The internet was buzzing this week with the news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had gotten word of a Tumblr called Texts From Hillary that painted her as a world-dominating, sunglasses-swiping badass—and made her own contribution to it. It was a delightful moment of self-awareness and unexpected hipness from a woman who’s rebounded from a tough loss in the 2008 presidential campaign to become one of the most powerful people in the world. But it’s been part of a long process, one by which Hillary Clinton’s become cool by embracing the very things that used to mark her as a dork.
It’s a process that begin in 2007, when Clinton dressed up the decidedly gimmicky process of having supporters vote on a campaign song by turning the big reveal into a spoof of the ending of The Sopranos:
What’s great about the spot is not just its piggy-backing on the cultural capital of one of America’s most iconic shows, but the way it played with popular conceptions about the Clintons themselves, the idea that Bill has a weakness for junk food, that Hillary can be a nag and possess an epic side-eye.
She displayed the same kind of self-awareness in her speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver the next summer, when she thanked “the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuit” for supporting her during the campaign. This time, the cultural artifact wasn’t as universally applicable—it was gender specific, and itself considered a little dorky and sentimental. And rather than using it to transform herself, Hillary used it to double down on something about her that had been widely remarked on, her preference for blocky, brightly-colored coordinating ensembles.
She owned her dorkiness, the way she seems to be owning the scrunchies her staff reportedly wants to take away from her today. It’s easy to forget how hysterical people were about Hillary’s hair during the first Clinton campaign and during the Clinton presidency. But she couldn’t do anything right, and now she seems rather determined to do what she wants whether it’s au courant or not. I saw her rocking a particularly elaborate scrunchie with a tweedy coat at a screening at the MPAA earlier this week, where she spoke about watching Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic The Lady on the plane on her recent trip to Burma.
Maybe it’s just that Clinton is finally legitimately powerful enough, and powerful in her own right, not to have to care one whit about whether anyone thinks she’s cool. But after so many years of trying to please everyone, Clinton appears to be trying mostly to please herself when it comes to her personal style and presentation. And the rest of the world’s caught on to the idea that Hillary is someone whose approval they should want, rather than the other way around.