By: JoAnn Snavely
This is a piece I’ve been putting off for a really long time.
Back in August of last year, I watched the 2000 film Almost Famous. Since then, I have been completely and utterly obsessed with the idea of the rockstar’s girlfriend (often referred to as the ‘rockstar gf’). Even if I aspire to be William Miller, there is no doubt that Penny Lane has paved the way for the fangirls of today.
There are also many other reasons that we can attribute to the elevation of the rockstar girlfriend today; whether it be social media, film, television, or even real-life rockstar gf icons, they have created mine and many other music lover’s dream profession.
In writing this article, it’s important to note that every ounce of feminism likely left my body, for a woman isn’t defined by her love interests–With that said, I unapologetically still want to be one. If you take offense, then you can take this opinion with a grain of salt, thanks!
So, in order to truly understand the ins and outs of rockstar gf, we must get to know our muse: Penny Lane. As aforementioned, Penny Lane is the fictional creation from the 2000 film Almost Famous.
A surface level examination of this film’s plot unfolds in the 70s when a young writer named William falls into the world of drugs, sex, and rock & roll after he’s introduced to the band Stillwater. He finds career success with Rolling Stone and is sent out to follow Stillwater on tour. He quickly succumbs to the fast-paced tour lifestyle– all because he meets a girl named Penny Lane. Lane belongs to a collective of groupies who spend their youth following Stillwater throughout all of their tours, and she brings William backstage where he meets the band and quickly begins writing a tell-all expose on the band. Lots more happens and it isn’t quite relevant to the article, but one thing is: Penny Lane is a certified 70s rockstar, groupie icon. Whether it be her funky jacket, kind demeanor, relationships with band members, or overall coolness, she is the OG fictional rockstar’s gf.
Lately, newer examples of the rockstar gf have been brought to mainstream media, most notably, with the book-adapted limited series Daisy Jones and the Six. Although there are a handful of people who fall into the trope of rockstar’s girlfriend, I think the most eloquent rendition of the rockstar’s girlfriend is thanks to Camila Alvarez. She began dating Billy Dunne (lead singer of the Six) before the band became famous and even acted as their photographer for a short period of time. She follows the band through their fame and remains loyal even when Dunne caves to the sex, drugs, and rock & roll lifestyle. Are you sensing a common theme? Camilla has this effortless aura to her while she stands and cheers on her boyfriend throughout the show’s evolution. Similarly to Penny Lane, she had a perfect sense of style and inconceivably cool throughout.
REAL LIFE ROCKSTAR GF’S
The idea of the rockstar girlfriend isn’t exclusive to fictional characters. There are real-life women paving the rockstar girlfriend road for the future of all rockstar gf’s today. I think the most notable example from recent times is Alexa Chung. The British TV host and author of IT found her rockstar gf fame when she began dating Arctic Monkeys frontliner Alexa Chung. In a time where Arctic Monkeys were at the peak of their fame, she instantly became the ‘it girl’ of modern-day rockstar girlfriend enthusiasts. While they did eventually split , she is one of many present-day examples of the rockstar gf, yet I do want to emphasize one point, she was successful in building her OWN career. Being a rockstar’s girlfriend is not the only thing that defines a woman fitting into the trope; they often have their own career beforehand, are musicians themselves (my personal favorite), or are working on building their career.
There’s many notable mentions, specifically the original rockstar gf’s: Anita Pallenberg and Patty Boyd. The pair dated different members of Rolling Stones and The Beatles while maintaining successful careers along the way.
Going back to the present, I think the all-time best example of this would be Devon Lee Carlson. The co-owner of the multimillion dollar phone case company Wildflower Cases began dating The Neighbourhood’s frontman Jesse Rutherford in 2015, and they quickly became the face of the rockstar girlfriend phenomenon. Her social media posts perpetuated the lifestyle of every 2015 Tumblr girl’s dreams. Being with one of the ‘dreamiest’ musicians of the day made her lifestyle seem so coveted, and it was.
I think another alluring factor of all these women is the music written about them. Chung was with Turner during their AM album (undoubtedly one of the most iconic early 2010s albums ever I might add), Carlson was with Rutherford during albums like Wiped Out or Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones. And Pallenberg and Boyd with their respective relationships during some of the most iconic rock albums EVER. Having a face to the lyrics being published is so enticing and truly helps mold the idea of the ‘rockstar gf.’ One song in particular does this for me: “Arabella” by Arctic Monkeys, I mean it’s easy to romanticize this lifestyle when seeing lyrics written about party girls in last night’s makeup,
“Arabella’s got some interstellar-gator skin boots
And a Helter Skelter ’round her little finger and I ride it endlessly
She’s got a Barbarella silver swimsuit
And when she needs to shelter from reality
She takes a dip in my daydreams
My days end best when this sunset gets itself
Behind that little lady sitting on the passenger side
It’s much less picturesque without her catching the light
The horizon tries but it’s just not as kind on the eyes”
I bet you’re thinking, this is cool and all but why are people so heavily romanticizing this lifestyle? And let me tell you, there is so much more to the rockstar gf than it seems. If you’ve ever attended a show at a smaller venue, or even a smaller house show, it would become so easy to find attraction to the band members. I’ve done this at countless shows, admittedly, and know friends who have as well. There is something so attractive about someone playing an instrument; whether it be guitar, drums, or even bass, it makes someone 10x hotter (sorry mom). As I asked initially, if you’ve ever been to one of these shows, tell me you haven’t remotely experienced this.
I think it is significantly easier to romanticize the idea of the rockstar girlfriend if you consistently attend live shows and have experience in seeing real-life rockstar gf’s in action. Even if you haven’t seen a rockstar gf in action, you may have just witnessed a musician or seen green room pics–anything. There is something so glamorous about living that backstage, vip, tour-bus lifestyle.
It’s not even the whole “dating a musician” aspect that makes the rockstar gf appealing; it’s the whole lifestyle behind it. Being constantly on the move, and partying every day with limited responsibilities seems so fun, like a sick escape from the hellscape of the real world. I think I’d have fun just being on a tour, waking up in a new state everyday, getting that backstage experience just seems so cool and like the perfect ideation of what I aspire to do when I grow up. The smudged black eyeliner, bewitching fashion choices, and the gregarious lifestyle is so appealing. And trust me, I’m not alone in this sentiment, there’s an entire niche of social media dedicated exclusively to replicating the vibe of the rockstar girlfriend.
I feel that this should go without saying, but for the sake of transparency, I must clarify that although a rockstar girlfriend is cool and all, please do not only associate women with their rockstar boyfriends. Most rockstar gf’s maintain incredibly successful careers and have their own triumphs apart from their social lives. I feel that this entire lifestyle could be dubbed something like the ‘rockstar lifestyle’ or ‘tour life,’ or ultimately just something that doesn’t immediately associate a woman with her romantic partner.
Finally, I feel it is essential to acknowledge the ultimate rockstar gf of the Herald, Marlee Billiter You are the blueprint. Anyways, this is my petition. Let me become a rockstar gf, please and thank you. And thank you to all the rockstar girlfriends of the world. Thanks for paving the way for the future of rockstar gf’s everywhere.
EXTRA BONUS: HOW TO BECOME YOUR VERY OWN ROCKSTAR GF
There seems to be a certain fashion to becoming the ‘rockstar girlfriend.’ I think the first step in discovering how to become a rockstar gf is by mastering the makeup. If you searched “rockstar girlfriend aesthetic” on TikTok, you’d find countless videos on how to achieve the most flawless rockstar girlfriend makeup look. For eye makeup, you need smudged eyeliner or a bold winged look. For lips, dark colors and light, dewey looks. For the rest of the face, it is pretty substandard and simple just your usual face makeup. The fashion is a bit more flexible. Some really good essential pieces would be a leather jacket, mini skirts, band tees, Dr. Martens, and other 90’s essentials. Together, these things come together to create the ultimate rockstar gf look.