And as old-media extinction looms, the new ecosystem is often used as a corrective — or loud distraction. Selena Gomez is on the cover of Elle this month, and the accompanying story is relatively innocuous. But when it appeared online, she replied with a long Instagram post expressing frustration. “Speaking from my heart for over an hour to someone who puts those thoughts into paid words can be hard for me,” she wrote. “The older I get the more I want my voice to be mine.” She then listed the specific things she sought to promote in the interview, and lamented that other things — namely, her personal life, and her church — were given too much attention.
And so as the power dynamic tilts in favor of the famous over the press, publications — weakened, desperate, financially fragile — have been forced to find ever more contorted ways to trade, at minimum, the feeling of control in exchange for precious access.
Celebrities guest edit — “edit” — special issues of magazines. And while Ms. Swift did appear on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar this year, in the accompanying article, she is the interviewer, asking questions of the rock muse Pattie Boyd. In 2015, Rihanna photographed herself for the cover of The Fader. (The shoot was executed in concert with a professional photographer.) It was, yes, a metacommentary on panoptic fame, and also the cover star taking her own photograph.
If those options aren’t available, magazines can simply assign a friend of the celebrity to conduct the interview. In Elle, Jennifer Lawrence interviewed Emma Stone. Blake Lively conducted Gigi Hadid’s Harper’s Bazaar May cover interview. Katy Perry’s March Glamour cover interview was by the Instagram affirmation specialist Cleo Wade. Interview, a magazine predicated on these sorts of intra-celebrity conversations, was recently resurrected; in the comeback issue, Raf Simons talks with George Condo (a journalist chimes in occasionally) and Jennifer Jason Leigh talks to Phoebe Cates.
The friend doesn’t even have to be famous. In Rolling Stone’s current feature with the press-shy pop star Sia, the author announces himself as a longtime friend of hers. And New York magazine’s recent exclusive interview with Soon-Yi Previn, Woody Allen’s wife, was conducted by a longtime friend of Mr. Allen, to howls of dismay on Twitter.