lily-rose depp and the creation of a social media it girl

Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis’ 15-year-old daughter has caused a media meltdown without giving a single interview. How does this happen, why do we care, and why do we want to be her friend so badly?

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Apr 9 2015, 10:55pm

photography getty

There is a fan video of Lily-Rose Depp on YouTube set to the song "Troublemaker" by Olly Murs that has over one hundred and fifty thousand views. In it, the eldest of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis' two children sucks on popsicles in a bikini top and sweatpants and drinks iced Starbucks drinks. It has eerie Bling Ring meets Lolita vibes. Scroll down a little further and the videos, often composed of footage from Lily-Rose's friends' Vines, get weirder. Who, you wonder, is making these videos in their (hopefully) teenage bedroom? And why did you, a grown adult, just become the 152,817th person to watch it?

Lily-Rose Depp has recently become an object of freak-level celebrity obsession by doing close to the minimum number of things — other than being her outwardly awesome-seeming 15-year-old self. On March 31st, she made her first official public appearance, dressed in runway Chanel at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, and the internet melted. No celebrity kid was safe as editors worked through their lunch breaks to assemble clickable slideshows of stylish celebrity progeny. What do we know about Vanessa Paradis' teen mini me, other sites asked? The answer, repeatedly, has been not much. But what journalists and readers alike have lacked in hard-hitting reportage they have gained in the profusion of public posts that Lily-Rose herself has published, on her Instagram and Vine accounts. Lily-Rose's apparently overnight ascent into the upper echelons of obsessed-over celebrities tells us more about how we use and consume social media than it does about the lil'est female Depp herself.

Lily-Rose was born in 1999, a magical year when Google was still in its Beta version and GeoCities was a thing. When, if you had an e-mail address at all, it was probably registered through AOL. As such, her coming of age has coincided exactly with the rise of the internet and the birth of the brave new world of social media. Her arrival at so-called "it girl status" has not been a slow burn, as it was for it girls of another generation, say a Chloë Sevigny merging into the mainstream post-Kids. And that's not just because of her parents. A quick Google search today will turn up Lily-Rose's personal Instagram account (notably, set to public) and like that you have a seemingly unmediated insight into what the internet seems to unanimously agree is the life of the world's coolest teeanger.

So, first of all, what can we learn from what Lily-Rose herself has chosen to put out into the world? She lives mainly in Los Angeles. Her tastes lean kawaii: she likes ankle socks with cats on, mochi, anime. She likes dogs (she seems to be the owner of either a large bulldog or a small pug). Sometimes she hangs out with Jaden Smith. She is funny (caption under aforementioned photo: "talking about the mystery of the accumulator probably"). Mainly though, she likes dressing up with her friends and doing, you know, normal teenage things.

More interestingly, what do we learn from the public reaction to Lily-Rose's photographic dispatches? Under a photo of that large bulldog, which Lily-Rose may or may not own, Instagram user @pedrx_v has expressed his disinterest in her probable pet by writing "POST MORE SELFIES" multiple times. @moujhijazi says, "of course you'd have perfect cheekbones both of your parents do" (he/she is not wrong). Further down, a conversation between @johnnydepp_daily and @nithinjoshua97 aims to clear up whether Jack Depp, Lily-Rose's younger brother, also has a public Instagram account. Later, @tisolation chimes in to say that Lily-Rose follows the account @jackiepo0, so that must be the real account. More than a window into Lily-Rose's psyche, into her daily life even (which of those dogs does she actually own? You can't tell), reading the comments left by some of @lily_rosedepp's 196 thousand followers is a window into how social media both feeds our interest in celebrities' personal lives and makes us hungry for more.

You could of course say the same of the Smith children and their famously cryptic Twitter feeds. Faced with a tweet like "the earth experience is a social oculus" or "Shia LaBeouf is Life," you feel that much closer to understanding a Smith, but also somehow that much further away. The difference with Lily-Rose, though, is that, unlike Willow and Jaden, she is yet to embark on a musical career, star in a blockbuster action movie, or talk her way through all the press meetings that those involve. She has not given a single official interview. It is precisely because of the lack of any real intel about Lily-Rose, her life's dreams, her professional goals, that she has caused such a stir and that the TMZ readers of this world are watching her Vine videos late into the night for clues. On a venn diagram including circles for coolness of parents and vacuum of official information, Lily-Rose would fall slap bang in the middle. Pair that with being a 15-year-old in 2015, when every teenager seems to share everything, and you have the recipe for a new kind of social-media-fueled fame.

Never have so many slideshows been made about so little. But this is of course about to change. In 2014, Lily-Rose landed a role in her first major movie, directed by Kevin Smith of Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob fame. According to IMDb, Yoga Hosers is a dark comedy about two teenage yoga enthusiasts who team up with a legendary bounty hunter to salvage their threatened party plans. It hits theaters in the US on June 1, as any self-respecting Lily-Rose Depp fan could tell you. And it is unlikely that Lily-Rose will be able to hold out on giving interviews as its release date approaches. These could well be the last few months in which we can watch this teenager hanging out and growing up through her own totally self-directed lens, before the internet has more than just speculation and hints. If you think her Instagram is interesting, wait til we actually hear what she has to say.

Credits


Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Getty