Back to top

In August of this year, Madonna’s latest venture, the Material Girl line of clothes, will launch at Macy’s. That’s right – buy Madonna at your mom’s department store. No one ever suggested that Madonna wasn’t comprised of equal parts art and marketing, but this pretty much seals the deal. The 80s provocateur, who dared to say “virgin” and dared, even further, to test the strength of taboos like religion and androgyny (often in the same video), now lives safely inside the bounds – not on the fringe.

But despite becoming a children’s book author and looking to the mainstream as her muse, she hasn’t completely lost her edge.

For evidence of that, check out her/Macy’s choice of spokesmodel. The irreverent, provocative Taylor Momsen fronts her new tween line…

While once-upon-a-time, Momsen played the role of Cindy Lou Who in The Grinch That Stole Christmas, auditioned for Hannah Montana, and then snagged the role of Jenny, (who started out as) the super sweet, charming little sister to Penn Badgeley’s Dan on Gossip Girl. Mirroring her character on the CW hit, Momsen has evolved (or devolved depending on your perspective) into one of today’s many Hollywood bad girls.

While Madonna waited till she was 26 (seems incredible, right?) to shock the world with her Like a Virgin video, Momsen has already managed to wreak havoc with religious icons and shock even the most edgy rock fan with her lingerie-clad revision of the Last Supper at the ripe age of 17 in the “Miss Nothing” video. Perhaps it’s not surprising that she caught Madge’s attention – Momsen’s look is more than slightly reminiscent of a young Madonna, with a little added eyeliner.

What does Momsen tell us about today’s formula for young fame?

First, rebellion is still in. And getting attention was never more difficult. With exposure seemingly easy to acquire (just make your own YouTube video), breaking through the clutter is harder than ever. And still, it seems, the best way to make a splash is by making waves. The questions we’re forced to ask: when does rebellion become passé and nice girls start to stand out? Probably right now…See Taylor Swift for a role model for righteous rock stars who haven’t found the need to implode to get noticed.

Second, being rebellious doesn’t exclude you from being marketable to the mainstream – it makes you more appealing. It used to be that marketers looked for the most scandal-free stars to endorse their brands. But today’s iconoclasts give brands their caché. Macy’s might never truly be an alt brand, or a brand that can be “discovered” by teens as so many cult brands are. But for most mainstream teens, Macy’s is still the place to go when you need back to school clothes. Feeling a little Momsen-y while shopping with your mom might be the best recipe for success.

And finally, young fame today doesn’t just belong to the young. The stars of the 80s do not go gentle into that good night. They re-emerge – not necessarily as trendsetters but as savvy entrepreneurs.  It seems that youth culture today is more manufactured than ever, and this generation doesn’t seem to mind. Or are stars like Madonna nearing that borderline that many probably vowed never to cross?