Back in January of 2013, Lena Dunham was a Fast Company cover star, one of our Most Creative People in Business for that year. She shared the space with benefactor Judd Apatow, who had (correctly) sensed from her debut film, Tiny Furniture, that Dunham maybe had a hit TV show in her. Just a year after the ubiquitously blogged-about Girls premiered, Dunham seemed to have the world in the palm of her hand–whichever controversy du jour surrounded her at any given moment propelling her show even more indelibly into the public eye.
In the nearly six years since, however, Fast Company has watched as the situation has reversed–with Dunham’s creative projects consistently overshadowed by the controversy that follows her every utterance.
In her own way, Lena Dunham has since become a karmic counterbalance to Donald Trump. Much like the president, it’s impossible to tell whether Dunham’s many notoriously tone-deaf remarks are the result of carelessness or meticulously curated attempts at provocation. The main difference between the two in this regard is that Trump refuses to apologize for anything ever, and Dunham’s apology machine operates in perpetuity like Fleetwood Mac’s farewell tour.
Although the writer and TV star has undoubtedly earned much of the ire she’s incurred, unlike Trump even her many detractors can probably summon some sympathy for her. Or at least, they should after reading the profile New York Magazine published Monday morning, which is in-depth both gynecologically speaking and otherwise.
Writer Allison P. Davis masterfully captures all of Dunham’s contradictions in the profile, which presents the chronic illness-plagued artist at the end of a year in which she lost her fertility and broke up with both her long-term boyfriend (Jack Antonoff) and long-term creative partner (Jenni Konner.) It’s an intimate portrait full of the intensely personal details one might expect, and it even contains some optimism for the future. (Dunham has smartly decided to step back from working with Time’s Up, following a PR disaster in 2017, and is reportedly focused on using her platform to help other people tell their stories.)
However, it wouldn’t be a Lena Dunham profile if it weren’t full of wildly cringe-inducing moments that seem destined to trigger an entire wave of future apologies. (And a strong suggestion that Dunham does indeed deliberately create such moments on purpose.) Here are the 20 most cringey details from the profile:
- She texted writer Allison P. Davis “a close-up of her pubic area, showing off tattoos and hair and the place where the doctor had drawn incision marks in blue ink.” (Of course, a photo of post-surgery Dunham is included in the profile for our examination as well.)
- She later showed Davis “a photo of her uterus.”
- She was considering adopting a hairless black puppy and naming her Rosa, but “I’m worried people will get mad bc of Rosa Parks bc I have to consider those things.”
- Her interior designer (a longtime family friend) lives in her guesthouse, at least partly because of how often Dunham redecorates.
- Despite her fraught history with pets, she decided to adopt yet another one (a hairless cat she saw on Craigslist) on a whim when actor Emmy Rossum asked her what she wanted to do to get out of her post-romantic breakup funk.
- She drags the animal shelter employee who contradicted Dunham’s story about her former dog, Lamby, while simultaneously congratulating herself on not dragging him.
- “I texted Jack last week and said, ‘HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE DATED SOMONE EVERYBODY HATES?’ in all capitals. He wrote back, ‘They only hate you because they love you so much, true story.’ Which is like, What a sweetie. What a liar and a sweetie.“
- She blames the sense of humor she inherited from her parents for her ill-advised joke about never having had an abortion but wishing she had.
- “Race is a chronic blind spot for her because she didn’t grow up with a lot of diversity in her New York City private school, she explains.”
- She remains proud of the “Sensual Pantsuit Anthem (rapped music video)” she made for Hillary Clinton despite near-universal derision.
- “Dunham starts squeezing blackheads on Irma the hairless cat’s chin.”
- When Davis, who is black, relates a creative-writing workshop anecdote about trying to defuse a harsh critique by joking, “You only hate it because I’m black,” Dunham replies: “Are both your parents black, Allison?”
- In response to the recent Megyn Kelly blackface controversy, Dunham says, “I am so pleased to report that I’ve never done an ethnic costume.”
- We read along as Dunham learns in real-time that her mom kind of hated a prank Lena played on her recently as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
- When Dunham’s mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, made new work about gender earlier this year, she photographed her non-binary child Cyrus Dunham as part of the project. Lena pressured her mom to let her appear in the project too, so as not to be left out, despite not fitting in with the theme.
- Dunham apparently keeps asking The New Yorker editor David Remnick (to no avail) to let her profile the therapist whose prolonged-exposure therapy helps her with PTSD.
- Jack Anonoff “literally held my hand while I got an enema on New Year’s Eve while his family celebrated.”
- Dunham says of the woman who made a viral PowerPoint presentation about Antonoff potentially cheating on Dunham with Lorde: “Actually, I completely respect this girl, because she did a very good job and she was very funny.” A moment later, she reveals that she hasn’t spoken to Lorde since the breakup, though.
- “People who are close to both of them [Dunham and former collaborator Jenni Konner] say they are no longer friends.”
- Dunham accepts blame for her fallout with Konner thusly: “Maybe my illness made me impossible to be close to, maybe my fame made me impossible to be close to.”