April 9, 2012

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An Interview with Heather and Jessica of Go Fug Yourself, AKA "The Fug Girls"

It's my absolute pleasure to launch my new weekly interview series by featuring Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks, the writers of one of my longtime favourite blogs, Go Fug Yourself. What began as a joke between the two friends, Go Fug Yourself is a comedic celebrity style blog whose hilarious critiques on both the best and worst in celebrity-worn fashion has garnered props from the likes of Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal, and TIME Magazine.

They released a book based on their blog in 2008, The Fug Awards, and they took their writing to new grounds by co-authoring a young adult novel, Spoiled, which was published last summer (Messy, the sequel to Spoiled, is due out this June). Heather and Jessica's sharp and witty writing have also caught the attention of New York magazine, and they now blog regularly for The Cut, as The Fug Girls.

Heather Cocks (left) and Jessica Morgan (right), aka "The Fug Girls."

Heather and Jessica kindly gave me a haute minute of their time to ask a few questions about being the web's smarter and funnier version of The Fashion Police. Read more below to find out which celebs they love to roast, which celebs love to be roasted by them, and more.

A HAUTE MESS: How did Go Fug Yourself start?

HEATHER: Jessica and I were shopping, and we kept passing these horrible movie posters targeted at tweens where the styling was atrocious and the photos were unflattering... We were like, "Is this what the kids are into these days? Is the idea to look fugly?" That splashed out into an inside joke, and we started the blog as an extension of it, figuring it'd keep us amused while at work for a little while before we ran out of steam. And THEN we realized there would be no running out of steam, because there is always material to power that engine.

Have you always been interested in fashion, or did this spawn from your interest in
celebrity and pop culture?

HEATHER: For me, it spawned from my casual gossip-magazine habit. I enjoy shopping and looking at pretty things as much as the next person, but I have never been a student of fashion. I can't even get through an issue of Vogue. So the blog, for me, is taking my layperson's view of these clothes context by context -- away from the runway where it's part of a person's whole vision -- and seeing if they make sense. Does that dress look good on this person but bad on another, or is it just a crazy dress? Should they have worn it or did they get sucked in by the label? Do they need their eyesight tested? Et cetera.

JESSICA: I love me some fashion magazines, but the site is definitely more about pop culture and celebrity than it is about fashion. Fashion is just the road we use to get to talk about celebs.

When did you realize that Go Fug Yourself had reached its tipping point? Was there an “a-ha!” moment when you realized you had something very special and potentially career-changing on your hands?

HEATHER: I think once Defamer linked to us, way back in the day -- probably a month or two after we started the blog -- we truly felt like we'd started something, like we'd gone from inside joke to an actual real Web site. Mark Lisanti is brilliant, and so for him to throw us some love on that Web site was a huge compliment from someone who is a favorite writer of ours. That's when we realized this had legs.

Who are your favorite celebrities to roast?

HEATHER: Well, the ones who do it with some element of joy are always fun, because you end up loving to roast them, as opposed to wanting to cry for them. I often have a lot of fun with Jennifer Lopez, although now that she's on Idol every week, I worry that my tank is going to get low. But she always brings something dramatic and hilarious. Even when she looks good.

JESSICA: Yes, it's always more fun to write about the person who looked cracked out in a fun, exuberant, creative way than someone who looks, you know, ACTUALLY cracked out. Nicki Minaj is a good example of that. Or even someone like Tilda Swinton, who you know is going to wear something that mere mortals would probably not attempt, but will possibly pull it off due to her elegant Swintoness.

"This is what Nicki Minaj wears on a Thursday... I CAN NOT WAIT to see what she wears for Halloween" - Jessica

Have any celebrities, or their publicists, ever confronted you for making fun of them?

HEATHER: Confronted, not really. Contacted, sure. Very rarely, but it happens. We actually just recently got a note from Sarah Michelle Gellar's publicist -- he forwarded us a note she had written directly to us, praising our recaps of the terrible costumes on her show "Ringer" and telling us to hang in there and keep doing it because she'd miss it if we stopped. That was the ultimate. I loved her before, but knowing she was totally up on the spirit of the site made me love her even more.

JESSICA: In general, the celebs who do contact us are good sports about it. Kirsten Dunst once mentioned us during a junket for Elizabethtown and said she thought we were geniuses, which was VERY KIND given that we were calling her Dr. Sunken Tits at the time (that's an anagram of her name; we can't take credit for it, but we were using it). So she is a tremendous good sport. I do think that most celebrities who are easily irked by the complaints of the internet have learned not to read about themselves on the internet anymore. Occasionally, and this is always amusing to me, a publicist will email us and ask us to correct some very minor detail about their client in a piece -- it cracks me up that, essentially, they're saying, "yeah, yeah, you said she looks like she got dressed in the dark, but can you make sure you note that she's actually a model/actress, and not just a model? Thanks."

I’ve read that you’ve had your fair share of hate mail. I’m lucky as a blogger that I
generally don’t, and I think it’s because I’m usually the butt of my own jokes, and the
target of anything written that could be offensive. I actually have readers who leave
comments or send e-mails defending me and my sartorial choices, to me! With Go Fug
Yourself being a blog about celebrity style, who has the most passionate fans? Who do
you get the most hate mail about, or defending?

HEATHER: Angelina Jolie and Kate Middleton. By far. They are incredibly polarizing. You wouldn't think Kate would be, but we get everything from "she's a drain on the economy" to "she's anorexic and clearly infertile," which is NOT OKAY with us and we police that pretty tightly. In general we get some flack from people when we don't call out somebody who appears very very thin, and in fact once were accused of promoting anorexia by NOT commenting on it. But we've learned over the years that nothing good comes of "eat a sandwich," so we've stopped the body commentary entirely. It's just not our place. We don't know your life; we don't know your body, and what's going on with that -- in a thicker or thinner direction -- is not for me to say. Which isn't to say we don't screw that up occasionally -- we're not perfect, and sometimes we Bumpwatch just like anyone else. In fact, I put one up on Katy Perry where the curve of her stomach in pants -- a curve I have NEVER seen before on her body -- made her look pregnant, so I speculated. And I wish I hadn't, actually. I shouldn't have; that was too personal.  But we are human and we're never going to get it right 100 percent of the time. We're trying, and we hope that's what people see.

JESSICA: That being said, we don't really get hate mail any more. I think many of the people who felt inclined to email us hate mail have already sent it in. We did have someone once tell us that if we said another bad word about....I think it was Mary J Blige, that she was going to crack our skulls open. It was all I could do not to tell her that Mary J would not want that kind of hateration in her dancery.

"It’s like Angelina shot herself up with vamp juice, and/or busted a hinge on her inner thigh. It just KEPT ON POPPING, like a frat boy’s collar." - Heather

Are their any celebrities whose style you admire? Who wins the Well Played category most?

HEATHER: Emma Stone does fairly well for herself -- she swings big, so when she hits, she hits big. Elizabeth Banks really nailed the Hunger Games press appearances. She looked spectacular. We love Kate Middleton's balance of high fashion and high street, too. Fortunately, this stuff is so fluid that there is rarely any one specific person who wins it for me every single time. They morph their style, and sometimes it's a great change, and sometimes I don't love the direction.

JESSICA: I always liked to see what Diane Kruger is wearing. I don't always like it -- we put her up to a vote a lot -- but it's always INTERESTING and she never looks vulgar, which I appreciate.

Elizabeth Banks at the London premiere of The Hunger Games.

Tell us about your experience covering New York Fashion Week for New York Magazine.

HEATHER: It's incredibly exciting. For us, it's great, because the work stops when the lights go down -- we cover the front rows, so once the show starts, we get to sit back and drink it in, and enjoy it, rather than stressing out about analyzing the show and its influences and the trends. It's absolutely the coolest assignment. We go to about 40 shows a week and file stories from as many of them as possible, so it's crazy busy, but we're getting better and better about making sure we squeeze in our full meals. And cocktails.

JESSICA: It's really extremely fun. I always tell Heather that if the day comes when I am bored of Fashion Week, she can just take me out back and shoot me. I feel really fortunate that I get to attend. It's a lot of work, but...you know, you're at Fashion Week! It's awesome!

I always find the celebrity aspect of Fashion Week entertaining. I’ll admit, I was sitting
across (and uh, a few rows higher, obviously) from the Olsen twins at the J. Mendel
show, and was completely distracted by them, so I was relieved to read that so was
everyone else, in your article about the show. When it comes to actual celeb spotting, do
you ever have Fan Girl moments, or are you desensitized from living in LA?

HEATHER: You know, I almost never see anyone in LA. I forget to look. We joke that Fashion Week is like the zoo -- you're encouraged to stare -- and LA is like being on safari, where you can sort of try to peek sometimes but generally you don't poke the animals in case they attack. Michael Vartan once held a door for me and I didn't even notice. My friend had to tell me. But the sightings that really tend to geek me out are the COMPLETELY random ones, like when I saw Nat from the Peach Pit coming out of the grocery store, or the ones that are people doing completely ordinary things, like Steve Carell's wife Nancy Walls at my pediatrician's office, or Victor Garber buying groceries in a suit. I very rarely flip out. Unless maybe I have been drinking, and even then, I tend not to approach people who aren't, say, Ian Ziering. Which... yes, that happened. He was very nice. And it was brief.

JESSICA: The thing about LA -- and this happen to everyone -- is that you often have that moment where you think, "I totally know that person. Do I know him from TV, or did we go to college together?" And then you realize that it's actually one of the dudes from The Bachelorette or something.  I did once see Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton -- when they were married -- making out at the food court at the Century City mall, and I can tell you that the entire food court was, like, enthralled. Once they left, the place just exploded in people talking about it.

Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen at the J. Mendel Fall 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, February 2012.

You’ve already written a book based on the blog, The Fug Awards, but last year
you made an even more impressive departure from bloging with Spoiled, a young adult
novel. How did you find the transition from writing style commentary, to writing fiction?

HEATHER: It's scary! Riffing on found material is different from coming up with all of it on your own. So in that sense, it's very personal. We always say of the blog, "We don't hate your soul, we just hate your pants." That's kind of how I feel about the book -- disliking the book is a bit more like disliking ME, whereas not jibing with my opinion on an outfit is just a disagreement. Then again, we pour a lot of ourselves into the blog, so there's plenty of personal in there too. In essence, then, I am just all-around neurotic about writing. But I do think that writing this blog every day, and writing so much stuff with Jessica, was a wonderful way to feel very self-assured about what our voice would be. We know our tone; we didn't have to find it from scratch, and that made working on Spoiled so much easier.

JESSICA: It was really fun. But it was tough, too, in that, with the blog, if I write something and it's terrible, well....I'm not thrilled about that, but I have a blank slate the next day to be un-terrible. But if I whiffed the book....that's kind of set in stone. In terms of the actual writing, so much of what we write on GFY is kind of speculative in general -- like, "this is what I'd wear if I were living in an English country house in 1930 and I was a MURDERER" -- that switching to full-on fiction didn't feel that jarring.

Messy, the sequel to Spoiled, is out this June. Is there a book series in your future? (Eat your heart out, Francine Pascal).

HEATHER: Ha! We hope so -- if the demand is there, we'd be more than willing.

JESSICA: That would be tremendous.

What does the future hold for The Fug Girls?

HEATHER: Millions of copies sold and a fancy new pair of heels. Actually, more honestly, it holds lunch. After that, we'll see.

JESSICA: Lunch, and some CW viewing. I'm like three weeks behind on One Tree Hill.

Photos via Heather and Jessica, and Go Fug Yourself.
Olsen photo via The Cut

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  1. Great interview - I'm a die hard GFY fan and get way too excited over Fug Madness every year (but I can figure out how the bracket system works because I'm an idiot like that and make my husband fill them out for me...he gets less impressed with me every time but it's worth it).

    Courtney ~ http://sartorialsidelines.com

  2. Kudos on the new blog structure! Loved this interview, can't wait to read more. Now I'm off to check out the Fug Girls, they sound hilarious!

  3. nik. i'm so into this because i appreciate the personal spin on your questions.

  4. nice blog :)
    Let`s follow each other sweetie!


  5. I do love The Fug Girls - their commentary is always hilarious!

    Gems x

    London Fashion Review Blog

  6. I love the Fug Girls - they manage to make me laugh on even the worst days! Great interview!