Lena Dunham, Jaime King, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, and Lorde at a Golden Globes after party in January. Photo: Getty Images
There are probably a dozen reasons that Entourage bombed at the box office. But the most obvious? Everyone’s obsessed with girl squads right now.
Taylor Swift’s gang is endlessly documented. Not even the drawn out “Bad Blood” video promo extravaganza exhausted the speculation around Swift, Karlie Kloss, Lena Dunham, Lorde, etc. Then there was Madonna’s new squad. The icon invited Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, and Rita Ora to appear in her new video for “Bitch I’m Madonna.”
But how real are these boldface BFFs? On the one hand, these women could be pointing the way, hopefully, to a new age where female celebrities no longer fly solo. Their friendships could be real bonds that inspire other women who want to roll with their own girl gangs (to Zumba class instead of dancing on the top floor of the Standard Hotel, but it’s a start!). Or, more cynically, they could be clever ways to catapult these women’s careers (in Madonna’s case, interest in Tidal, the streaming music service that released her first video—she’s part owner).
Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist and friendship expert, and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, says that these celebrities’ relationships are genuine, and have been formed out of necessity. Simply put, successful women need other successful women. “When a woman is at the top of her profession, life can be pretty stressful and lonely, even though it looks near-perfect from the outside,” she says. “Whether she’s a celebrity or a CEO, a star never knows whom she can trust. She’s usually surrounded by people whose livelihood depends on hers.”
In fact, instead of the widely held stereotype that accomplished women should be sequestered on high and compete with all other female comers, the fact that these women have similar lives offers a chance for real bonding. “When a celebrity becomes part of a gang or group of powerful A-listers, she is surrounding herself with peers,” Levine says. “These women are equals, which offers the possibility for true friendships. Moreover, when there is mutual respect and admiration, women can be informal mentors and role models to one another.”
Male celebrities have often done this, leaning on—and learning from—other boldface names. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin were so tight they often made surprise appearances at each other gigs. In the 90s, Leonardo Dicaprio, Tobey McGwire, Lukas Haas, and Kevin Connolly gave themselves the nickname the “P*ssy Posse,” and recently, the group went to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight together. Male rappers clump together all of the time too: Biggie, Ma$e, and Craig Mack all appeared on each other’s tracks for Bad Boy Records (owned by their other friend Sean Combs, who went by Puffy at the time). And male duos abound: Jimmy has Justin, Ben has Matt, and George has Brad.
But, because female gangs are rare, they can feel fake (and Madonna, in particular, is well known for doing just about anything to get attention). Actress Jamie King—and friend of Swift’s—wrote on Elle.com about how many people don’t understand her friendships with other female celebrities. “The experiences I’ve learned by having very strong women around me—women like Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, and Jessica Alba—is that there can be a group of strong, creative women without competition between us,“ she wrote. "The thing that solidifies us is this idea that, no matter what, we will always support each other. People find that fascinating about our friendships, like it’s some sort of odd thing. And it really shouldn’t be.”
Levine agrees that what makes these friendships work is that these women are openly stepping up to back each other. “These relationships are volitional,” she says. “They’re all choosing to be together. It feels like being among a group of sisters, without any of the family hangups. Everyone has come together with a shared background of sorts, the world of celebrity. When you’re part of any group, your posse has your back and you are no longer alone. These ties may not last forever, but they are real.”
And, they may last longer than any of these women’s ties with dudes. As the always-sage Amy Poelher told Ladies Home Journal when she was talking about her own girl gang of Maya Rudolph, Rachel Dratch, and Tina Fey, “Most of the women in your life will outlast the men in your life.”