I gasped audibly when I first saw the headline—on a breaking-news email from People magazine—“L’Wren Scott Found Dead After Apparent Suicide.” Like so many world events these days, I headed immediately to Twitter to seek out additional reportage; most of what I found there, unfortunately, both disappointed and infuriated. From the Associated Press: “Jagger’s GF found dead in NYC.” From Yahoo.com: “Jagger’s girlfriend L’Wren Scott found dead in New York.” And perhaps most egregiously, from whomever tweets for The New York Times Styles section: “Mick Jagger’s Girlfriend Found Dead, Officials Say.”
Are we sensing a theme? Certainly, to those who don’t breathlessly follow every detail of high-end runway coverage, Scott’s name may seem a tad esoteric (the fact that just this past December she launched a collaboration with the decidedly mainstream Banana Republic notwithstanding), but even so: The idea that in 2014 the knee-jerk reaction is not to position a woman in her obituary with the title of designer standing alone in her own right, but to prominently and consistently place her in the reader’s mind solely as the girlfriend of a rock star? Honestly, it’s just shameful. (It’s also notable that, in the hours since, most have taken care to correct their headlines, often due to the outrage that has descended upon them via Twitter replies.)
I don’t think I’m a militant feminist, but I do view something like this from a highly feminist frame of mind. If the situation were reversed, and if the media were reporting the death of a man who headed up a global business, and who was known within his industry as a success in his own right, without benefit of who happened to be his romantic partner, would that same media be so quick to emphasize in headlines his relationship with a famous girlfriend first, and bury his career within the story? It’s debatable, but as I picture a bunch of good-old-boy editors sitting around a copy desk, shirtsleeves rolled up, I’m doubtful.
Ultimately, L’Wren Scott was a highly talented, unquestionably accomplished designer who was known on a global stage for producing elegant, thoughtful collections that found favor with some of the most famous women on the planet: Nicole Kidman wore her designs often, as did Penelope Cruz, Amy Adams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tina Fey, Julianna Margulies, Jessica Pare and a healthy list of other A-list ladies. None of those women, nor any who didn’t happen to sport a boldfaced name, wore her dresses because she dated Mick Jagger. Neither did Banana Republic come calling for that reason (surely they’re more fiscally responsible than to make such decisions on talent vs. romantic relationships). In the coming days, we’re sure to hear more of her struggles—financial, emotional or otherwise—that may have led to her sad, tragic decision, but for now, Scott deserves to be remembered and celebrated solely for what she created, and never really for one second for the man who happened to be her boyfriend.