The Texas Monthly has a new profile of Jane Aldridge, the 20-year-old from Texas who parlayed a teenaged personal style blog documenting her pricey designer shoe collection into a footwear collaboration with Urban Outfitters, a début at the Crillon, and a close, personal friendship with Kanye West. And it is so damning that while Aldridge initially appeared to welcome the story, she's since turned against the publication and the reporter, Jason Sheeler. Hard.
The story starts with Aldridge "snapping" at Sheeler to stop touching a pair of her $750 glittery Miu Miu booties. "Hello! I'm trying to shoot those. Can you put them down?" Chastened, Sheeler does just that. He also reports on how the blog sausage gets made and on the dynamics of the Aldridge family. In addition to running her own blog, Jane's mother Judy Aldridge says she takes most of the photos on Sea of Shoes, as well as answering her daughter's email, handling press requests, and negotiating appearances at fashion events — a work load that fills more than 40 hours per week. Her father serves as Jane's legal counsel and an additional business advisor. This is what a typical Sea of Shoes blog shoot is like:
Jane sprawls on the floor in pale jeans, underneath a framed black and white photograph of Grey Gardens' Little Edie. Jane wrings her slim torso and maneuvers her long legs through the legs of an ornate, hot-pink chair. "No, no, not that far! Put your legs through—yeah." Jane seems suddenly reticent. "Come on, Jane," says Judy. "Be a contortionist. Don't be such a baby!"
"Mooom! This is retarded."
Judy is an ex-model turned designer turned retailer turned interior decor and personal style blogger. Both Judy and Jane frankly discuss the impact that living for the Internet has had on their lives.
Judy tells me that a few years ago, she gave the home a huge makeover to reflect their "online lives." When I mention that this sounds like what futurist writer William Gibson once said, about presenting a world that doesn't exist and making it real, Judy smiles. "You know, it's true," she says. "Our life out here is fantastical. My ex-husband says we live in our own world."
And it's an expensive world.
Jane's father, Bryan, estimates the investment in the blog runs "several hundred thousand dollars," mostly in shoes. (Judy says it is closer to $70,000.) But Jane began making money through collaborations with retailers such as Urban Outfitters and by hosting shopping nights at stores such as Guess and Rugby Ralph Lauren. (Bryan, an oil and gas lawyer who lives near his family and serves as Jane's attorney, says appearance fees can go as high as $20,000 and sponsored posts can bring in as much as $5,000 per post.)
Texas Monthly also quotes Aldridge fille unflatteringly on the topic of tertiary education — "'Why should I go to college?' Jane asked me a few months ago, as she grabbed a glass of champagne off a passing tray at a boutique party we both attended. 'I'm already doing what I want'" — and disdaining the taste level of her younger sister Carol.
Jane smooths her half-tucked, sheer white blouse. I tell her I think it's a cool shirt. "Really? I think it's, like, Splen-did," she says with a grimace, sounding out the mall brand with the horror of someone being forced to say "ointment." She nicked the shirt from her sister's closet; Carol, who is seventeen, is in her first year of boarding school in Wales. "I'm getting my hair dyed in a bit and, you know, what if it messes up my shirt?"
Carol also has an unfortunate taste for — gasp — sales. When the family passes a Nordstrom Rack, Judy exclaims, "Gross! Carol made me go there one time, and I wanted to punch myself."
Aldridge appeared alongside Sheeler on a Dallas morning T.V. show on March 27, during which interview the two seemed friendly. Aldridge expressed no reservations about Sheeler's story or its accuracy. Sheeler said that he spent four weeks following Aldridge to report the piece.
But today, Aldridge took to Twitter (and then to her blog) to call Texas Monthly's piece "grossly exaggerated and highly stylized." Specifically, she says she "cannot believe" the figures "they" threw out, and says that the quote about college was "blatantly made up." "Fact checking is non-existant and people will make up the craziest things for a story. It's nice to have words put in my mouth!" Jane Tweeted, before calling the story "pathetic," "hardly newsworthy," and "clumsy and desperate." Judy Aldridge, meanwhile, has been re-Tweeting messages of support.
I've reached out to Sheeler, the author of the story, to ask if he has any response to Aldridge's allegations of made-up quotes and exaggeration.
The World At Her Feet [Texas Monthly]