TEEN READERS PROJECT
To mark the 25th anniversary of Dazed magazine, I personally cast 12 teenage readers from different parts of the UK via an Instagram competition, and then interviewed them here in London.
When Jasmin Mugisha speaks, her quiet Yorkshire lilt emanates poise and calm; when you listen to what she’s saying, she’s telling you she wants to get good grades in her sciences and start a punk band with her friends (but first, “we need a good name or nobody’s going to listen to us!”). Proof of her generation’s ability to balance academic ambition with creative experimentation, this 15-year-old’s determined to do things her own way – including her personal feminism. “I think you’ve got the very surface kind of feminism which everyone throws around, but to me, it is everything in your life,” she says matter-of-factly. “I remember a couple of years ago Emma Watson did that thing (the HeForShe gender equality campaign) and I wasn’t into it, because it was as if she was saying women need men to be feminists, and, like, you don’t. You should make it inclusive, (but) you shouldn’t try to make it more desirable to men.” Preferring to take her cues from girls with guitars over Harry Potter stars (she namechecks Seattle’s pop-punk, promiscuity-championing quintet Chastity Belt as an inspiration) Jasmin will take her “so-dead” small town over big-city pretension any day – at least for now. “I think the north’s very good at going with the flow, dealing with what they are instead of trying to be cool.” Jasmin might be a sparkly cluster of contradictions, but if her stars really aligned, her ambitions could be distilled as follows: “I certainly don’t know everything, but it would be cool for people to come up to me and ask questions. I could help people. I want to be that type of person.”
"Where I live, there’s nothing. They don’t even have a McDonald’s. We just go out all the time and take Instagram pictures.” Ben Rawsthorne, 19, is showing me his phone: mainly pictures of him and his two best friends in Liverpool, Sam and Charlie. “This one got a lot of likes,” he says, pointing out a photo of his friend walking in front of a yellow-and-red DHL van. “Two hundred likes. That’s my world record. But it’s only because it was a Vetements reference.” Ben – who studies business at Leeds Beckett University, but has spent the summer wiling away the days in his small Merseyside town of Maghull – today sports a Supreme t-shirt and matching Supreme messenger bag. Just don’t call him an at-home hypebeast. “Because we’re not in London, (Supreme is) hard to get, that’s why we think it’s quite cool,” he says. “I do think about what I wear but I wouldn’t say it’s expressive. It’s more that it’s a nice t-shirt (which) happens to be from this cool brand.” When asked if he ever feels pressure to keep his emotions to himself, he admits that boys don’t cry – but maybe they should. “I feel like everyone is just trying (to) one-up each other all the time. Everyone wants to be the boss, to be the coolest kid, to be the most popular.” For Ben, Sam and Charlie, it’s different. “We just tell each other everything. But that’s because we’re best mates. I wouldn’t express my emotions to everyone. Oh! This is such a good song (‘Sweet Disposition’ by The Temper Trap plays on the radio). Sorry, what were we saying?”
Faun Woods’ sketchbook has stickers of Batman, the gritted-teeth emoji, a sparkly shell and an EU Referendum “I’m In” slogan on the cover; inside, you’ll find delicately drawn, wide-eyed manga girls with flower crowns and poetry outlining their heads. The 15-year-old Maidenhead resident and budding artist would rather put pen to paper to escape than document the daily grind of school. “(My) sketchbook feels as much of a journal as a real one,” she says, adopting her best duh voice. “(That would just be like), ‘There was some irrelevant drama from someone that I’m not getting involved in. Someone made some jokes and I went home and did homework,’ times infinity.” At home, Faun lives in a flat by the train tracks with her mum and stepdad, regularly escaping into art magazines, the internet and books – and right now that means Rookie, not John Green. “I read Looking for Alaska again recently, and Alaska is not a realistic girl. I remember I wanted people to think of me that way, and looking back, I’m like, ‘Why?’ If (the characters) still had traits that made them like manic pixies, but had their own motivations, that would be fine. But you never see behind that, you just see the tall curvy girl who has this crew of boys behind her, and the perfect fashion sense. She bakes and sews! Isn’t she quirky! But there’s nothing else behind it.” Call Faun the ‘artsy girl’ at your own risk. “It’s like, you’re not quite the weird nerdy girl, but you’re not the popular girl. I was like, ‘If I’m going to be weird and I’m going to be called out on it, I might as well just own it.
Extracts taken from the autumn/winter 2016 anniversary issue of Dazed.