• UO Interviews: Lena Dunham

    Celebrating the release of her first book, we took the chance to chat with writer, director, producer, actor and all-around rad girl Lena Dunham, who greets us cheerfully. And what’s not to be cheerful about? Not That Kind of Girl hits stands today, and she is wearing a matching t-shirt and leggings set printed with Bill Murray’s face; she is very excited about both.
    Photo of Lena by Autumn de Wilde

    Your first book is out today – are you a proud mama?

    I’m really excited! I’m a proud-slash-nervous mama. Like mama before her kid goes to kindergarten, wondering if people will like it!

    Well, we love it!

    I have to say, I had a lot of fun writing it!

    You’ve been writing for a pretty long time now, why is this the first time you’ve written a book?

    I think I felt that I had to stick to one medium. I don’t think I understood that it was allowed for me to make a television show, then write a book, then do this, then do that. I felt like I really needed to focus on one, and then it occurred to me that it’s alright to move between mediums and I finally had a moment in my life where I felt like I had something to say. It was a process; I didn’t write the book in three months. It took two years because I was writing in the morning, at lunch, after work–I was doing the show full-time as well. I’m really excited for the opportunity to write another book. I’d love to make writing a book my lifestyle for like, six months.

    Like Sex and the City style?

    Yes, exactly! [Laughs] Like: Sit there, have an iced coffee, meet some friends, go back to writing a book… It was a little more frenetic this time!

    How would you describe the book to someone who is completely unfamiliar with you and your work?

    I guess I would say that it’s a personal history in essays about a young woman making a lot of mistakes in order to try and figure out who she is… and, you know, some tidbits of accompanying advice.

    What have been the biggest challenges and roadblocks in publishing your first book?

    With my first book, I would say that the biggest challenges were just finding the time to make it happen. And not just the time, but finding the emotional space and letting go of some of the scrutiny around the buying of the book. I felt like there were so many questions and expectations about whether the book would be worth anything that I just really had to shove those voices out and say, I’m just writing a book and we’ll see what happens!

    And now you get to put it out into the world! Are you ready for all of the public appearances and everything else that comes along with that?

    I’m so excited! When you feel armed with good outfits, you can take on anything! I’ve got my outfits in order and I’m ready to rock.

    What are you most excited to wear?

    I collaborated with my friend who’s a stylist named Shirley Kurata, who is amazing. And I’m doing a really fun mix of things: I’m wearing Orla Kiely, there’s a little Marni thrown into the mix. A lot of really comfortable, cute little dresses that make me feel like a lady prepared to have lady arguments.

    You’re now a published author on top of all of your other credentials. What do you identify with most: writer, producer, director, etc etc?

    For me, writing is the thing that it will always spring from. That, to me, is the thing that makes all other things possible. I love acting and I love directing and I love producing and they’re all important parts of my creative expression, but I love that you can write from anywhere, no matter your age or your financial situation. Writing is something that’s always available to you. I think that’s part of the reason why I connect to it so deeply.

    If you could give only one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

    If I could go back and give advice to myself, I would say, It’s ok, you don’t have to rush so much! Be where you are, try to enjoy it, you’ll be a grown up eventually anyway. There’s no slowing that process, so enjoy where you are. Enjoy this moment, it’s not coming back. I definitely didn’t do that enough!

    If you couldn’t be writing, making Girls, doing any of the other work you’re currently doing, what would you have pursued otherwise?

    I always think that I want to be a veterinarian or at the very least a crazy dog rescue lady. Just to hang out with dogs all day would be a really pleasurable career [laughs]. Dogs would never point out my incompetence so I would love to work with them.

    You have a dog!

    I do, he’s pretty great! He’s a pretty complicated gentleman but I adore him.

    Hannah [Dunham’s character in Girls] seems like she would be really fun to play.

    She’s really fun to play, because she’s really badly behaved. It makes it a pleasure. I get to be so ridiculous and naughty and aggressive. All the behaviors you’re trying to block all day, every day you get to express when it comes to her.

    Not to mention, Adam Driver playing your boyfriend.

    Yeah, he’s pretty special! One times a woman asked me, “What does Adam smell like?” I was like, “I don’t know… boy? Laundry?” [laughs]

    So back to the book, in the introduction of Not That Kind of Girl, you talk about finding a book called Having It All at a thrift store and its skewed idea of what that means. What is your definition of having it all?

    I guess my definition of "having it all" is being able to enjoy both your personal and professional life in equal measure and finding a balance between the two. Not feeling like you’re constantly out of whack and like you’re either neglecting things at home or neglecting things at work. Feeling like you have that healthy balance between personal and professional, which I think every woman is working on–and every person is working on–but I think it can be especially challenging because of the expectations that are placed on women.

    Speaking of personal life–you are always gushing about your boyfriend Jack [Antonoff], which is really cute.

    I know you’re supposed to be quiet and like, “I don’t like to talk about my personal life!” but I’ve already kind of burst that bubble [laughs]. I’m such a fan of what he does that it makes me happy to be able to talk about him in public. I feel like I’m spreading goodness when I let people know about his work and his music.

    You guys live in Brooklyn, right? But you’re always traveling and independently working.

    Yeah, so every time we actually get to be at home, it’s like the greatest thing in the world. I feel like I’m constantly just waiting for a chance to be in our apartment. Everything happens very slowly, like this week I installed a lamp. On this schedule, by 2020 our apartment will be a great place to live. He’s very supportive of everything I do. He’s so excited and supportive about the book, and he supports me wearing my Bill Murray pants!

    Shop Not That Kind of Girl