Lena Dunham on why authenticity isn't about being “messy or broken”

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Susan Devaney
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Director-writer Lena Dunham has addressed her recent controversial remarks and why we need to change the way we view authenticity. 

From her struggles with endometriosis to her failed relationships, Lena Dunham has always spoken openly about, well, everything that’s going on in her life – especially issues that directly affect women.

Now, she’s tackled the topic of authenticity during a panel discussion at South by Southwest in Austin on Saturday 10 March, entitled Authenticity and Media in 2018. Dunham, who successfully portrayed the trials and tribulations of women in their twenties in HBO’s Girls, thinks we need to change how we view authenticity.

“I think authenticity comes in many forms, and it doesn’t just have to be that you didn’t just do your hair right,” she said, referring to her messy topknot hairstyle. “People confuse authentic with the idea of messy or broken, and I think Anna Wintour is authentic and she’s had that hair for a f**king long time.”

The actress also addressed her history of creating controversies on social media. Recently, Dunham landed herself in hot water after openly defending Girls writer, Murray Miller, from alleged sexual harassment. 

“These articles come out that say, ‘Lena Dunham apologises for like the 87th’ time,’ [but] that was how I was raised,” she said. “We try and we fail and we try again. We think the problem from another angle and we grow.”

But now the writer has a measure in place to prevent her from tweeting before thinking. “I have about 19 people ready to stop me from tweeting. Many of them paid,” she joked.

The controversy also led to fellow writer Zinzi Clemmons stepping away from writing for Dunham’s weekly online feminist newsletter Lenny Letter, due to her “hipster racism”.

But Dunham admitted that such controversies only cause her “shame” for a short space of time.

“I’ll have two moments. One is full of shame and like, ‘I should never have been let out of my house in the first place.’ Or like, ‘Nobody even deserves me or my truth.’ But it goes away really fast and it’s kind of the only thing that I know how to do,” she said.

However, Dunham hopes that being in her thirties will lead her to maturing, and thinking twice before speaking.

“I didn’t get in to this to be a perfect celebrity model. I don’t know how to do it,” she said. “That is not where my skill set lies and I think a big part of my thirties is moving away from this sense that I need to have an opinion about everything and taking a moment to think before I speak,” she added.

“Now I find myself wanting to slow down and think about how I can give other women the platform that was given to me. How I can speak through my work. And I hope that this is maturing. I think it is. I can’t be sure. I still wear my hair like this.”

Images: Getty Images / Instagram