“I don’t apply being a role model to the choices I make. I feel like a role model is not necessarily someone you want to imitate, just someone you admire.” –Kristen Stewart, Elle UK
I remember watching Kristen Stewart in Catch That Kid in the bonus room at my house. I remember lying on the floor and getting annoyed by DVD skips. It was a cute movie about a girl who gets her two guy friends to rob a bank with her in order to save her dying father. It didn’t leave all that much of an impression on me. I didn’t become invested in Kristen Stewart’s work, in her life, until after Twilight premiered. Really, it’s been in the last year or so that I’ve started to think of her as a sort of role model.
I’m hesitant to use those words: role model. The media uses them all the time when it comes to pop stars and mega movie franchise stars. These are the people in the spot light that fans look up to. They follow their careers and want to know what they do for fun. Interviews consist of what music they listen to and what perfume they use. When I first started following Kristen, this was exactly what I wanted. I bought all of the magazines that promoted Twilight. I watched all the interviews and envied the cast dynamic, comparing it to the casts of different plays id’ been in. Even now, I get a little bit proud when I think I can dress like her. I’ve picked up on her mannerisms from watching so many interviews–my hands are now constantly in my hair. But I think, now that I’m older, I get something more out of following her.
When I was in elementary school I had a cousin in high school. She was my oldest cousin and I looked up to her. I loved that she was so creative, loud, and enthusiastic. High school was this big, fantastical part of life that she would conquer long before I could reach it. I wanted to go to her high school, despite the fact that I lived in Florida and she Virginia. She played Adelaide in Guys and Dolls in high school. She also played Bloody Mary in South Pacific. On opening night of South Pacific she had our uncle sit in the aisle seat of the auditorium so that when she made her entrance she could walk right up to him and say “You stingy bastard!” I wasn’t there for that showing, but I wish I had been.
I grew up thinking that I wanted to be on Broadway. That was my cousin’s dream and so, by default, it was mine. She took dance classes, I took dance classes. She auditioned for school plays, so did I. I don’t think at any moment there was a conscious “I want to be just like her” thought, but I definitely followed her in footsteps. In middle school and my first two years of high school, I was a drama kid. In 7th grade I was in Alice in Wonderland, in 8th I was in a Christmas play. In 10th grade I was in the chorus for Evita and a spirit in The Tempest. Everything about that life was appealing. I thought that was what I wanted to do forever. But then I switched high schools and drama took a back burner. I started discovering other passions. Reading had always been my thing, taught through my mother’s bed time stories and first grade reading competitions. I still adored performing and being in the spot light, but world building and character creating became more appealing.
My cousin never made it to Broadway. She moved to New York to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy after high school, but came back almost every weekend to take care of the daughter she had at 18. I wasn’t old enough to really comprehend quite how difficult that was, but I do remember overhearing other relatives say how much she missed her daughter while she was away. My family was very supportive of her dreams, and either my aunt or my grandmother would take care of the baby during the week. The father was in the picture, but wasn’t primary caregiver. Phrases like “visiting Daddy” were common when little Mary grew older. But even then, my cousin’s creativity never waned. And this is what continued to inspire me. After she graduated my cousin brought New York back with her in the form of style and music. I still wanted to be like her, but in a different way. I didn’t have the same career goals as her anymore, but I wanted her creativity to brush off on me. I wanted to be able to pull off her fashion sense and discover unknown music. Her confidence and originality were still things that I wanted to emulate. I think I was learning that role models weren’t people you imitated, but people you wanted to be more like. I was now dreaming of becoming an author, she a good mom and an actress. Instead of wanting to be a mini her, I now wanted to be a creative contemporary.
This is how I see Kristen Stewart. Despite dressing like her and copying her mannerisms, I don’t want to be her. I have no wish to be an actress. I’ve been on a movie set and those long days really don’t sound appealing to me. I love movies, but books are more my life than movies are. But I’m drawn to her passion, her creative process. I love watching her interviews because I love to match up what she says with how I interpret her performance. They always agree, and I find that the mark of a true artist. I particularly saw this during promotion for Snow White and the Huntsman. In every interview that I watched she talked about the dynamic between Snow White and the Evil Queen. She insisted that the movie was about beauty, and how two people use it differently. So when I saw the movie for the first time I looked for those themes. I purposefully looked for comparisons between the two characters and I was rewarded with experiencing the movie the way Kristen had interpreted it. Snow White and the Huntsman will forever be a movie be about power and beauty, no matter if anyone else focuses on the relationship between Snow and the Huntsman.
I feel like, in some ways, I’ve grown up with Kristen. I was a sophomore in high school in 2008, only just tasting a bit of independence and a need for soul searching, while her Twilight fame was just getting started. It was what made Twilight such a great read. It was also what made Kristen so attainable. She has never put on a front or tried to be anyone but herself. Any interview you read of hers talks about her candidness, her realness. She’s not quite as out of reach as some celebrities. I could be her friend.
So following her became a fun hobby. I started collecting all of her movies while I waited for each installment of The Twilight Saga to premiere. She didn’t really reach role model status until I hit college, when she was starting to pull away from Twilight and I from living at home. Because now her interviews consisted of questions like “What comes after Twilight?” and my life was full of questions like “What comes after college?” Her answers inspired me. She uses fear to propel her forward, she only does projects that speak to her heart, and she always keeps what’s personal, personal. I’ve always had a problem with fear, it usually keeps me from doing the things that I want. But Kristen doesn’t. She runs straight for the things that scare her because she knows that great things will come of it. My favorite quote of hers reads, “I have realized that you can close yourself off to life if you put walls up, but it’s a difficult thing. You can’t see over, people can’t see in, and you also can’t see out. So I’ve gotten quite comfortable with just being unafraid. I keep saying the same thing: it’s not about being fearless but really just embracing the fears and using them.” I really want to be more like that.
I wonder if the reason I imitate both Kristen and my cousin is I feel that the more I act like them the more I can be like them. Who they are as people, their beliefs and habits and life decisions, is exactly who I’d like to be. So when I run my hands through my hair a million times or shop at Free People, I’m doing it because I feel closer to them. It’s a form if imitation that doesn’t say “I want to be just like you,” but says “I want to be your kindred spirit.” I want to think more freely. I want to take risks and travel and find creativity in the smallest bits of life. If that takes copying little mannerisms from time to time, I think I’m okay with it.