I passed some time at the Sydney airport newsagent yesterday, something which I've not done since Husband finally moved to Sydney three months ago. Given there are no new Aussie women's glossies out this week (as far as I know – they like to go head-to-head at the beginning of the month), I turned my attention to the international titles and (gasp!) other genres of mag, including Vanity Fair, which is really just a high-brow version of a fashion mag with a dash of politics and a male editor.
The last page of V Fair (since 1993, in fact) is The Proust Questionnaire, which is intended to give us insight into the minds of the world's most famous. This month's interview subject is 85-year-old Helen Gurley Brown, the former editor-in-chief of Cosmo (she is still involved in overseeing all 59 international editions of the mag), who is attributed with liberating female sexuality, empowering women to man-hunt and pioneering the "women can have it all" mentality.
Brown started her career as a highly successful copywriter before authoring the best-selling Sex and the Single Girl in 1962 (aged 40... and married) and becoming editor-in-chief of Cosmo in 1965. She took the magazine from a thinking woman's title to the sexed-up read it is today. She also created the female editor ideal (Aussie Cosmo editors Pat Ingram, Mia Freedman and Sarah Wilson arguably fit the mould... who will do it next, we wonder?). The Cosmo editor is sexy, ambitious, ball-breaking, hard working, witty, competitive, controlling, hard on herself, a little distant, not afraid of the spotlight and a perfectionist – she must also live and breathe the magazine.
Brown is a woman who didn't have children because they require too much attention, got breast implants at 73, identifies with Cleopatra ("She was a good boss and had a good love life"), believes being a bad girl will get you everywhere, won't admit to anything deplorable about herself, calls people "pussycat", lies ("Telling people they look great in a new outfit when they don't"), thinks worrying about someone you love is the "lowest depth of misery", likes men to think she's attractive, restricts her calorie intake (see bobble-head pic above for evidence) and exercises twice a day. And, at 85, still she's obsessed with her tummy fat (if she could change one thing about herself it would be to "get my tummy to be flat again"). And she hates being old. Her motto? "Get up and do it if it needs to be done, even if you hate it!". Like exercise, right? Read the interview here. Perhaps I'm being too tough on the old duck?
An editor creates the world inside her magazine. If, in 2007, the Cosmo editor is still about snagging men, sexual empowerment, weight loss and looking sexy, then I think the mag's headed in the wrong direction. I mean, you've got to wonder – are the empowered women that Brown has helped to shape over all these years any happier for her advice? Oh, that's right, Brown doesn't believe we have any control over our happiness.
Girl With a Satchel