Since Julia Fox’s brief fling with Ye (formerly known as Kanye West), her celebrity status has skyrocketed. Post-breakup, she has evolved to represent a refreshing encapsulation of the vibe shift that has occurred in recent months. From red carpet moments, staged paparazzi shots and even TikTok videos, her celebrity persona emits an aura of absurdism — aura which practically summarises the attitudes and interests of Generation Z in the era emerging from the pandemic.
Sean Monohan, founder of the now-defunct art collective K-HOLE, was met with scepticism when he released an article on his Substack earlier this year predicting a “vibe shift”. Journalist Allison P. Davis interviewed Monohan in an article for The Cut titled “A vibe shift is coming. Will any of us survive it?” To explore his ideas. Though at the time, the cultural transition was not easily identifiable, both Davis and Monohan theorised that such shifts would hold elements of a rejection of the political correctness culture-war and cancel culture movement that encapsulated the 2010s. Further, the physical touchpoints in style and aesthetics would be less obviously curated, as was the trend of the 2010s Kardashian-esque Instagram baddie, with messy hair, makeup and a more casual style.
As the year has passed, these predictions have rung true. Fashion has transitioned from following conventions to following convenience. Crocs and Ugg boots have bled into the street wear scene. Famously, Balenciaga collaborated with Crocs for their Spring 2022 show. Online, Instagram aesthetics have transformed since the 2010s with young people embracing the casual Instagram aesthetic - characterised by carousels of blurred, less obviously edited and candid photos. A dramatic shift from the poised aesthetics refined by the Kardashians a decade prior, where luxury and money were blatantly showcased. Ultimately, young people have evolved away from a vibe of aspiration. Instead we focus on one of inspiration.
When Millennials dominated online discourse during the 2010s, conversations about political correctness bleeding into the mainstream were commonplace. It was the decade which oversaw the introduction of cancel culture — a revision of problematic discourse which had been so normalised up until that point. There were discussions around body positivity, the Eurocenricity of feminism, and cultural appropriation. Millennial activism utilised the tool that previous generations had little access to: the internet. Aesthetically, it was a shareable pink Instagram tile with a cartoon girl lounging on a sofa (#netflixandchill and the like). The millennial cool girl was not like other girls. Most famously represented through Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence. Celebrities of a decade prior stood for something. We sought them to represent us and reflect back to us. We wanted relatability and authenticity as a means to connect and ultimately, aspire to be. Essentially, we wanted celebrities as role models.
However Generation Z has now poked fun at performances feigned as authenticity. Where social spheres are concerned, Generation Z identifies the inescapability of authenticity as inherently redundant. If you stage authenticity, how authentic can you truly be? In this sense, the authentic celebrity that is as politically charged as their fans is untrustworthy.
Most notably, this became incredibly relevant during the pandemic where numerous celebrities were cancelled because of attempts to be relatable. Trapped into lockdown, the isolation in mansions with a net worth of a million dollars to keep you comfortable compared to a cramped share house and welfare payments really emboldened the lives of celebrities as inherently unrelatable. Further worsened when celebrities then assumed the place of role models - encouraging stay-at-home orders without understanding that simply staying at home was not such an easy luxury for the general public. Notable cancellations of this period include Ellen DeGeneres and the celebrities involved in the infamous John Lennon “Imagine” video.
In line with Monohan’s prediction of the rejection of cancel culture, online discourse has thus prioritised nuanced discussions that explore such topics. Where Twitter was the mainstay for Millennials, TikTok has become the mainstay for Generation Z. And with a video format that does not restrict users in the same way Twitter restricted users to a character limit, it has produced more nuanced, critical discussions.
Celebrities are not one of us but of the bourgeois elite. Hustle culture is simply a romanticisation of late-stage capitalism. And so the vibe shift in question is one of grungy angst. An existential resignation that individual free will is the most reliable tool on offer for survival in today’s society.
In this sense, Julia Fox has truly become the voice of the masses. In her rants on Tiktok, seemingly unfiltered by a publicist, she goes on nuanced spiels about the male gaze, her ADHD, her past work as a dominatrix. Her TikTok bio, “the *real* me”, recognises other celebrities’ cringe attempts at humanising their celebrity persona through TikTok. She essentially pokes fun at her own celebrity persona; detaching herself from the media personality of Julia Fox. She recognises that she is another celebrity trying to be relatable to their audiences, alongside an acknowledgement that nobody can truly be ‘real’ on social media. Everything is a performance.
This rings true even in her staged paparazzi photos. Where traditionally, celebrities call paparazzi on themselves for unplanned media moments, stepping out in a meticulously curated, candid model-off-duty look Julia Fox calls paparazzi to stage impromptu photoshoots. They swarm her as she steps out to pop groceries away in joots (jean boots), a matching denim coat and Alexander Wang underwear. It’s tongue-in-cheek. Julia Fox can go grocery shopping in joots and underwear because she is Julia Fox. Because Julia Fox, simply put, can.
Her penchant for performance is further highlighted in her red carpet moments which are not taken seriously or to be viewed as aspirational. Instead, she leans into the purpose of red carpet moments as attention grabbing events and does so in a way which resembles the performances of shock artists. Notably, her dress at the 2022 Oscars After Party, a halter gown made by Han Kjobenhavn, featured a leather hand gripping her throat and a clutch allegedly made out of human hair. Her style highlights a rejection of femininity defined by selling sex to heterosexual men. Further in breaking conventions, she shocks audiences by taking style notes from sex workers; a community she herself belonged to for a time. Such influence is noted in long ponytails accessorised as a whip, latex bodysuits and black stripper heels. And thus, her looks are not conventionally aspirational. Instead, her style is eclectic; hedonistic. Julia Fox wears absurd, avant-garde outfits because why not? In stepping out in outlandish outfits, unblended black eyeshadow or cartoonish fox purses, she pokes fun. Treats the intersection between fashion and celebrity as a performance and not grounded in reality.
Of course it’s important to distinguish that the allure of Julia Fox is not her rejection of celebrity. Julia Fox doesn’t attempt to be relatable. Instead she performs and curates a fantasy. She leans into celebrity and understands the purpose of celebrities for mass audiences in this moment; entertainment. Julia Fox performs the character of Julia Fox.
And so, emerging from the pandemic, Julia Fox represents a vibe shift in our culture and the place of celebrities within this shift. Decentred is the celebrity as a model of aspiration. Highlighted during the pandemic, their obscene wealth revealed to the general public the inability to trust in larger institutions or personalities as moral compasses. Instead, celebrities have now assumed a different role. A model of inspiration and entertainment. They are the models of style and aesthetic inspiration but rarely bleed into the realm of influencing individual moral compasses.