The Cosmopolitan Divide, part 29

Gough-Yates (2003) ended her summary of scholarly engagement with women’s magazines with a call for researchers to investigate the producers of the magazines themselves. I won’t report on the rest of her book, Understanding Women’s Magazines: Publishing, Markets and Readerships, and do I even need to find any articles about how sex and skin sell magazines? But I will take a brief look at what the producers of Cosmopolitan have said.

Helen Gurley Brown, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan from 1965 through 1997, was interviewed in 1990 by Katina Alexander of the Orange County Register. I think I’ll let Brown’s words speak for themselves (speak themselves?):

“I want to sell magazines and I think we want to see pretty
girls,” says Helen Gurley Brown….

“I think breasts are wonderful,” Brown was saying. “I wish I were bosomier; that would be great. I think everyone likes to look at cleavage. I certainly do. It’s pretty. And I have no apology for that.

“We don’t have the girl-next-door on the cover of Cosmo.

“We use somebody who is much more technically gorgeous, and I have no apology for that either.

“I want to sell magazines.”

I asked if these models were an example for a reader, something she should aspire to.

“She’s supposed to enjoy looking at the covers, as I do. They (the models) are probably the ideal of feminine beauty in our country at the time.

“And you can’t aspire to that, Katina, but you can do a lot better. You really can look quite glorious, no matter who you are, you know, for a particular night or day you get your makeup on and your hair done and you wear pretty clothes.”

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