Archive for the 'Women’s mags' Category

Elle Honors Women in Hollywood

I am a fan of Elle for the wide range of topics it covers. I love the fashion, advice columns, international stories, travel guides, and celebrity coverage. When Elle takes on a topic like film stars, it strikes a balance between brains and beauty that puts other sex-obsessed magazines to shame. Elle honors women for their career achievements- not just their physical appearance.

            This is Elle’s 15th annual Women in Hollywood issue, and seven women take the spotlight. In November’s issue, Elle spotlights seven women who have paved their own path.

            Each Hollywood icon is featured in identical spreads: black and white portrait by Gilles Bensimon, meaty mini –profile, Q &A sidebar, and five movie stills with related quotes. Cookie -cutter though the format may be, it packs a ton of information- and some revealing insights into each actress.  The interview focuses on their feelings about their career and their position in Hollywood.

            Halle Berry takes on more “emotionally raw” performances rather than capitalizing on her looks. Here’s a sampler with the money quote: “My process is trying to figure out how to funnel my own pain, my own rage, through a character.”

            Anne Hathaway has morphed into an in demand powerhouse A-lister through the variety of highly successful and difficult roles she has taken: “That was astonishing to be able to unequivocally say, I left my guts out there on that one, and I couldn’t have done any better.”

Sigourney Weaver, at 59, still gets leads in action and science fiction films, even though these are mostly male dominated roles: “Good stories have good women’s roles in them. You have to find them.”

            Salma Hayek maintains a successful acting career, as well as being a producer and director: “I realized I could step outside the business and do a lot less but a lot more effectively.”

            Isla Fisher tackles comedic roles and turns them into an art form: “Women can be as broad as men can and so many are wasted playing the eye roller or the love interest.”

            Jane Fonda has played strong female characters for her entire 40 year career: “On a scale of one to 10, 10 representing full and equal participation of women in Hollywood, I’d say we are about a six.”

Director Catherine Hardwicke makes films that tackle hard issues, like teen rebellion, and love: “You don’t want to be a badass and you don’t want to go in there and be hardcore, but if you don’t fight for it you won’t get it and it won’t be on the screen.”

             Women and their work are often overlooked. It’s uplifting to see women recognized for their professional achievements, and not just for their physical looks as “the hottest woman” or “sexiest star”. It’s a model for giving star treatment to creative professionals who also happen to be glamorous women.

            -Terri Rafferty



Red, White, & Vogue


The nation is at a turning point in politics and policy, and what better time for Vogue to get in touch with its patriotic side? The magazine has consistently featured prominent men and women from politics, but the November issue had that and so much more.  Vogue provided money-saving tips for the sour economy, and dressed the whole issue in our nation’s colors.


The cover featured all-American girl Reese Witherspoon, who was placed full mast with lips painted red and ivory shoulders bare in a strapless blue silk dress. Not to mention her shining blue eyes, which invited any warm-blooded American to stop and flip through the magazine.


Vogue captured Witherspoon while doing a photo shoot in Paris for designer Nina Ricci. Her past and current co-stars sang her praises while Witherspoon sang a few, literally. 


Writer Robert Sullivan validated the actress’ singing ability and touched on her memorable performance as the legendary June Carter Cash. Her portrayal in the movie “Walk the Line” won her an Oscar, and a new level of respect in the world of cinema.


How much more American can you get, when you talk about June Carter Cash and the Man in Black?


Since patriots are far more money conscious than in years past, Vogue certainly took notice and included headlines that were rather different compared to the last few issues. One article was focused on the “wallet conscious” and the other was for someone “shopping on a budget.” And, correct me if I’m wrong, but the big, bold, red cover line “Brighten Up!” sounds as much about surviving the economic crisis as jazzing up your wardrobe.


Inside, Vogue Editor in Chief Anna Wintour used her pre-election editor’s note to point out how the magazine has featured several political women such as future first lady Michelle Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Cindy McCain, and in November’s issue, Jill Biden. Wintour also reflected on a piece about Gov. Sarah Palin that ran in February, which turned out to be one of the few sources the country had on her when she was first announced as the GOP vice presidential candidate.


In this month’s FOB, Vogue informed readers where both parties took their fashion cues from.  Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain were featured a few times each in the issue because their fashion was all the chatter and each lady respectively scored big on the style watch. 


The magazine also offered an inside look into Vice President Elect Joe Biden’s family and more specifically, the women in his life that have inspired him.   


Hands down, this was one of our most historic elections ever, and Vogue was smart enough to see that even before the results were in.


Despite the current state of the economy and the nation’s struggle to cope, Vogue decided to provide a few money saving ideas and a window into the world of one of America’s sweethearts to lighten the load we bear, and spread some patriotic cheer.


God bless America and its glossies.



  Farah Pike




Cosmo Exposed



Cosmopolitan has graduated. It has taken sexual obsession to new heights. The November issue is borderline porn with heds such as “Bad Girl Sex.” If pandering for an R rating were Cosmo’s only flaw, that would be the end of it. But Cosmo commits worse sins: being boring, or simply being wrong.

I didn’t gain anything substantial from this issue. Usually after reading a magazine, there’s something I’m dying to try, a joke I’m eager to tell, or a product I’m contemplating buying.  This time, I had zip, zero, and zilch! Wait, I’m lying, I had a look of disgust.

The Cosmo Manhunt (a feature on the hottest bachelors of 2008) was a major letdown. So if you’re going to this magazine in search of a Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, or Denzel Washington, don’t waste your time. A quarter of the men look like nerds, another quarter look bisexual, the third quarter is just plain ole’ unattractive, and the rest are barely making the cut. What was Cosmopolitan thinking? What’s its definition of sexy?  

Text messaging has taken the 21st century by storm, so it’s not surprising Cosmopolitan touched the subject in its relationships section. “Times U Shouldn’t Text a Guy,” was its take on the modern epidemic. The case I thought to be completely absurd was “don’t text him after the first few dates.” Now correct me if I’m wrong, but after a few dates, you should not only be texting him, you should also know the fate of the prospect relationship.

The Love and Lust department was a complete fiasco. Statements such as “He sometimes says ‘Take it, bitch!’ during sex” and “Sometimes pee slips out while I climax,” just sealed the deal for me. As I read, I just wondered if it could get any more explicit. It did.

Page 110 introduced “Below-The-Belt Tricks.” The column offered information on how to give his package the VIP treatment. “Using massage oil, rub his chest and his penis with the same motion.” Wow, Cosmopolitan readers have to be really talented to do this one!

 “Apply a warming lube designed for sex to his penis right before he enters you” was one of the 75 sex tips suggested by Cosmopolitan to “Bad Girl Sex.” Not only was it (Cosmo) practically gynecological, it dished out some unsafe-sex tactics.

What’s worse – Cosmoporn or Cosmobore? So hard to choose. I just wish I had a third choice: a sassy magazine for women that takes more seriously its powerful place in the women’s magazine market.


– Tiffany Alleyne

Radical Design

Smart, sleek, and sexy, Elle’s design makes you think you’ve been on a fabulous diet. Its professional but still cool style can appeal to readers in any age group. The book is like an avant-garde collection coming down the runway—unique and stylish.

Elle’s design has a certain sensibility that radiates a particular style, and delivers huge quantities of images and information without clutter or confusion.

The display-type font looks modern and feminine – the sans-serif equivalent of the magazine’s own chic image. Using it in almost every layout might get old, but the designers find new ways to use it each time.


The “Meet the Machers” article is in “Elle’s Power List” department, and this month it portrays great women in Hollywood. The design plays off the thin font by using long rules to break the writing into mini-columns. Each actress honored in the spread is featured in her own respectively slim column, and photos of some actresses are placed in separate columns—weaving the design together nicely.

Sticking with the slender theme, Elle uses a grid system for the fashion merchandise pages. The design would have looked like some expensive clothing had erupted up on the page, but the graphics team cleverly placed a barely-there grid behind all the fashion spreads. The intent is conscious—but the result is smartly subconscious.

Simple and clean lines can cure any graphic disaster. So now the reader won’t get dizzy trying to pick out a particular item.

But even when the grids aren’t there, they still are. Invisible, but evident, the grids line up fur items evenly so the reader doesn’t confuse furry coats from shaggy dresses.

Everything Elle—that is everything minus the ads—is done neatly and in new fashion. The reader doesn’t get lost trying to find out what hair product or eye shadow to use. Every page has a scheme and every scheme is interesting and fresh.

Risky business is what it’s all about in Elle’s design. Not scared to use up space and do something new, Elle blows up images of boots, bags, stunner shades, and bling watches. These items are sprinkled throughout six pages, making the accessories department pop out.

Elle’s design is not a race to see how much can fit on one page. It’s a puzzle, but the kind with oversized pieces so that it’s easy to put together. Everything is there for a reason, and everything just makes sense. It’s not design overkill, or underkill—it’s a job well done.

 Danya Shaikh

Lucky Readers! You’ve Been Tricked.

Wow! The November issue of Lucky presents on its cover the big star Vanessa Hudgens. This teen is one of the most promising actresses of her generation. She is now promoting the third High School Musical movie, which came out in theaters on Oct. 24. Every Hudgens fan will have the same expectations after seeing Lucky’s cover: secrets revealed, stories told – at the very least, an interview with the actress. Guess again.

For starters (and this comes as no surprise to regular Lucky readers), the cover story isn’t even a feature article. In fact, it’s only a 300-word article, the smallest of the pieces promoted on the cover.  Five pages are devoted to flattering dresses, six pages are for 30 days of outfits, and they even gave seven pages for lucky breaks. The small two pages devoted to Hudgens are just one more selection (which is what the whole magazine in only about), of clothes, accessories, and cosmetics the actress likes – a total of nine items. The story doesn’t lack all value. Fans care which products she supposedly uses and endorses. But why promote on the cover with this line: “Vanessa Hudgens: High School Musical’s star takes off”? How misleading! Furthermore, the two small pictures of the actress in the article are exactly the same as the cover.

To add insult to injury, the article doesn’t even appear on the website. The only sign of Hudgens is the cover image, used to promote a contest to win her outfit and makeup, and used on the subscription ad.

Celebrities have always been used on the covers of magazines because they sell. Unfortunately, Lucky seems to have forgotten that it also needs to give some information to its readers, and to do, at least, an interview with the actress. That $2.99 purchase price turns out not to be such a bargain if you don’t get what you paid for.

– Caroline Trudeau

Men Dish It Out

We’ve all seen the “101 ways to please your man” and “50 things that’ll make him worship you” that litter women’s magazine covers every month. But the sources of these tips are rarely revealed. Who are the men that have been asked to compile these lists and present them as truth to female readers? Do men honestly believe these things?               


The British edition of Glamour in October decided to take a risk and find out. More than 20 pages are devoted to “If men edited Glamour.” A bold, but respectable move. Kudos Glamour!


“This is how they’d dress you!” gives three men an opportunity to pick women off the street and dress them up how they want to. Alvin, Mark, and George pull the ladies out of the comfort of their jeans and get them to show off their legs while still maintaining a classy look.


The four women who received the makeovers loved what the guys did with their outfits- and so will Glamour readers. Glamour chose a clever way to involve men in what is often  

considered a female-only interest: fashion. Females not only get helpful hints on their wardrobe, but learn that men do indeed pay attention and care about a woman’s sense of style.


Glamour’s next move is even more daring. Three male GQ editors tear apart Glamour’s “16 Sex Myths even smart men and women believe” article.  The original piece is reprinted with added commentary in the margins by what the men think is right and wrong with statements in the article. And it’s pretty risqué stuff! The men agree that women don’t want meaningless sex. Real men don’t make noise? That’s the truth, they say. But a man feeling guilty when he gives his girlfriend “a quickie from behind?” Not likely, the guys say. Let’s see Cosmopolitan defend its sex advice!


The last few pages are devoted to real-life accounts of what it feels like for a man to “fall in love,” “get dumped,”  “become a dad,” and “be cheated on.” Male writers, ranging in age from late 20s to 50s, share their personal accounts. The accounts appear genuine and give support to women who thought they were alone in going through such traumatic life events. Glamour gains an edge over other women’s magazines.


Putting its magazine in the hands of men: an original, yet risky idea well executed by Glamour. Now if only we could make Glamour hand its advice columns over to men for input every single time before hitting newsstands…


— Martina Uhlirova

Sassy Politics at Marie Claire

Leave it to Marie Claire to do a clever election bit that puts a hilarious twist on the political partay. MC’s sassy guide to everything you need to know about the 2008 election is part funny, part naughty, and part practical. With recent conversations tilting towards two particularly hot men, writers Yael Kohen and Lauren Ianotti came up with a self-confessed, “shamelessly oversimplified” McCain vs. Obama guide that is as comical as it is honest.

It’s a little strange that the election package didn’t make the coverlines so close to November. Did MC think it didn’t go with the Lindsay Lohan cover?  Anyway. The section opens with two ridiculously thin models in color-coded couture: red and blue cocktail dresses. Go figure!

After laying down the vital issues and the candidates’ opposing stands, the authors added quirky one-liners for some casual cocktail party chatter. The divide on healthcare has McCain saying people should buy individual plans while Obama requiring employers to provide them. The line: “Sure, the U.S. ranks 37th in the world for its health-care system—just behind Costa Rica. But we’re still number one for boob jobs. USA! USA!”

Even more amusing was the recession issue. While McCain proposes a $3 – $10 billion bail out for homeowners and “loves NAFTA the way it is,” Obama wants a $50 billion stimulus package for creating jobs and “flip-flops on NAFTA like your best Havaianas.”The sound bite? A reference to a French philosopher adds substance to sass: “Dude, de Tocqueville nailed it when he said that even if our balance of property ensures balance of power, it doesn’t mean the best men rule—just look at those grain-gouging hedge-funders and their influence on world politics.”

More than the funny, this election section is loaded with information. MC does a sidebar on the top five politics blogs (“for blowing off work”), play-by-play options on TV catered to your liking (“if you like a little Botox with your moral outrage, watch Keith Olbermann’s Countdown), and throws a cocktail recipe “for each side of the divide” for good measure. Really, what more can you ask for? 

In true Marie Claire fashion, MC’s politics section also dishes out practical advice on how to avoid debate death traps. MC turned to Sally Quinn, legendary D.C. hostess and wife of former Washington Post editor Bed Bradlee, to remedy potentially dangerous scenarios, such as when someone says he or she can never vote for a black man. “Don’t play,” Quinn said. “You can’t have an intelligent, rational conversation with anybody who would think that. Just say, ‘Excuse me, I have to visit the ladies room.’” Well played!

Them feminists might scoff at MC for this, but hey, those with a sense of humor get that it’s not about watering down election issues. Smart women are sexy, but funny women are sexier. Cheers to that!

– Kris Alcantara