER: My main prediction is that people will, as ever, continue to select outfits that don’t fit them properly and/or are ugly, just because of the label in the back.
JESSICA: I just really really really REALLY want people to stop wearing sheer everything.
Who are your favorite celebrities to fug?
HEATHER: I love the ones who veer around unexpectedly. Anne Hathaway has been all over the place with her Les Miserables outfits, and bless her for that because it means she’s never boring. Whereas I have total Minaj/Gaga fatigue. I also love Diane Kruger because she’s so stunning that she frequently, just by being her, comes close to convincing me that something loony she’s wearing is actually fantastic. She just has that kind of sorcery in her.
JESSICA: I also always enjoy seeing what actresses who’ve really done this all before manage to pull off—the Tilda Swintons. Meryl Streep. The people who have nothing to lose and no point to make and no one to impress.
Does anyone ever respond to your critiques?
HEATHER: Not really. It’s happened very occasionally, but I don’t think most people care—like, Anne Hathaway seriously does not lose sleep over whether we liked her cape-sleeves. When you live in the public eye I really think you have to develop both a thick skin and a sense of humor. I think the Internet age has taught most of them that fanning the flames will only make things worse—like, with Twitter, it makes it so easy to disseminate information, and if that information is, “J.Lo just wrote us and told us she hopes we burn off our eyebrows in an explosion,” it will create a much bigger brouhaha than the original criticism. (I must be clear: J.Lo never said that and has never contacted us.) Every now and again an actress will pop up on Twitter or over e-mail with something complimentary, but for the most part everyone keeps to their corners.
GFY takes a distinctly comedic approach to the world of celebrity fashion. What are your thoughts on the more diehard, humorless breed of fashion journalism?
HEATHER: I think there’s a place for it all—fashion can be fun and frivolous and all that, but it is also a serious business, and to treat it SOLELY with humor is to devalue that side of it. There’s definitely a place for people who analyze a fashion line’s influences, the statement it’s making, the vision it’s trying to create. And then there’s a place for people like us who will say, “Okay, fine, on a runway that looks like art, but on Cate Blanchett it looks like a couch.” Everything in balance—you need the yin to have the yang, right?
What’s next for you guys?
HEATHER: Well, you’ve got me thinking that it should be a nap. But we’d really like to keep writing more books—we’re working on an idea for one now—and we hope we’ll keep blogging about terrible outfits until we’re so old that they call us the Fug Hags.