Thank God for George Gurley. It seems like he's been hiding somewhere lately, but he's back in this weekend's "Sunday Styles" section with a real whopper: The profile of 19-year-old socialite Hadley Nagel, a Johns Hopkins student whom the Observer last year dubbed the "Egghead Debutante." Now, we rarely do this, but you should probably take a moment and click on through to read the entire profile and then come back, rather than reading it later. It's difficult to quote from because every single line in the article is a compliment. Like, even innocuous ones like this: "To unwind, Miss Nagel says she watches 'crappy' reality shows on her flat screen in the suite she shares with three roommates." (She is down to earth, but with expensive accessories!) And this: "Wearing a Ralph Lauren blazer, cashmere sweater, jeans and Ferragamo loafers, she was having a lunch of crab chowder and chicken pot pie at a restaurant in Saks Fifth Avenue, with her mother (also in Ralph Lauren blazer)." (She eats real food! But surrounds herself with expensive clothes while doing it!) Anyway, read it.
If you really don't want to go over and read about the accomplishments of a blonde, trim, wealthy, brainy socialite, here's the short version: She went to Nightingale-Bamford, where she launched the school's debate and Model UN teams, she started a society to build James Madison a national monument (he doesn't yet have one) and in doing so became the country's youngest registered lobbyist. She organizes panels with the nation's brightest university historians, she doesn't drink, she got fives on all of her APs, she wears only the highest fashion, she dated a duke, and she is an expert with a rifle. Also, she is a German countess. And she earned a scholarship to Johns Hopkins (which she apparently didn't turn down, despite the whole "wealthy countess" thing — but that isn't addressed in the article, perhaps because if it was then one of the sentences in it would have had to include at least a mild criticism).
Now, of the many responses one can have to this article, two come to mind most prominently. First, the "Gosh, how prolific this person is at a young age! To have accomplished so much, and to continue to strive for more!" Let's call this the "James Franco reaction." Sure, those of us who filled our high-school hours with so-called "college suck" activities know that they come at the expense of regular teen socializing and a sort of normalcy in which most kids that age can luxuriate. And in our New York profile of Franco back in July, those close to the actor said the same thing — that he doesn't have much of a social life. But there's something to be said for trying hard, and if you can forgo that stuff, more power to you.
Second, and much more tantalizing, is the "Gwyneth Paltrow reaction," so eloquently plumbed by Intel Jessica in this year's "Reasons to Love New York" issue of the magazine. She's pretty, she's talented, from birth she's been blessed with things that most people can't even imagine, and yet she must thrust herself upon us even more with her accomplishments. Can't the rest of us be left in peace with our anesthetizing mediocrity?
So which was your reaction to reading about her? The Times, and Gurley, presumably are hoping for the "James Franco." But we're afraid when we look back to the old Observer profile, there are definitely hints of the Gwyneth. When asked where in New York she would never go, for example, Hadley chirped, "Brooklyn!"
And, of course, we can't ignore the fact that Nagel's mother (her "de facto publicist," according to Gurley) says that "'many, many, many' people have thought Serena van der Woodsen, a character on the CW network show Gossip Girl, is based on Miss Nagel, minus the promiscuity and drugs (both are 5-foot-7, leggy and natural blondes)." Those hordes of people obviously don't remember that the book series started back in 2002 when Hadley was about 11. But author Cecily von Ziegesar did inscribe a book to Hadley, saying, "To Hadley, the real thing."
And, a few years ago, Cecily signed a book to Intel saying, "You are the real Gossip Girl!" And here we are writing a blog about Hadley. HHMMMMMMM ...
Titans in Party Dresses [NYT]