SXSW 18: Authenticity and Media – A Discussion with Lena Dunham and Samantha Barry


We sat in on a conversation with Glamour’s editor-in-chief, Samantha Barry and Girls and Lenny creator Lena Dunham about how to stay authentic in the media. A big question Samantha Barry had for Lena Dunham was, “How do you stay authentic and deal with criticism and backlash for saying the things that you do?”

Dunham, “Well first all thanks for not saying, “Hey you fuck up a lot, how do you deal with that?” I think it’s easy for me to stay authentic because I don’t have the skill set to create an image looking from the outside. I was raised by a feminist mother and was taught that we try, we fail, we rethink, reevaluate, pick ourselves up and go again. But I won’t lie, sometimes when I come under criticism I want to crawl into a hole. Other times I’m like, No one deserves me! Wahhh.”

Samantha Barry discussed her role as new editor-in-chief of Glamour and what she wanted her role to be. “ I thought long and hard about how I wanted to tell stories that didn’t come from my point of view. I’m a white woman from Ireland and a lot of the stories that need to be told are not something that can come from me. When I was offered the job at Glamour I thought. I really want to fucking do this. Because I wanted to have conversations with women and tell stories that needed to be heard about women.”

Lena Dunham started her publication LENNY with other women for and about women after HBO gave her the platform to create GIRLS. Dunham, “ I think after GIRLS I realized that we needed a place (community) where women could come together and be their authentic selves and feel safe to talk about topics that we have been made to feel ashamed about. It’s really really important that women get paid for the work they are doing and also get credit. We can’t lose women being able to express their identities. So we created that safe space with LENNY to employ women and talk about women identity.”

After listening to Samantha Barry talk about the Glamour’s direction it felt refreshing. Glamour discussing the trial of Gymnast physician Larry Nassar was big. They decided to cover it because it was something that was effecting women. The magazine just didn’t have to be about lifestyle choices. Barry, “The interviews we did with mothers who had little girls in gymnastics was powerful. It was about how to protect your children and it became a really great discussion. Even though we are a lifestyle magazine it doesn’t mean we can’t talk about things happening in the world that effect women. We did an article on Cape Town and how by June of this year they won’t have any water. So how does that effect women and personal hygiene. We know it effects everything but it’s important to hear from these women. Their stories need to be told. The things that don’t excite me are Kim Kardashian having pink hair. But what is interesting to me is someone like Kylie Jenner making one tweet and stocks crashing. Here is a woman that can literally move the stock market with 140 characters. That to me is something worth talking about.”

A questions that was asked was, “How do you safe guard yourself while being authentic?” Dunham discussed her growth as a person and still being authentic. “This goes back to what I was saying before. Well first I have about 19 people in my life, most of them paid, to stop me from tweeting and any given time. But seriously for me to be honest with myself to everyone else out there, I didn’t get into this to be the perfect celebrity role model. I’m just not good at it. In my 20’s I was just grateful to be heard. Everyone wanted to know what I thought about everything and I would just start spouting stuff off. But now in my 30’s I have slowed things down. I think before I speak. I think about what I want my old to be in each of these movements that I care about. What has always been most hurtful to me is when I strike out with people who I consider to be members of my own tribe. Especially with GIRLS. It really surprised me how many women were legitimately furious with me about being naked on that show. I don’t know how many times I saw, “ I think I have seen Lena Dunham’s boobs more than my own.” I was just like unless you are Tobias Funke in never nudes, then no. But it still hurt to see all of that anger projected on me because of my own sense of freedom.”

Samantha Barry and Glamour have exciting new stuff in upcoming issues. Top secret stuff she couldn’t share yet but May’s issue is said to be awesome. Lena Dunham has a new project premiering this fall so get excited for that. It’s safe to say that these two ladies and many others are ready to take on the world being as authentic as they can possibly be and that is really exciting!