It’s not the most popular opinion, but I completely adore Kristen Stewart. Her calculated sloppiness makes her one of my ultimate style icons, and her brave quotes about sexism in the entertainment business make her one of my feminist icons, too. In celebration of her 24th birthday, here are seven facts that will get you started on your journey to joining the KStew fan club.
1. She’s not as moody as you think she is. Kristen has expressed time and again that she doesn’t feel like her public persona fits who she really is, describing herself as more shy and afraid of the constant attention than disinterested. About her famously sulky appearance, former boyfriend Robert Pattinson once told Vanity Fair,
People have decided how they’re going to perceive her. No matter how many times she smiles, they’ll put in the one picture where she’s not smiling.
In the same way that Jennifer Lawrence almost certainly doesn’t live up to being Everyone’s BFF at all times, it’s unfair to write Kristen off for being painted a certain way by the media.
2. Even if she were perpetually grumpy, give me one non-sexist reason for why that’s a big deal. We get irritated when celebrities act like they don’t even try to be perfect, and yet we vilify Kristen Stewart for demonstrating that it takes a lot of effort to make public appearances and try to please everyone at once. She once told the Telegraph,
Being a public figure, I’m supposed to present myself in a certain way, but it’s hard and you’re never going to be able to tell people who you are through the media. It’s much easier for a guy to say what he wants and not to be cute and funny all the time, but, if you’re a strong sort of woman, you’re just, for lack of a better word, a bitch.
Red carpets are full to the brim with unsmiling dudes, trying to prove how deep and masculine and expressionless they can be. Then we see one young woman who’s uncomfortable posing like she’s in a dog and pony show, and she’s a grumpy bitch.
3. She’s proud to stick up for the loners and the outcasts, famously telling an interviewer, “It’s okay, you know? It’s okay to be you. It’s okay to not be okay.” I love that. I really needed that message from one of my favorite celebrities when I was a teenager.
4. She’s not afraid to speak up about the lack of decent female characters in movies. While promoting Snow White and the Huntsman, she told Conan O’Brien that she’s sick of only being offered “girl power” movies that act like women have to be masculine to be powerful:
If you just change a character’s name from Bobby to Sue, anything where a girl is punching another person in the face or being really assertive, they’re like, ‘We’ll look at Kristen Stewart to do this one.’
She later told the Guardian, “[Women] aren’t built to take down big guys in armor. It’s really more about being faster and smarter.” We definitely need movies about badass, physically strong women, but those can’t be the only narratives out there. Femininity doesn’t have to be portrayed as a weakness.
5. She’s nothing but respectful of her teenage girl fanbase, telling interviewers,
I like [Twilight] just as much as the fans like the book. It is odd to be a figurehead for them because it’s something so personal. It’s just very weird to have other people care about it as much as me.
While the Twilight series doesn’t portray the healthiest relationships (Edward and Jacob are both straight-up abusive at times, actually) and I wouldn’t want my teenage daughter to read them without having a conversation with me about them first, it would be really easy for Kristen to take the route of her costars and publicly speak out against the story. Instead, she leaves the snarky comments to Pattinson and does something most celebrities are afraid to do: refuse to be condescending to the teen girls creating their paychecks. Kristen’s made it obvious that she’s a feminist, but she also understands the importance of not treating Twilight fans like they’re stupid for liking something traditionally feminine.
6. She’s not too hung up on meeting society’s expectations for gender. She told GQ that she didn’t always fully identify with femininity, but she doesn’t stoop to criticizing it:
It took me a long time to realize that I was a girl as a teenager. At that point I never really believed it. I looked like a boy for a long time. Now I feel like a woman.
There’s something really cool about a celebrity who’s willing to accept that gender identity is fluid, and I’m really glad her young fans have her to look up to.
7. She won’t stand for the pressure girls feel to look flawless, and she won’t let it get to her personally. She once told Vanity Fair,
I have been criticized a lot for not looking perfect in every photograph. I get some serious shit about it. I’m not embarrassed about it. I’m proud of it. If I took perfect pictures all the time, the people standing in the room with me, or on the carpet, would think, What an actress! What a faker! That thought embarrasses me so much that I look like shit in half my photos, and I don’t give a fuck. What matters to me is that the people in the room leave and say, ‘She was cool. She had a good time. She was honest.’
Rock on, Kristen. We’re grateful to have your voice out there for young girls– and adults– to hear.
Photos via Getty Images