Cory Kennedy was the Internet’s first It Girl

Cory Kennedy finds it hard to look at the photos that made her famous, the shots in which she is a tipsy teenager at parties with the Olsens and Lindsay Lohan and Steve Aoki. There is one particularly well-known among those who remember who she is in which she crouches on the sidewalk, looking elfin and disheveled, smoking a cigarette. When I talk about it recently, she declares, “She’s not who I am today,” clenching a hand into a fist and battling a sudden-onset stutter. It’s me screaming for safety. It’s not just an image of me partying. I’m the one looking for the land. A pose I’ve become known for, ironically.

Kennedy may have been the Internet’s first it girl. She went from adolescent anonymity to virality after becoming something of a muse for party photographer Mark Hunter, aka Cobrasnake, at the time only her second serious boyfriend. But unlike the influencers who followed in her footsteps, she never really felt responsible for her image, and she never even cashed in.

At 33, Kennedy looks almost as young as she does in those photos with her droopy eyes that seem to float upward under their hoods and a mouth that’s almost always smiling. His skin is now clear and the perfect hair and Jeremy Scott fast food themed clothes he once wore are replaced by, at least when we meet near his Greenpoint apartment, old Cline and Jil Sander. Hers Hers Party Days Hers Hers is hers, she insists, behind her: I’ve practically minded my own business, keeping my head down. Also, I don’t get invited to anything.

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Kennedy was a 15-year-old living in Santa Monica in 2005 when she met Hunter, then 20, at a Blood Brothers concert and became his so-called intern, accompanying him to parties where he shot everyone from Kanye West to Katy. Perry to Lady Gaga and Telfar Clemens before they were filtered and famous. In December 2005, he posted a photo album of her titled JFK CORY KENNEDY on his then-popular photo blog All the Kids Knew, She Says and overnight became who-is-and-how-did-he- get there famous. I really didn’t like having my picture taken, she says. Maybe there was something in my eyes. You could see there was more than just being at a fun party.

In 2007, Los Angeles Times he profiled her, noting, Never before have media, technology, and celebrities collided with adolescence at such warp speed. As Natasha Stagg later wrote, she gave bored, alcoholic Midwesterners like myself a peek into a life I knew I wanted as if our generations of Warhol Superstars had been defined and I’d already aged out of the running. In 2008, this magazine published with their permission her and Hunter’s BlackBerry messages during New York Fashion Week (Tu alla festaaaa? asks the Cobrasnake. Yes, she replies. Chromeo hasn’t played yet. Also: V gallos herre.). She met all the celebrities of that moment: they wanted to be friends with me. I was like, yeah, sure. Clearly, Kennedy says, I was numb, I was zombified. I don’t think I paid for a drink until I was 24 or 25. I fainted a lot.

Not everyone wanted to be friends. Gawker teased her relentlessly, once describing her as a malnourished teenager who dresses like she broke into her retarded grandmother’s basement and does nothing with her wasted life except pose for pictures on a website and quit and live of his parents waiting to become famous for some as yet unrevealed talent. Her resentment confused her. I was a kid, and 75 percent of people thought I was a drug-addicted, drug-addicted rich kid.

Kennedy was not Hyannis Port Kennedy, despite what many thought. But she had her own issues even before the Cobrasnake entered her life. She had spent time in an inpatient program at UCLA for depression and her Internet fame shocked her family. Looking back, she doesn’t blame them for not knowing how to handle what was happening to her, like when her classmates dressed up like her on Halloween. It wasn’t like I was an uncontrollable force. I just needed to talk to her a little bit, she says.

Kennedy didn’t necessarily aspire to be a model, even if she landed on the cover of several magazines, or a writer, even if she started a blog and got a fashion column on Nylon, or an actress, even if she starred in the first episode of 90210 reboot in 2008. The following year, after breaking up with Hunter, Kennedy, 19, moved to New York and partied at various since-closed hot spots: Beatrice Inn, Max Fish, and Lit, where she DJed on sunday nights. When she turned 20, she realized that she could be an influencer, but she rejected it, thinking, I will not sell my soul. Instead, she decided she needed to get an adult job, because I wanted to prove to myself that I was real or whatever. But even here, her past haunted her. Once, when she applied for a job that she saw on LinkedIn, she overheard a recruiter tell her that she had written her college thesis on Cory Kennedy.

It was around that time, at 25, that she realized she was too heavily groomed to think clearly about her life. She took nine different pills, from Prozac to Risperdal. She spent the next eight years kicking them one by one. She even quit vaping earlier this year. Above all. As we drank more and more natural wine, I love it dry and mineral, she drank my drags and as we drank more she also started asking for little draggies of my cigarettes. More than ten years of my life have been robbed in a stupor of meds, she says. I had to stop the meds. I needed clarity and I got clarity.

Weirdly, indie sleaze, a new term for what was then just dirty hipster culture American Apparel, electroclash, sweatbands and all that’s having some sort of revival, even though Kennedy doesn’t quite see how it’s related to the real thing other than the smudged eyeliner. . But he has a theory: that there is a longing for a time when there were human contacts, interactions and friendships made outside of an app. That’s why I think the generation now finds us so fascinating, because they’ll never get it, sadly, he says. When I ask her what was best about that time, aside from the music, which she talks about quite a bit, her MySpace profile songs included Wolf Like Me, by TV on the Radio, and Over and Over, by Hot Chip ( classic sleazy stuff) she says it was the sweat: people were sweating, running, jumping on each other. You’re on the floor, you’re in the air, you’re jumping, you’re singing, you’re drinking, you’re smoking, you’re making out with someone, you’re hugging your friend. It was full of action and it was a very positive atmosphere. Then again, she says, for me it was probably a dissociative thing. As for Hunter, who has spent the last couple of years trying to capitalize on the seedy indie revival, I wish him the best. (They still text from time to time.) Even though every now and then, he tells me, he asks me, if someone loves you, why would he post those kind of incriminating photos? Maybe she didn’t know. At the time, I was just like, Ahhh that’s just what party photography is all about.

Throughout the night, she tortuously refers to her time in the spotlight as only the whole period or the whole thing or what happened to me. He doesn’t seem to think he had much to do with it. At one point, she just says she, Poor girl, referring to herself. She is now telling her side of her, she says, because she hopes her story about being an exploited and exploited teenager will help someone else.

So we don’t spend too much time dwelling on the dark stuff and hit several more bars, eventually joined by her boyfriend and an old friend we just met. We drink a bottle of wine each, Kennedy continues to smoke my vaporizer and at the end of the night we have a vodka-soda in a bar.

Kennedy’s voice rises an octave. She laughs and makes me laugh, often. She gossips, she weaves hot conspiracy theories, she brags about her boobs (asking me to try them on), and she admits she’s friends with Bill Maher, who she says once gave her a top recommendation for cleaning. It is undoubtedly still a good time today. I don’t think I’ve taken over the narrative, she says. If you were more of an initiator, we would have a different conversation. Was it the meds? Was it my personality? My age? Now I’m much more upfront about what I want and how I want it. She is now an adult without backbiting who prides herself on a diet of mostly cruciferous vegetables and fish, she frets about composting and dreams of having children. Today, she and her boyfriend closed a house in Connecticut. It’s less people, more trees. I want to live this bucolic life, she says. I want to garden, like a fucking hipster Martha Stewart.

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