Lena Dunham’s caption for this Instagram photo of her taking a selfie at the gym includes the phrase, “It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.”
This is not a statement that comes from a typical famous person, because it is implicit that they need to conform to specific physical standards in order to keep working.
Ms. Dunham, a self-described, “potbellied riot girl!”, made her mark, in part, by embracing her body, which is completely normal by American standards but an outlier in Hollywood. It works, and that is a big reason why her audience loves her.
So, for Ms. Dunham to post pictures of herself exercising and qualify it with statements that she is not doing it to lose weight, is completely understandable. She is making a gesture to insulate her brand from the possibility that her audience will perceive her new healthy habits as a threat to the brand that they initially fell in love with.
Change can be a risky move for a brand. At the same time, change is, as they say, the only constant.
There is a point, or many points, in people’s lives when they may look in the mirror and find it hard to recognize themselves.
Last week, I didn’t really recognize myself. I was writing down all the things that I like (as one does, ha ha ha), and the things on the list were so… basic. I read it over and over again with something like mild alarm.
Likes: Gabriel. Cleanliness. Good TV, movies, and blogs. Music. Good clothing. Stripes, polka dots, plaid, and flowers.
Dreams: I want to give my children a wonderful childhood. And I want a book deal.
I guess turning thirty years old and planning for kids can change people. Just one year ago, I was still thinking of myself as a punk for life. However, my current likes and dreams did not reflect that. At all.
Brands naturally evolve. Considering the environments in which they move can help reconcile a brand's big changes in expression with its constant core values.
Ms. Dunham’s environment changed drastically when her brand journeyed from that of an independent artist to that of a mainstream success. However, she is, and this remains constant, a champion of women.
As an indie artist in her early twenties, when looks matter disproportionately, Ms. Dunham supported women by reassuring and drawing close those audience members who were hating themselves for not winning the genetic lottery and/or not racing up the corporate ladder.
Now, as a mainstream success approaching her thirties, the time in women's lives when they gain much more responsibility, she has included advocating for women to take care of their mental and physical health with her general message of support for women. Further, she is using her power to increase her feminist influence through her newsletter, Lenny Letter.
Would Lena Dunham have evolved in the same way had she not experienced mainstream success? Probably not. She would have ended up championing women in a different way.
Would I have ended up so alarmingly basic if I had not experienced the life I’m living today? Probably not.
I’m allowed to be an independent thinker in my world. As a result, I have a surplus of energy to build -- to help make a better future for others. It doesn’t take much to make me happy in this environment.
Our core values remain constant. The best way to describe what remained constant for me in this context is something like the Jewish concept, tikkun olam -- "repair of the world".
I always wanted to make things better. Whether it meant rebelling against the status quo, or making a good life for a child, I always wanted to improve things, to help create a brighter future.
It just came out differently, at times.
What core value has remained constant in your brand?