Mags: Grazia's glossy debut

The recurring thought I had while sifting through the 172 glossy pages of Grazia is 'How the heck are they going to be able to deliver one of these every week?'. Seriously, it's a lot of content. There are a lot of ads, too, mind – 58 ad pages in total, plus 9 promotional/marketing pages = 39% of pages. Still, I've no doubt the team is lacking in the sleep department. And there's confirmation on the Ed's letter page (which could have used another sub). Former Harper's BAZAAR editor Alison Veness-McGourty leads in with:

"There are rumours doing the rounds that I get up at 4am to do this job. Well, honestly, I mean it's just not true. 4am is when I go to bed."

There are 36 full-time editorial staff working to bring us Grazia each week under the guidance of workaholic (and mum) Veness-McGourty, in addition to seven contributors/correspondents, 14 advertising staff, two production staff and the highly paid suits at ACP/PBL, Hearst and Mondadori Magazines who oversee the whole shebang. For the sake of all this talent, and the sheer passion of McGourty and her hard-working team, I hope the magazine's high-end style of fashion/celebrity/gloss, mixed with NW-style goss and, of course, Kate Moss, resonates with the Australian magazine buyer (and, of course, advertisers whose budgets are, no doubt, a little trimmer this financial year).

Journey with me as I flick from front to back...
  • High-end labels Louis Vuitton (super-shiny gatefold: show offs) and Prada lure us into the glossy world of Grazia. Clearly, this is a magazine for the career girl/fashionista/supermum who buys Harper's BAZAAR or Vogue and is looking for a weekly dose of similar content to satiate her desire for the new, celebrity gossip (in chic surroundings) and inspiration for hitting the shops (like she needs another excuse!).
  • Zac Posen poses with models backstage on the Contents page, which is followed by beauty ads for L'Oreal's Infallible Lip Duo Compact, Elizabeth Arden, Clinique (love the pretty ad for Nude Blush) and Rimmel London (featuring... Kate Moss! Total number of Mossy pics inside this issue: 6).
  • In her editor's letter, AVM tells us what her magazine is all about: "It's about being gorgeous, glamorous, it's about gosh!! It's about a rip-roaring stellar (Stella...) read that hopefully with enthral you and appal you with its intensity... we may be in the grip of a recession, but we will walk through it together, from the cheap and chic, clever and canny buys to the most expensive purchases... I want Grazia to be a must-read for all your news and your shoes, to give you celebrity with integrity and glamour; plus the very best mix of fashion and beauty... like a good book you can't put down."
  • 'The Week in 10' presents us with 10 covetable fashion items, which is totally boring, though I like the inclusion of art editor Sarah Birnbauer's 'must list' (YSL bag, Luella top, Lee jeans) and can see it serves a purpose. I think they can do better.
  • Next up is fashion features director Edwina McCann's 'Shoes with news!' column, where she tells us she's ditching her all-black uniform in favour of colour, inspired by Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned. A small tribute to Marcs designer Mark Keighery also.
  • The four-page cover story 'Why Kate won't change for anyone' is really just an excuse for us to check out Mossy in a bikini, with those ubiquitous on-the-yacht holiday shots padded out with a story about her breakup with Jamie Hince, her apparent reluctance to settle down and her BFF Davinia Taylor.
  • Other features include 'Elle: 'Love is imperative', three-pages on the supermodel in light of Arki's relationship with Uma ("I've got a fabulous life. I am in a fantastic space and I feel confident and blessed." Not even just a little peeved?) and 'Madonna's brother speaks exclusively to Grazia'. I'm so over looking at/hearing about Madonna that I skip over it and while I like to look at pretty pictures of Elle, I don't care for reading about her (can't relate on any level – and she always comes across as kind of aloof).
  • Jodhi Meares, holding a very large eagle, is given three pages to explain why she opted out of hosting the Next Top Model final (we're not given anything really new to munch on – we know she's not an entertainer and loathes the spotlight). She's a pretty bland subject, though, for some reason she appeals to me.
  • The first serious feature is 'Zimbabwe: Will life ever be normal again?' a first-person account by Cathy Buckle of life under Robert Mugabe's regime.
  • 'Grazia: This Just In' is next, written by Edwina McCann, who is glad she's not Angelina Jolie this week (McCann also has twins) and says if Angelina starts to look emaciated soon it's because of the double workload (no mention of her entourage of carers).
  • Grazia Exclusive: 'Like, totally epic' is two pages devoted to the Australia costume wardrobe. Yawn.
  • 'Confessions of a celebrity stylist' is a first-person piece by Erin Vincent, who went to LA to fulfill a dream and got a fill of celebrity crap (many actors are "spoilt, demanding and just plain tiresome", can you believe?). Revealing comments about J.Lo and Gisele and a revelation that the American dream ain't all it's cracked up to be. Good read.
  • Tabloid fodder comes via 'I begged them to make him stop', another first-person piece; this time by midwife Robin Moon who worked alongside 'butcher' obstetrician Graeme Reeves.
  • Nivea has gone to town with a six-page ad spread.
  • Aussie model Alexandra Agostan pens 'The Princess Diaries', giving us her account of modelling for Dior.
  • 'Cult blogger' Ugly Debty (current total debt $131,373.87) gets some publicity with her as-told-to contribution 'In the red! I blew $130k on Jimmy Choos'. She's kept her debt a secret from her family and friends and banker husband (the ultimate deception!) and instead is blogging her way back into the black. Handy hints on reducing debt are included. She makes me feel positively saintly.
  • We enter the fashion section via ads for Covergirl, Just Jeans and Diet Coke and a giant still-life picture of a Brit-inspired Chanel handbag. This is followed by two pages of artfully displayed pumps, a full-page picture of Nicole Richie in ballet flats, a page of ballet flats, a page in tribute to a pair of $2070 Louis Vuitton pumps, a rather uninspiring picture of Kate Moss toting a Mulberry Smithfield bag accompanied by seven similar black bags for us to choose from, a page of metallic bags, a page of totes in shades of yellow, tan and burnt orange, a page devoted to Prada's lace bags and a page of purses.
  • We then get 'Tagged & bagged!', a page breaking down the outfit details of a celebrity (Jennifer Hawkins in Dior this week), 'Style Dash', a single outfit idea, 'G!Rated', fashion director Mark Vassallo's nod to printed dresses available at Myer, 'Quick Fix', another single outfit idea, a page promoting and a three page ad for Dotti (Target and Wheels & Dollbaby also have pages attached to the section).

  • The first fashion spread, 'It's only rock & roll', runs over 12 pages and features model Louise Van de Vorst, Daniel Johns' girlfriend (way to get some work by association!), who vamps it up in leopard print, fishnet tights, skinny jeans, feathers, fluoro heels, red lipstick and a lot of bling.
  • The second shoot, 'Under the influence', is decidedly more demure (in contrast to the headline), which references Yves Saint Laurent's major collections. Very clever.
  • Sportsgirl gets a two-page promotion (there's a Grazia Fashion Cupboard in select stores). Avon's up next (two pages) and O.P.I's ad leads into beauty and health director Lucinda Pitt's column on her age awakening.
  • 'The new rules' is a four-page beauty feature (three hot looks to love this season – berry lips, golden eyes, satiny skin) with backstage shots, instructions and product suggestions; 'G!Rated' is Lucinda Pitt's pick of smoky eye makeup buys; 'The best beauty advice you'll ever get' is two pages of insider knowledge, again by Lucinda, which gives us the 411 on finding expert colourists, manicurists and facialists; and 'One wonderful find' is Giorgio Armani's Designer Modelling Compact Foundation ($94).
  • The health feature is 'Busting the health myths!', which tackles 10 myths, such as 'you should stretch before you exercise' to 'wearing glasses makes your eyesight worse', which I found to be informative (lots of expert quotes) – possibly the best value feature so far.
  • 'My name's Wendy and I'm a drunkorexic' is about a binge drinker who skips meals (get drunk and forget you're hungry!). Deeply disturbing, though I'm not one to judge women's unusual eating habits (I have a few of my own quirks!). A stark warning about getting into the weighing yourself game: "Now I weigh myself every morning. If I put on a few kilos I'm disappointed, but it soon comes off if I'm on a 'drinking, no food' day." Sadly, for many women, the mission is weight loss, not health, so our bodies suffer – the long-term health implications rarely get a look-in. Food for thought.
  • In stark contrast, Matthew Evans' 'Out of the pantry' food column, in which he recounts 'five days in the life of the ultimate foodie', gives us reasons to be excited about eating. His writing is (for want of a better word) yummy. On his preparation of Granny Smith apples: "I core them from the top using a melon-baller... crack a few of autumn's walnuts... I push chunks of them into the apples' holes, add a dot of butter, then pile as much brown sugar on top as the apple will hold. What cascades to the tray mingles with juice from the apple and the occasional dribble of butter." Hungry yet? Evans also shares my love of Sirena Tuna in Oil, so now I admire him even more (foodie crush!). Possibly by favourite page so far. And it's followed by an ad for my chocolate of choice – Green & Black's Organic Dark Chocolate.
  • The 'Well Travelled' page gives us five destinations to consider for cocktail hour, while 'My French Love Affair' is Collette Dinnigan's gastronomic/accommodation/spa recommendations written in 'Dear Grazia' letter format.
  • 'Grazia Girls OS' is two pages of columns from the magazine's London and New York correspondents, Aussies Elizabeth Colman and Anna Johnson respectively. I enjoyed the escapism and visual pictures both writers painted. Good read.
  • Catherine Martin (costume designer) gets five pages to take us through the opulent home she shares with husband Baz Luhrmann.
  • 'See Watch Do' is a page of entertainment bits (two short film reviews; a festival to attend; and single TV, book, album, art and music reviews). This is followed by a two-page feature on The Dark Knight.
  • 'Meet the BrIT Girls' is up next, which profiles the "new wave of brash young things who have taken over the clubs, A-list parties – and the headlines." The roll call includes Pixie Geldof, Peaches Geldof, Daisy Lowe, Agyness Deyn, Nathalie Press, Ben Grimes-Viort, Alice Dellal, Alexa Chung and Jaime Winstone.
  • Promo pages and star signs round out the issue, with 'Oh goodie!' the last page ("each week we're giving away a stunning It bag jam-packed with luxe goodies!"), followed by an ad for Portmans and the Estee Lauder back cover.
All this leads me to ask, is Grazia necessary? Are we getting anything here we can't get elsewhere (blogs, mags, websites, newspapers...)? Is it strong enough to supplement some of our other magazine purchases? Could it become an 'only buy' for some women? Will I wait with desperation for it to land each Monday at my newsagency?

Grazia is essentially a blending of Shop Til You Drop, WHO weekly, Famous, OK!, the newspaper supplements (like Sunday magazine and Body & Soul) that I adore, and, perhaps, UK ELLE or Australia's own Harper's BAZAAR. As a committed magazine buyer/blogger, I'll be sticking with it for as long as my budget allows. Though I'm not overly excited by this debut issue, it definitely has the potential to be a weekly must-read.

At the moment, it seems to be servicing advertisers as much as wooing readers, which I don't think is safe. I'm in awe of the amazing team that has been pulled together to put the magazine out – some of Australia's best writing and styling talent – but the magazine seems to be lacking spark. Is it humour? Wit? Too many bland features? Too many sparse still-life pages? Too many first-person columns? Is it taking itself too seriously? Is it trying to be all things when all it really wants to do is go shopping and find a new lipstick?

I love the idea of a weekly magazine devoted entirely to the materialistic pastime of shopping and improving one's makeup bag and wardrobe, alongside some meaty features and celebrity gossip (a la Marie Claire), yet I'm left wanting. Quite simply, it doesn't inspire me to shop.

You know what I'd like to see? I never thought I'd say this, but more celebrity pictures (with accompanying still-life and/or style suggestions) – but this is, perhaps, because that's what I've come to expect from a weekly. I'd also love more bitsy/scrapbooky trend compilation pages, insider interviews (I'm a sucker for features where we get invited into the wardrobe of a chic woman), street style pictures (surely Sydney is fertile photography ground, in addition to NYC, Paris London and Rome), a page (or several) of chain-store must-haves (perhaps there could be three levels of must-haves: chain-store, designer, high-end designer), workwear suggestions/lunch-time buys (like UK ELLE), beauty looks to try for the week and fashion/shopping news, in addition to some escapism via the travel section express.

Overall excitement factor: 6
Feel-good factor: 4/5
Eye-candy rating: 3/4

Kudos to the team and looking forward to watching the Grazia evolution!

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Faith: Spiritual fix (Warning: mild use of Bible bashing)

If all those joyful pilgrims running about town in celebration of World Youth Day piqued your interest in spirituality, and has you questioning or thinking about the role of faith in your own life (you can read about my own spiritual development here), my suggestion for the week is to plug into some sites online that'll serve you some answers.

In addition to my daily servings of WhoWhatWearDaily, JustJared, Jezebel, tabloid news (c/o The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail), serious news (via SMH/ABC) and glossy magazine content, which combined has the definite potential to warp my world view, I find that the daily devotional message from The Word For Today, as well as tuning into my local Christian radio station (96.5 – non-daggy music, I promise!), reading Stephanie Dowrick's column in Good Weekend and dipping into books by Joyce Meyer (in addition to attending church, daily prayer and Bible readings, of course) give me the spiritual grounding and affirmation I need in a world obsessed with consumption, image, celebrity, cosmetic surgery, financial success and excess.

I know, I know – you're too busy working, exercising, socialising, relaxing, shopping, cooking and/or bringing up children to add another bookmark to your bar or attend a church service: so am I. But the payoff is priceless – grounding your everyday actions and thoughts in the faith you follow makes life simpler and simply more joyful and essentially makes you stronger in the face of worldly pressures. It's not a cop-out or a sign of weakness to seek out something deeper and more meaningful for your life: it's a challenge that takes time, discipline and daily commitment (especially if you're a control-freak shop/mag/celeb-aholic, like moi).

Here's a sample devotional from The Word for Today (a daily newsletter you might like to subscribe to):

"Mastering Yourself: Let your flesh know who's in charge. Look for ways to say 'no' to yourself every day. If you do, you'll be able to do it when it really counts. We're not just talking about cardinal sins, but zeroing in on the undisciplined areas of our lives that we excuse, rationalise, or postpone dealing with. Paul writes, 'All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.' (1 Co 6:12). Paul measures his actions by this yardstick: 'Is it beneficial? Does it have the potential to control me?' How long are you going to keep telling yourself, 'I know I need to change, and I will - tomorrow'? You have the right to consume chocolate cake and ice cream at bedtime every night. It's 'permissible', but not 'beneficial', especially if you want unblocked arteries, sugar-free blood, a trim waistline, the ability to run a marathon, or maybe just to keep up with your grandchildren. You have the right to spend your time and money as you please, but you don't have the right to complain when the law of diminishing returns kicks in. You have the right to fill your mind with any kind of rubbish you choose. But understand this, constant exposure to the wrong things will weaken your character, rob you of self-respect and eventually enslave you. When it comes to replacing bad habits with good ones, only one person is going to make it happen - you. Your character is the sum total of your everyday choices. Day by day, what you think, what you choose and what you do, is who you become."

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Pretty: Smile high club...

I love getting confessional reader emails along the lines of this one from Elizabeth, a fellow glossy obsessive and the proud owner of the above gorgeous 'book room'...

"There are magazines going back to the early 1990s, though I have occasional 80s and 70s magazines – otherwise, I don’t collect “vintage”. And I regret the ones I threw away before I became serious about keeping them. They’re organised by year, with some separated piles of specific magazines (because I can). As well as the titles and subscriptions I mentioned (I subscribe directly to American Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and buy at my local newsagents British Vogue and Elle, and regularly buy first- or second-hand madison and Shop Til You Drop and others), I’ve held subscriptions in the past to Allure, Glamour and Lucky (American direct subscriptions are soooooo cheap!). I also have another bookshelf that holds my living/home/food magazines.

Honestly, I am sure I could have bought my house ten years ago with all the money I’ve spent on magazines… but then what would I put in my book room?! (I used to fib to my parents about magazines – “oh no, I didn’t buy that, I borrowed it from the library” – but of course now with all those shelves of evidence it’s pointless! They know how much I enjoy magazines – they are my one vice – a necessary one. And when bush fires threatened my suburb a couple of years ago, I honestly was in shock at the thought of abandoning my magazines (and the fuel they would provide for a fire). I re-read them all regularly!"

Elizabeth's email has the same effect on me as those Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese ads (y'know, the angels in heaven ones; I like 'em) – but rather than making me want to spread cheese all over everything, I want to make tracks for the nearest newsagent! Gimme, gimme, gimme. Clearly, I'm overdue for a Glossaholics Anonymous meeting.

I'm equally excited by a cute press release (yes, I need to get out more), like this one promoting the launch of Nicole Hopkinson's new book The Global Shopper 2 ($24.95; Hardie Grant Books, out in August – review to come!). The pack came with the book, press release, a 'Passport to Shop' promotional booklet and a pair of socks to keep my tootsies warm as I surf the web...


Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel

Mags: Oprah's brand of spirituality

Oprah Mag June 08

When you run the same face on the cover every month, you’ve really got to work the power of a strong cover line. The intrigue factor of ‘We’re starting a beauty revolution (say bye-bye to feeling bad about your looks)’ – possibly a reference to Nora Ephron’s book I Feel Bad About My Neck – has kept me from abandoning the June issue of O The Oprah Magazine (Surprise: Oprah’s on the cover!), to my ‘never did get around to reviewing it’ pile (would you believe it’s wastefully large?).

As a spiritual girl, for whom faith has become, in recent years, more important than acquiring Marc Jacobs pumps (no one ever said I didn’t occasionally stumble), Oprah’s brand of woman-of-the-world, easily digestible and life-applicable Christianity has huge appeal for me. The woman is, after all, a former preacher and journalist, who aspires to live like Jesus Christ. Quite the challenge, I imagine, for someone who is idolized, monetized, busy and hugely successful. The cornerstone of Jesus’ appeal was his absolute humility and selfless service and sacrifice – as well as his unfailing devotion to a life led by the Lord (i.e. not of his own choosing). As such, Oprah’s probably on the A-list at Heaven’s door.

Oprah’s magazine, owned by Hearst, isn’t preachy, though the May issue dealt almost entirely with the issue of spirituality. Essentially, what this magazine does is provide another means for her audience to get their Oprah fix (and make Hearst/Oprah some more cashola). On another level, it also caters for a market somewhere between mainstream women’s magazines, which largely steer clear of religion (unless they’re reporting on the latest Scientology scandal, giving it to Polygamists or investigating a Morman sect), and the Christian woman’s market, which is full of titles that mostly verge on daggy. As such, the concepts employed by positive psychologists are more the guiding editorial philosophy than overtly Biblical principles (which, as you might have noticed, often appear in my sidebar).

Women like to be in control of their lives – a concept in conflict with Christianity (God is in control). From what we eat to where we work out, educate ourselves, marry, get married and invest (or spend) our money (see the ‘Take control of your money, honey’ coverline), we’re happiest (or so we think) when we’re calling the shots. This means when something doesn’t go according to our plans, or someone upsets the balance, we grow frustrated and miserable… and indulge in a little retail therapy, over-eating or wine drinking.

In this post-feminist, fast-paced, achievement-driven era, the idea of waiting patiently for guidance and accepting sometimes life takes us in a different direction to that which we’d hoped is completely foreign: ‘going with the flow’ is for hippies – if you want something, you go ahead and get it. And when we get it (the job, the Marc Jacobs pumps, the man) and find that we’re still unhappy or unfulfilled, we go ahead and make plans to get the next thing: the Masters degree, the mortgage, the baby). And if we’re still not happy, we get a publishing deal and go to an Indian ashram, a divorce or a sneaky little face lift. Will we ever be truly satisfied? Who or what is driving us into this state of perpetual want? Where are our expectations coming from?

Last month Oprah interviewed Eckhart Tolle, one of her spiritual idols; this month she interviews Maria Schriver, her friend of 30 years. As you know, Schriver is the wife of Californian governor, Arnie Terminator, as well as a member of the Kennedy family and a very successful journalist who was forced to leave her plumb job at the NBC due to a perceived conflict of political interest. What Schriver and Oprah have in common is drive, a determination to exceed expectations and please other people, and lives defined by their work. However, after being forced to jump off the career treadmill in 2003, Schriver told a women’s conference last year, “You can spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what other people expect from you… or you can make a decision to let that all go. For this people-pleasing, legacy-carrying, perfection-seeking good girl, that was a news bulletin.”

Schriver’s values were inherently Kennedy: competitiveness, working vacations, public service, accomplishment. In the interview, Oprah tells her friend that at 25 she didn’t know what to do with her life, despite at that stage having a job reporting the news and weather and preaching on Sundays, and that she was always anxious, to which Schriver replies:

“I always thought the answer was the next thing. If I worked a little harder, produced an incredible show, wrote a best-selling book, anchored the morning news, won a Peabody Award, worked with the Special Olympics, then I would be les restless… I made the mistake of thinking that external accomplishments would bring me peace… Losing my job at NBC News was big. I identified myself with my job.”

Schriver says she’s not the person she was four years ago: now is content to ‘just be’, rather than live at an exhausting pace: “I thought being a workaholic was good; it isn’t. I regret that I didn’t take time to stop and enjoy my friends or to have intimate experiences with people in my life, to talk to them and be quiet with them. I was too busy running against my restlessness… I’ve tried to craft the job of First Lady into a role that reflects me. That’s about connecting people, empowering and inspiring them… I’m trying to live my life from my heart, being authentic to who I am… A friend of mine told me, “As long as you keep on playing the game of trying to be ‘the right Maria’ for everyone, you’re never going to deliver the real Maria. You don’t even know who the real Maria is’… The most terrifying thing of all for me was to just sit with myself; I didn’t know how to be alone… Being able to be by myself is part of knowing that I’m enough.”

This is a sentiment echoed in another of the magazine’s features, “You’re the fattest ballerina”, by Mary Wilshire, 54, an illustrator with a penchant for superheroes and comic books who has had compulsive eating issues her whole life, thanks, in part, to her alcoholic father, strict English Protestant background (appear to be perfect) and the suicide of her mother: “Feel compassion for yourself. What God wants from a girl is for her to be who she is. This is your highest spiritual purpose.”

Unfortunately, for most of us, it will take a lifetime of striving before we wake up one day and realise that the answer to who we are meant to be, how we should live our lives and what purpose we should serve is already within us – we’re just too busy climbing the career ladder, losing weight, raising families, fighting wrinkles, and meeting the world’s great post-feminist expectations to notice.

Overall excitement factor: 8
Feel-good factor: 8
Eye-candy rating: 2 (this is Oprah, not Vogue)

The Stats
Issue: June 2008
Book size: 246 pages
Inside front cover: Cadillac
Back cover: Covergirl
FOB ads: Target, Chanel gloss, Gillette (Tiger Woods), Citi, Chevy, Tiffany & Co…
Founder and Editorial Director: Oprah Winfrey
Editor in Chief: Amy Gross
Editor at Larger: Gayle King
Publisher: Hearst

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel