a daydream deferred

a farewell to blake lively’s short-lived lifestyle blog

History remembers its quitters. Edward VIII threw away the throne for the woman he loved. Richard Nixon closed up shop before the storm rolled in. Sarah Palin was forced to forfeit her Arctic empire. Benedict gave way to Francis. MJ turned to baseball. And perhaps now with John Boehner leaving the Hill, the House will finally be able to go a day without tears.

It would seem that, across the ages and around the world, for richer for poorer, famous or obscure, there comes a time to turn in. Winners never quit, we are told, and quitters never win. And yet, quitting is also, as John Updike put it in his New Yorker piece on the retirement of Hall-of-Famer Ted Williams, “the hardest thing to do.”

What, then, in this universe of failures and falls from grace, of tactical surrenders and forced withdrawals, can we possibly make of actress Blake Lively’s decision last week to axe her much-scorned lifestyle blog, Preserve? This is a serious question. Unironically serious. Are we to mourn for or make light of the sudden demise of Blake Lively’s brand? That is, what happens to a celebrity daydream deferred?

Let us first rewind. It all started in the summer of 2014 when Lively announced her website’s début on the cover of Vogue’s August issue. “From Gossip Girl to Internet Entrepreneur,” the story declared beside dazzling, windswept photos of a smiling Lively on a ranch somewhere in Jackson Hole. Draped in fringed suede and Lanvin faux-fur, she looked a bit like a haute-couture rodeo queen, in a good way. She was shown straddling corral fences and lounging beneath cowhide hangings, brushing shoulders with cowboys and their collies in the great outdoors. Against the big blue sky, she appeared as sunshine embodied.

But, unlike this Wild West fantasy, Preserve is (was) about “real life,” Lively said in the article. Her interviewer described the site as “part digital monthly magazine, part e-commerce venture, part video blog.” As the editor, Lively said her role would be to curate the kind of thing that “blindsides you on an idle Tuesday,” using words apparently pulled from Kurt Vonnegut’s 1997 MIT Commencement Speech. To speak plain, what Preserve set out to do was connect consumers with makers—makers of food, of clothing, of furniture, of stories. It was a celebration of the hand-made, an apotheosis of Americana.

And yet, despite nods from Ivanka Trump and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, the site suffered swift and sustained criticism following its big reveal. A few weeks after the splashy Vogue spread, a Gawker article lambasted Lively and her “most disturbing site on the Web,” branding the blog as “creepy,” “terrifying,” and “a catalog of horrors.”

Though engaging in what some might term cyber bullying, the writer had a point. Treading through the black-clad pages and grainy photographs on Preserve did feel like wading through a Wiccan bookstore at midnight in a ramshackle Georgian ghost town. And the inventory amounted to a boho-chic collection of knick-knacks and costume pieces that might have been found at a rickety Urban Outfitters sidewalk sale, but with tripled prices. A constant source of fodder for gossip rags and naysayers, it seemed Preserve never really stood a chance.

So, after enduring what must have been a year of low traffic and mean words, Lively finally surrendered. Again taking to Vogue, she explained over the phone to her interviewer in a September 2015 online piece that she chose to shutter her blog because it was not “making a difference in people’s lives.” She admitted that her online endeavor was not “as true and impactful” as she knows it could have been, and that her intention was never to be some WeHo airhead spewing the same old Eat, Pray, Love mantra.

Her goal was to “touch millennials with storytelling,” and when she realized she was falling short of that goal, she did what most of us could never bring ourselves to do: kill the thing we love. For her, it was never about the fame or the money—fresh off her $60,000-per-episode career at Gossip Girl and her handful of big film roles, it is safe to say that Blake Lively does not need more of either. She jumped into this whole Preserve mess and stuck the course despite rough waters simply because she loved the ride. And in the end, she chose to lay her dream to rest.

Weep not, then, for Blake Lively and her failed lifestyle blog; the golden-maned goddess will shine on like a distant sun whatever the weather. But neither should we sneer at her plucky spirit. After all, there will come a time when we, too, must leave those things we hold most dear.

We all must one day quit. Some descend with dignity, others tumble amidst tumult. Some blast like supernovas, and still others sink silent as stones. Whatever the case, remember that legacy is as much, if not more, defined by the way out as it is by the climb to the top, and the only way to escape truly unscathed is on your own terms.