The Pope Is Following Us
But we're not gonna let that go to our heads. This week, feast upon glorious stories of angels, devils, eye-popping abs, and more. Oh, and will you accept this rose?
Welcome back to the Siobahn Roy—wait, who are we kidding?—the Cousin Greg of newsletters, where your faithful media-monitoring department spends all week sliding its thermometer up the nation’s sociopolitical tuchus to bring you only the really vital meta-data (if you consider conspiracy theories about Victoria’s Secret meta, and we do.) Rising to the top this week: Students solve murder cases that history swept under the rug; this superstar lady novelist is...not a lady; and famous men don’t like body-shaming any more than famous women do. Readers, we think you can win this one!
Before we dig in, let’s pause for a moment of nature. This floral feed from green-thumbed friend-of-Spread (and Town & Country beauty director) April Long will cleanse your brain of internet junk food and fill it with beauty. Ahhh. That’s better.
OK, who’s ready for some Bachelorette?
Rachel & Maggie
It’s never too late for the truth.
Joyce Faye Nelson-Crockett was 13 years old in 1955, dancing to a jukebox in the Hughes Cafe on a Saturday night in East Texas with her sister and her 16-year-old cousin, John Earl Reese…. All of a sudden, a sharp crack interrupted the music. Nelson-Crockett thought it was fireworks at first, until she heard a thud on the floor and noticed Reese lying there. “I looked and saw his brain coming out of his head,” she later told a reporter.
John Earl Reese was just one of a “vast, invisible universe of unknown victims who were murdered far from a reporter’s pen, or who the police never found out about or decided not to record for some reason,” a historian tells writer Samantha Michaels in this Mother Jones story about a remarkable project: Law and journalism students at Northeastern University have investigated some 650 Jim Crow-era cold cases—digging through old newspapers, court transcripts, and witness accounts to give families closure before the last living witnesses to these crimes pass away, taking their truths with them.
Rachel, you’re the queen of “this outta be a movie,” but I’ll give this one a shot: The screenplay writes itself, and we haven’t had a great journalism procedural since Spotlight. In the role of Northeastern prof Margaret Burnham—a civil rights warrior who happens to be the childhood best friend (and one-time lawyer) of Angela Davis—I’m thinking the soft-spoken-but-steely Loretta Devine. As Kaylie Simon, the 25-year-old law student who calls Nelson-Crockett out of the blue to reopen a 60-year-old trauma: Kaitlyn Dever. And as for Nelson-Crockett herself, now a grandmother, and still living among the “oil refineries and Confederate flags” of East Texas, let’s go with the great Alfre Woodard.—Maggie
Maggie, This project is amazing and you’ve got my green light. Shall we beg Regina King to direct?—Rachel
Read “Healing Requires Truth” here.
This too should be a movie: Señora Mola edition!
This week novelista superestrella solitario Carmen Mola—widely known as the Elena Ferrante of Spain—won the Planeta, a €1M literary prize. When her identity was finally revealed at the ceremony, she turned out to be...a trio of hombres! This is a true-life tale about representation, yes, but also about creativity, collaboration, and the media. And it should be made into a movie rápidamente! (OK, I’ll stop with the Español.) So who should make it? Pedro Almodóvar is the obvious choice, but I’d hand the reins to Hustlers director Lorene Scafaria, who we know excels with ensembles, scammers, and the intersection thereof. As for our trio of calculating scribes, let’s go nuts: Antonio Banderas, Javier Bardem, and…Diego Luna? Luna is Mexican, not Spanish—noted—but who else loved his big screen return as a bit player in If Beale Street Could Talk (close readers may notice that this movie made quite an impression on the Spread)? Paz Vega plays the men’s book agent. As for Elena Blanco, the protagonist of the Mola novels—a “peculiar and solitary woman, who loves grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs”? The role has Penelope Cruz, whose loose comedic skills haven’t seen enough daylight since Vicky Cristina Barcelona, written all over it.—Rachel
The wind machine is broken. Also: Sex, drugs, and big fat books.
At the risk of sounding overly excited, THE NEW PODCAST ABOUT VICTORIA’S SECRET IS QUITE GOOD. Fallen Angel, hosted and executive produced by former Spread colleagues Vanessa Grigoriadis and Justine Harman, tracks the retail giant from founding to fall to forced-feminist-y makeover. Fast-paced, filled with juicy interviews, and infused with a sense of humor about the whole ordeal—but without the annoying production tics or Ira Glass-y radio voice so many narrative pods fall prey to—this series has already earned its wings only two half-hour episodes in.
In other hot-pod news, Lili Anolik’s delightful and dishy 2018 Esquire story about a cluster of now-famous writers who came up together at Bennington College in the ’80s has been expanded into a podcast. If you’re into Bret Easton Ellis, Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt (which we very much are), and/or New England campus intrigue, Once Upon a Time...At Bennington College is a must listen. The most recent episode, “Mississippi Chippy,” focuses on Tartt, and boy does Anolik (who, I should mention, I edited for years at Elle) let it fly. Tartt1 agrees, and much to her chagrin. The details really are that rich; take the part about young Donna’s gender-bendy relationship with boyfriend Paul McGloin: She played the twink, calling herself “Laddie” and styling herself like a schoolboy.—Rachel
Rachel, In 2008 I wrote one of those classic women’s mag “experience” stories about being backstage at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show in Miami. Hands down, the most surreal experience of my life, ultimately packed into all of 250 words. (Did I mention this was 2008? Page counts were down.) I walked a glitter-covered runway wearing Heidi Klum’s big red sparkly bow “wings” (they weighed a ton!), stripped (all the way) down for a coat of fake tan next to German superstar Julia Stegner, and posing on the prow of a yacht, surrounded by Angels in matching skipper caps. One of these kids was not like the others. (My face is glowing red even as I write this.) So when it comes to VS narratives, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’m devouring this pod but also playing the long game: American Angel, a book by Business of Fashion duo Lauren Sherman and Chantal Fernandez, is out in 2022.—Maggie
Listen to Fallen Angel here.
Listen to Once Upon a Time...At Bennington College here.
“Oh, this is what women have been talking about the whole time.”
So says a former “tech bro” once known for a distinctly Sigma Chi management style (“it was, like, chest bumps and kegs. Even as the company grew, we were having arm-wrestling competitions”) who transitioned at age 38 to become a woman, launched a new start-up, and got a quick reality check: “Investors didn’t take her seriously,” writes Stephanie Clifford2 in Elle. “Men talked over her, and she struggled, sometimes literally, to find space at the table.” The bravery it took for Natalie Egan to be her true self and redefine her life on all levels is staggering—and as someone who has walked through life as both a man and a woman, her perspective on everything from seeking funding to buying a new car is fascinating—but I couldn’t help noticing that such lightbulb moments (oh, this is what you girls have been talking about!) dotted the internet this week. Over at Vulture, writer/actor and former regular guy Kumail Nanjiani, who got ripped to play a Marvel superhero and spent a year “bask[ing] in the honeymoon glow of his body,” talks to E. Alex Jung about what it’s like now that people are obsessing about (and scathingly critiquing) his big muscles instead of his big brain. Here’s that familiar line, again: “He realizes he’s experiencing a hot-celebrity version of what women, fat people, and disabled people experience on a daily basis.” (This story read like a tasty gender turducken to me: It felt like a women’s magazine profile tucked inside the bulging musculature of a men’s magazine profile, and I savored every morsel.) Meanwhile, newly svelte Jonah Hill gave the ‘gram its post of the week when he politely requested: “I know you mean well but I kindly ask that you not comment on my body.” To all I say, Amen. And welcome to the other side.—Maggie
Maggie, everyday workplace sexism is so prevalent it’s kind of boring—and hard to quantify. As isolated incidents, the afterwork gym sessions women aren’t invited to and the “manterruptions” we put up with seem like, well, life as we know it: I don’t know what I’d do if I did get invited on a golf outing with my boss other than double down on the Bloody Marys. But this New York Times op-ed (distilled from editor Jessica Nordell’s new book, The End of Bias: A Beginning) translates the cumulative effect of small slights and microaggressions into clever graphics...that kind of blew my mind. These little blue and green dots are infuriatingly clear, showing how—even though men and women start off on relatively equal footing at entry level—many men still climb aboard that old “glass escalator” to the corner office. I wish I had this piece in my arsenal when I was in my early twenties.—Rachel
Read “Corporate Transition” here.
Read “Kumail Nanjiani’s Feelings” here.
Find Jonah Hill’s Instagram post here.
Read “This Is How Everyday Sexism Could Stop You From Getting That Promotion” here.
There’s something about Katie.
When I saw the title of Katie Couric’s new memoir, I had to laugh. Going There, gah! My parents, who are exactly her age, absolutely adore this hip-to-them turn of phrase (As in, “Uh, Rachel, we’re not going there right now…At bridge yesterday, she really went there…And so I asked her, Do you really want to go there?”). You’d think the press tour for the memoir of a preternaturally bubbly American sweetheart would be utter pablum, but Katie’s getting heavy blowback for the book’s biggest scoop: Putting her journalistic cred on the line, she admits to trimming dicey comments by Ruth Bader Ginsberg in a key interview (to “protect” the beloved justice, she says). In this People cover story she does, dare I say, go to there, on retaining her stronghold on NBC’s corporate ladder ("I think if someone was openly saying they were going to replace me, I don't think I helped them. I never iced [colleague Ashleigh Banfield] out. I never criticized her. It just didn't bring out my generous side."), on her first husband’s untimely death of colon cancer at the height of her career (she wishes she had reckoned more directly with the d-word before he passed), on her on weight (at the doctor’s office, she turns her back on the scale to avoid the numbers), and on the heartbreaking truth about Matt Lauer 3 ("I've come to realize that Matt could be an excellent professional partner, and a good friend, and a predator."). Somebody give this woman a TV show!—Rachel
The Short Stack, aka, wait…there’s more!
Why is it so hard to find a therapist who takes insurance? (Andrea Petersen, WSJ) // It’s a big week for Men We Love, and we’ve always got time for Timmy...and Scotty...and Idris. And, with Alison Willmore at the wheel, ole Ben Affleck, too (Vulture). // From the family-planning aisle: Shefali Luthra reports on Kansas as the bright-red Midwest’s precarious refuge for abortion (Elle & The 19th); Rachel Monroe shadows a very prolific sperm donor while he minds his business (Esquire); Sheelah Kolhatkar investigates the adoption fraud of the century (New Yorker). // Mickalene Thomas + Angela Flournoy = Hell yes (New York Times Magazine). // Our alma matter is on a roll this week: Mazel tov to friend and Elle entertainment director Jen Weisel on this year’s Women in Hollywood awards, a celeb-booking feat if there ever were one (Elle). // Watch with us: Introducing…Selma Blair hits small screens Oct. 21 (Trailer, YouTube).
For the Tarttheads: In 2019, I sat beside Tartt at a low-end nail salon in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. She did not autograph the sign-in sheet on the front-desk clipboard, instead leaving only a single-line scribble. She wore a summer straw hat atop her signature bob; bold lipstick; a loose, striped button-up; and jorts. Jorts! As her toes were tended, she marked up a thick manuscript (am I breaking news here?). Ultimately, she decided to get a manicure as well. She was gorgeous, with an otherworldly aura. Hiding behind Sally Rooney’s Normal People (again, 2019), I only texted 40 or 50 friends to brag of my good fortune. She knew I knew, and I think she liked it.
Who could forget Clifford’s “The Journalist and the Pharma Bro” last winter? A blockbuster in Vampire’s Wife clothing!
Rachel, though IMHO there is something strangely not quite great about The Morning Show, it’s such a jam-packed Movie Star gumbo I can’t resist watching. Reading this, I realize it’s done that strange scrambling thing to my brain: When you say Matt Lauer, I can only picture Steve Carell’s Mitch Kessler. And I can’t help but wonder if, like Jennifer Aniston’s character on the show, Katie’s memoir is timed to “reclaim her narrative,” as they say, and save her from looking like Lauer’s dupe or, worse, the female colleague who turned a blind eye.