Here's a quote that gets under our skin: "I wish we could get a gorgeous model [on the cover] and make someone's career, but I can't risk that." That's courtesy of CosmoGirl! editor-in-chief Susan Schulz, via today's WWD. Here's the problem: The era of celebrities on the cover of magazines has got to end sometime. These things are cyclical, and the way to end one cycle and begin a new one is to have the balls — or the ovaries — it takes to make a change. The readers may be slow to catch on, but eventually they'll see: When there's a model on the cover of a teen magazine, suddenly the focus changes from the superficial Hollywood ideal to a truer, more realistic one.
Using a great model creates a mirror, or an aspirational figure: The great teen magazine covers of the past used models as representatives of the everygirl, smiling happily and jumping for joy — pretty, but somehow normal — so that the reader could project herself into that lifestyle, those clothes, that attitude. A girl should be able to recognize herself in the model. Because a model isn't supposed to be a role model. She's supposed to be a canvas on which an idea is painted. She's supposed to be someone a girl can look at and think, "I could be that girl." Past CosmoGirl! covers include those with questionable qualifications, such as Ashlee Simpson (post nose job!), Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie and Kristin Cavallari.
Obviously publishing a teen magazine is running a business. The bottom line is all about sales. But the "business" also happens to have a hand in shaping young womens' lives. I remember old issues of Seventeen and YM (and Sassy) vividly. Not the covers, mostly. But the invaluable things on the interior pages: Tales of real girls, with lives so different from my own, and yet with common bonds: period stain trauma! Cool eyeshadow! Unattainable crushes! Stupid babysitting jobs! Readers today may pick up a magazine because of the big name celeb on the cover, but surely it's the actual content they keep coming back for: Cosmogirl! has great makeup tips, love advice, fashion ideas, crush quizzes, insider info on choosing a college. Why wait for Vogue or some other adult publication to turn the tide? As the song says, kids are the future. Magazines are one of the tools girls equip themselves with in order to survive in this crazy world. How can Heidi Montag be of any help? Believing your product only has value when packaged in a celebrity wrapper is a tragedy, and actually underestimates the girls whose dollars you gladly take.
Memo Pad [WWD]